Last year's stats: 37.5 mpg, 20.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 spg, 45.7% FG, 39.7% 3 FG, 83% FT
Chuck: 34.5 mpg, 19.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 45.3% FG, 38.8% 3 FG, 82% FT
John: 33.0 mpg, 19.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 46.4% FG, 40.2% 3 FG, 85.2% FT
What will help him the most?
Chuck: The bench depth – specifically Marquis Daniels. The Truth turns 32 this fall and is coming off a season in which he played 37 minutes per game. With Pierce, reducing his time on the court will improve his productivity, and the acquisition of Daniels will help make that happen. Rasheed Wallace will also help reduce the offensive burden on Pierce when he's playing with the second unit.
John: Gotta go with Chuck here. There's a reason the Celtics focused so much on building such bench depth. Paul Pierce has spent almost every minute of his career carrying the burden for this team. He's finally going to grab a few extra minutes on the bench without worrying about shouldering the entire load. He'll still get the clutch minutes, and he'll be better at that point because of the extra minutes. Chuck and I agree on his totals… but we differ on his percentages. I think he'll play less and produce more in his time on the floor.
What will hurt him the most?
Chuck: Pierce is a physical player. He loves to create contact. Granted, he's not getting to the line like in years past, but the pounding may catch up to him. Rather than see Pierce change his style, I'm hoping (praying) a reduction in minutes will lessen the trauma.
John: Ugh… I'm agreeing with Chuck again? Pierce is a bull out there. There's no one better at taking contact and getting a decent shot up. It's a huge part of his game. But the more contact he takes, the higher the risk of something bad happening. On the plus side, he's built to take that kind of abuse… and the reduced minutes will help.
Will he be an All Star?
Chuck: No. Statistically, I foresee Pierce taking a step backwards this year, at least in the regular season.
John: Yes. The Celtics will be one of the top 3 teams in the East. Someone from Boston is going to have to represent the team. It's possible Rondo gets the nod… but I still see Pierce hitting enough big shots to still be the obvious leader of this team. Besides, this is the point of his career where reputation counts too… and Pierce's production, along with his standing in Celtics history, should be enough to at least get him on the squad.
Burning question: How long before Paul Pierce loses his Superman cape?
Chuck: I hate to say this, but Paul Pierce is past his prime. We saw glimpses of Superman in the 2009 playoffs (Game 5 vs Chicago), but I fear those performances are dwindling. Fortunately, this team has so much talent, we can win it all with Pierce playing Superman on a once a week basis.
John: Clutch is clutch. You don't just lose that. The difference in Paul last year was there was no gas left in the tank. As far as I'm concerned, the cape comes off when the sneakers come off. As long as Doc can keep him rested, Pierce will have enough left to come through. And remember this: When Big Baby hit that game winner in Orlando, Pierce was the guy who made the pass. He knows what to do with the ball in the clutch, and I don't think that's going away anytime soon.