Paul Pierce offers more than depth to Clippers’ title chances


May 9, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) celebrates with injured Wizards guard John Wall (L) and Washington Wizards forward Martell Webster (M) after making the game-winning basket against the Atlanta Hawks as time expired in the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 103-101. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing is certain at this stage, but if Paul Pierce were to opt out of his deal with the Washington Wizards and take part in one last ride with the Los Angeles Clippers, he still has more to offer than depth alone. The possibility of The Truth ending his career in L.A. is appealing to say the least. Not just because he’s an extra piece to a Clippers team in desperate need of help in their second unit, but because his mental and skill based intangibles are exactly what they need.

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Paul Pierce gave us all flashes of his vintage brilliance in the playoffs, as he came through in the clutch against both the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks. He buried game winners, played like a go-to scorer when necessary, and reminded the basketball world that Paul Pierce still has something to give. And if he finds the perfect situation, he can still make an impact in what could very well be his final year in the NBA.

David Aldridge of broke the initial story that Pierce may leave the Wizards and go back home to Los Angeles to finish his career. Here’s what he believes may transpire over the summer:

"“The Wizards could stand pat if Pierce decides to return to D.C. next season rather than opt out of his deal, but many around the league believe Pierce will do just that and finish his career back home in Los Angeles with the Clippers…Maybe Paul Pierce will walk away from the second year of his deal ($5.5 million) in Washington in order to finish his career in his hometown, playing for his old Celtics coach and his former teammate-turned-Clippers assistant Sam Cassell for less money.”"

When looking at the relationships at hand, especially Paul Pierce reuniting with Doc Rivers, it makes perfect sense for the old Celtics’ coach/player duo to go at a championship one last time. Especially as they’ll be surrounded by the All-NBA trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Even if the Clippers are the obvious first choice for Pierce if he leaves Washington, though, another questions arises as to whether he wants to continue his career at all.

Per Kurt Helin of NBCSports, Pierce is still considering whether he wants to keep playing when he was interviewed after being eliminated by the Hawks:

"“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any. These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit…. I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore.”"

As tough as playoff losses are (and Paul Pierce has experienced many tough moments in his 17 year career) the above statement was still made in the heat of the moment. Of course it’s understandable that Pierce can question whether he’ll make a return next season, but his emotions would have been heightened when he made these comments straight after the Wizards were eliminated by the Hawks.

If Pierce does opt out, the Clippers can offer him the tax player’s exception for $3.7 million, although the best possible offer would be to offer him the veteran’s minimum of just under $1.5 million.

If he does decide to try and finish his career on a higher note, and return home to L.A. with his championship winning coach from his Boston Celtics days, the result would be beneficial to both Pierce and the Clippers.

Because he brings more to the table than just added depth.

May 9, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) celebrates with Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) after making the game-winning basket against the Atlanta Hawks as time expired in the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 103-101. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The initial benefit if Paul Pierce were to join the Clippers would be the fact that he improves a weak second unit. Even at 37 years of age, Pierce averaged 11.9 points per game in just over 26 minutes this year, including highly accurate shooting from the field.

He shot 38.9 percent from three point range (the fifth best mark of his career for a single season) and at least 41 percent from both 10-16 feet out and from 16 feet to the three point line. And alongside streaky players such as Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford (who both shot under 43 percent this year), Pierce would provide some much needed reliability to a bench that has been up and down all season, and ranked just 23rd in points per game.

But regardless of how much the Clippers need another strong wing player, the other assets that Paul Pierce provides would offer far more to L.A. as they look to improve their chances at a championship.

Firstly, his presence as a veteran, championship winning leader is invaluable. The Clippers currently rely on Doc Rivers and the feisty leadership of Chris Paul, and when you look past them, there’s far less in the way of leadership. Blake Griffin has proven how well he steps up in Paul’s absence with his passing ability to run their offense, but the arrival of another hardened veteran would take a lot of the pressure of CP3.

Paul Pierce has always had immense faith in his own abilities and his confidence was as high as ever during this year’s playoffs. In game three against the Toronto Raptors (which the Wizards only won 106-99) Pierce stepped up with 11 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-3 shooting.

In the second round, in game three against the Atlanta Hawks, Pierce buried the game winning shot as the clock hit zero to take a 2-1 series lead.

Then, in game six of the same series, Pierce was just a few tenths of a second away from sending the game to overtime, as he made a three pointer while falling out of bounds past two Hawks defenders. The basket wasn’t counted for being too late, but he still made the shot. And it again proved how Pierce can rise to the biggest occasion and deliver.

And with everything often riding on the shoulders of Paul when the game is on the line, the arrival of Pierce would again take some of the pressure of the Clippers’ star point guard. Furthermore, the fact that L.A. would have two guards capable of making a big shot down the stretch would give defenses more to worry about than just covering Paul.

Finally, Paul Pierce allows the Clippers to completely change the way they can play in close fourth quarter situations.

More importantly, he would allow them to alleviate the worries of enduring DeAndre Jordan’s 39.7 percent free throw shooting.

Pierce has always been a capable stretch four player due to his size, strength, and post-up ability to work inside and out. If the Clippers want to try a small-ball lineup to add some more diversity to their offense, this would be yet another way The Truth could help.

Jordan is an obvious liability in the final minutes of close games, so Pierce could be played as a power forward while Griffin moves to center. And even though Griffin spent just 2 percent of his playing at the center position this year, he spent an average of 30 percent at center during his first two seasons, before Jordan’s defensive talents began to shine through and his playing time increased.

Griffin averaged 12.7 rebounds in the playoffs this year, which showed what he can do when he plays with more aggression, particularly when Jordan is on the bench (in game four against the Spurs he had 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter while Jordan was benched). And if the Clippers were to opt for a frontcourt lineup of Pierce and Griffin, they should be able to cope without Jordan’s rim protection for long enough, especially if they’re instead being used together to make key shots and pivotal free throws.

Apr 24, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) and Wizards guard John Wall (2) celebrate on the court against the Toronto Raptors in the final minute of the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 106-99, and lead the series 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If Paul Pierce does add one final chapter to his NBA legacy, it makes an awful lot of sense to join the Clippers. Because it’s not just a good situation for Pierce to finish his career in his hometown with his former coach, but because Pierce can be a genuine asset to boost the Clippers’ chances at a championship.

He provides extra depth as a wing or stretch four, leadership in the locker room, completes a duo who knows what it takes to win a championship with Doc Rivers, and can take some of the pressure off Paul when a game comes down to the last few possessions.

Through all these factors combined, Paul Pierce can still emit some Truth to take the Clippers’ title chances to another level.

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