Paul Pierce and the league’s weirdest rebirth

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce (AP)

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce (AP)

Number: 34

Position: SF

Height: 6’7”

Weight: 235

Years Pro: 15

Hometown: Oakland, CA

Prior to NBA: University of Kansas

Twitter: @paulpierce34

What the hell is Paul Pierce going to do this year? It’s a fascinating question. Is he going to be a focal point of this offense? A secondary creator next to Deron Williams? Will he be the fourth offensive option, almost exclusively relegated to above-the-break three-point shooting duty? Will his numbers drop and efficiency rise? Will he want to take over against LeBron James, or settle into a tertiary role?

I ask these questions not because I have the answers, but because I honestly don’t know. A few minutes here and there in preseason isn’t enough evidence to go on. Sometimes he seems like the forgotten man. In an offense where the spaces are so sharply defined, Pierce stands as an outlier, a shape-shifter that could carve a niche in any one of numerous roles as long as the team picks one for him.

Here’s what we do know about Pierce. He’s a good-to-excellent shooter from just about everywhere. He’s a decent point forward in a pinch, and was fatigued at the end of last season, the burden of running the Celtics offense too much in the playoffs. He turned in one of his best seasons on the glass, mostly due to Doc Rivers’s system sending him to the basket while the rest of the team spaced the floor.

He’s a sneakily athletic, crafty scorer that relies more on changing speeds than outright quickness to get open looks. At a time when most forwards see their efficiency plummet into the toilet, his production has barely taken a dent as he progresses through his 30s. He’s one of the league’s finest above-the-break three-point shooters, and such a massive shooting improvement over Gerald Wallace that I almost feel bad comparing the two.

As Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland noted, Pierce’s above-the-break shooting should compliment Joe Johnson nicely. If that’s his role, anyway.

Despite being a sixteen-year NBA veteran, Pierce is as much of an enigma as anyone on this roster. He’s never been in a situation where he wasn’t the go-to scorer. Hell, he’s never played a home game outside of Boston in his professional career. This represents a new situation for Paul Pierce unlike any new situation he’s ever had, and new responsibilities that aren’t quite defined in the public eye.

But we do know definitively that Paul Pierce is one of the major ingredients in this team’s soup. Hope it’s tasty.

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Full List:

| Shaun Livingston | Deron Williams | Tyshawn Taylor | Alan Anderson | Joe Johnson | Jason Terry | Andrei Kirilenko | Paul Pierce | Tornike Shengelia | Reggie Evans | Kevin Garnett | Mirza Teletovic | Andray Blatche | Brook Lopez | Mason Plumlee |