Paul Pierce has stepped back up on the biggest stage in the biggest way, but it only further leaves us to wonder, “Where does Pierce rank on the list of All Time Celtics greats?”
There has been no shortage of legends to come through the Celtics organization. Bill Russell is considered by some to be the second greatest player ever. Larry Bird is in most people’s top 7. And Bob Cousy revolutionized the point guard position, while John Havlicek is likely a top 20 all time player in his own right.
So, I place all four of those players in front of Pierce.
Truthfully, it seems Pierce is on Kevin McHale’s level. McHale, the versatile sixth man power forward of the Celtics in the 80s, put up great career numbers (17.9 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game over 12 NBA seasons, all with the Celtics). McHale’s foot work is legendary, and Pierce has good footwork in his own right. They are both players who exist because of their guile, not in spite of it. What they lack in athleticism is made up for with a wide variety of moves, and craftiness, which can never be underestimated. It enables players to be effective well into their 30s, and McHale played till he was 35, while Pierce is approaching age 35, as well, and should have at least two more very good seasons left.
Can Pierce pass Havlicek as the greatest small forward in Celtics history? It’s not impossible. One would have to figure if Pierce found a way to secure a second ring and continue to put together 2-3 more good seasons, that he would at least be mentioned in the same breath. In terms of all time small forwards, it’s hard not to argue that Pierce is approaching Scottie Pippen’s level. That will put Pierce in the top 30 players of all time, according to my own personal list, which I’ll be featuring on my podcast for Oncourt Onslaught this summer.
It’s too early to close the book on Pierce’s legend; he hasn’t retired. He is likely now tied for the 5th greatest Celtic ever. In a franchise so rich with history, that’s not so bad.