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Has Paul Pierce Been The Celtics’ MVP This Year?

One drawback of covering a Celtics team with so many terrific writers on the beat is that well, if you have a good idea on a topic/story, there’s a pretty good chance someone else has it too. With that in mind, my idea to write a profile on Pierce’s terrific campaign and value this year during this week, well Paul Flannery of WEEI beat me to the punch on that this morning and made a very compelling case on the captain’s importance to this squad:

For a while it also looked like that comment was going to serve as Pierce’s epitaph for his time in Boston: Great player. Bad teams. Thanks for the memories with Antoine. Have fun in Portland.

But Pierce was granted the rare chance to write another chapter in his legacy when the Celtics not only resisted the urge to trade their top asset, but also surrounded him with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Over the next four seasons Pierce’s numbers dropped in scoring, rebounding and assists, which was exactly the point. If they hadn’t, the Celtics wouldn’t have worked.

The trade-off was that Pierce was granted a new level of appreciation for his commitment to defense, as well as his willingness to have the ball in his hands and make decisions at the end of games. His numbers have also been remarkably consistent during this stretch, but something deeper has been happening this season.
Pierce is shooting over 50 percent from the floor for the first time in his career. He’s also posting his best free throw percentage, committing fewer turnovers and his defensive rebounding is back to where it was before Garnett arrived. We can go further still into the wonkier realm of advanced stats. According to the +/- numbers on Basketball Value, the Celtics are 19 points better when Pierce is on the court than when he is not. No player in the league has a bigger impact on his team.

Pierce’s statistical improvements have been subtle — and owe more to good health than any newfound skill — but they have been very real. They’ve also only been a part of a larger story.

When the Celtics needed someone to run the team while Rajon Rondo was hurt, he did it. When they need someone to guard the star forwards in this league, he does it while sacrificing at the offensive end. Pierce — because he is Pierce — believes with all his heart that if he absolutely had to go out and drop 25 a night he could still do it, and there are games when he does. Going back to Rivers’ maxim on availability, Pierce has also played every game, which is no small accomplishment on this team.

It’s a fun diversion to try to determine which of the Celtics’ four All-Stars is the most indispensible. They have never won a title without a healthy Garnett, who is by far their best defensive player and always has been. Rondo is the undisputed brain on the court and the creative genius of an otherwise vanilla operation. Allen is the engine that runs their halfcourt sets and the floor-spacing shooter that is so crucial to everyone else’s game.

For whatever reason Pierce is often left out of the conversation. His excellent play has been so ingrained in our consciousness, it’s almost as if he is taken for granted like No. 9 Park or the view of the city from the Mass Ave. Bridge.

Is he the one player the Celtics absolutely must have healthy in order to win a championship? That’s probably still Garnett, but has Pierce been the Celtics’ most valuable player this season? He’s been the most durable, the most versatile and by many objective measures, he’s also been their best player.

Do yourself a favor and check out the full piece, as Flannery sums it up just as well as I could ever hope to.

And while you’re at it, check out Greg Payne’s compliation of Pierce throwdowns this year, another tell tale sign that Pierce is still closer to his apex that we could have ever have imagined this late in his career.

  • kricky

    I've been the biggest supporter of the Cap's MVP bid. But in all honesty it is really tough to say who the MVP of this team really is, as Flannery eloquently points out in his article.

    It's an easy call for most teams. For the Bulls it's Rose. For the Heat it's LeBung. For us it's a great debate with 4 guys having a great case for it (and personally not caring one god damn bit about it because they are focused on bigger things).

    That's why I love this T-E-A-M.

  • Far East Man

    With due respect to the captain, I think ray-ray has proven himself this season that he should, at least, be the Celts' co-MVP. I didn't include KG or rondo coz they missed quite a number of games… but still. Meh! I don't care who the MVP is, as long as one of 'em hoists another banner up there in the rafters! ;o) All the best from the Philippines!

  • DRJ

    Paul has been a rock this season. Great, and absolutely reliable. A pro’s pro.

    So has KG.

    So has Ray.

    And they couldn’t have done it all without Rondo.

    There is no MVP on this team.

  • Chris O

    Agree with everyone else. There is no MVP on this team. And they need all of the BIG 4 healthy to win the Championship. KG, PP, Ray Ray, and Rajon are all indespensible. As with everyone else, that's why I love this team. Its a T-E-A-M.

  • Batman

    You know who's not MVP? Rojan Rando

    • Chris O

      lol, good thing he only shows up 1 outta every 10 games.

    • jakrisgre

      That is so not true. He is one of NBA's top point guards. Just because he doesnt shoot like Rose doesnt mean he's not good. Rondo is smart and he does just what Doc wants him to do unlike some other teams who do their own thing and are now losing five in a row!

  • Michael

    Everything starts w/ KG. Still a Top 3 Defender in the league, the only non-perimter player in the ENTIRE league in Top 15 in spg….Leading rebounder on team… a guy that could avg 20ppg on this team of he wasn't so unselfish. More importantly , look at the games he missed w/ jis calf injury. Not only were the Celtics a .500 team that gave up 10ppg more w/o him, they had very little emotion until he came back. Pearce is the go-to guy, Rondo runs the team, but if there's 1 guy where they have absolutely no chance at a tilte its KG.

  • jakrisgre

    Its hard to really pick an MVP for Boston because they play as a TEAM, but Pierce has been the glue that's been consistent. I love him! I love them all! Go Celtics

  • Jeff in Portland ME

    Watch when he's not covering a driver (small forward, guard), and KG rotates to help contend. What's Pierce doing? Boxing out the best rebounder on the other team. Whether he gets the rebound himself or not, he's doing dirty work very few stars in the NBA will.
    Also, when you look at the dunk link, notice how many start with steals.
    He's a complete player, and I love his game more every season.

  • Jake

    I agree to all of you. This team doesnt have an MVP coz they're playing as a TEAM. Not like the other teams whose plays were just concentrated on their superstars. Go Boston.. Love this team!