Celtics fans: Want Paul Pierce back? It'll cost ya. (Oh, and also keep dreaming…)
A report from Chris Mannix today has Pierce, an unrestricted free agent, looking for a two-year deal in the $9-$10 million range per season.
Pierce's last contract was a four-year, $61.33 million deal signed before the 2010-2011 season with the Celtics. He was paid $15.3 million last season with the Nets.
His numbers understandably dipped last season with the Nets compared to his final season with the Celtics and his career averages. Pierce averaged 13.5 points per game last season to go with 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. But his shooting percentages were right on par - and actually better - than his career averages. Pierce shot .451 from the field including .373 from three-point range. Those are slightly higher than his .447 and .370 career averages.
Pierce had a smaller role on Brooklyn last season, playing the lowest minutes per game (28.0) of his career while also putting up the least amount of shots per game (9.5). He's no longer the go-to guy on his team, that's obvious. Previously, Pierce's lowest shots-per-game average was his rookie year (1998-99) with 13.5 shots per game.
So is Pierce worth that money?
I say . . . yes, although it seems a little high. He could ask for a bit less and leave his options open for more teams, but I think based on the market right now anything near the mid-level for Pierce seems like a huge bargain.
With Pierce, you know what you're going to get. Has he lost a couple steps? Sure. But has he aged well with his game? Absolutely. Pierce is still a player who can score in pretty much every which way possible on the court. Whether it's his herky-jerky moves to the basket, or a spot up three-pointer, there are plenty of worse options out there. He's a proven leader and NBA champion and is valuable to any contender looking for much more than a simple veteran presence.
But Pierce has also started to depend more on his three-point shot. Out of the 9.5 shots-per-game average last season, 4.0 was from beyond the arc. Compare that to the sub-4.0 per game he took from 2008-09 to 2010-11 while still averaging anywhere from 12.2 to 14.6 shots per game.
It makes sense. While Pierce is certainly a player who remains in shape, he is aging. He'll go to the hoop less as his body starts to feel the aches and pain, but there's no reason to believe his body can't take it - just look at his games played over the last two seasons. Pierce has played 77 and 75 games, respectively, over his last two seasons.
The Nets want Pierce back, and it sounds like the most possible landing spot - especially if Kevin Garnett returns to finish out the last year of his deal. While I wouldn't count out Doc Rivers and the Clippers, they probably don't have the funds necessary. Rivers and Pierce obviously have a great relationship, and that move would allow him to return home to California and play for a legit title contender - but he'd have to take less.
Of course, as Mannix reports, everybody - including Pierce - is waiting for the LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony situations to clear up before they can see what the market looks like.
My guess? Pierce returns to Brooklyn with Garnett and they try to make noise in what very well could be a different-looking East (with possible moves from James, Bosh, Anthony, etc.). And when that two-year deal ends, well, maybe then he finishes up his career with what at that point could be (fingers crossed) a contending Celtics team.
Wouldn't that be something? Yeah, I'll keep dreaming too . . .