Breaking Down What Makes Paul Pierce's Offensive Game so Effective
There's no need to hunt for clips of old Boston Celtics games on YouTube—a trip down to your local YMCA, CYO or L.A. Fitness is all that's needed. In any game that is at least mildly competitive, there will invariably be someone who isn't the tallest, fastest or most athletic player on the court, but will find some way to dominate the action.
In playground basketball circles, that type of player is typically described as having "old-man game": efficient, yet understated. And with all apologies to the Celtics' superstar, "old-man game" also happens to be the most apt description for Paul Pierce's skill set on the offensive end of the floor.
Pierce is like basketball's version of a chess grandmaster, always thinking several steps ahead of his opponent. No energy is wasted; no movement is made without reason. And thanks to his deceptive speed and seemingly bottomless "bag of tricks," the 6'7" small forward is able to create his own shot from virtually anywhere on the court.
The primary weapon in Pierce's arsenal is an unorthodox pull-up jumper: a move that—on the surface—looks as though it should get blocked more often than it does. Beckley Mason of ESPN's True Hoop considers it to be one of the NBA's best signature moves, and Scott Leedy of Hardwood Paroxysm focused on it in his how-to guide on the best ways to stop the man known as "The Truth" (Rule No.1—Don't give him the elbow jumper).
As talented as Pierce is on the perimeter, he's even better with his back to the basket. According to Synergy Sports, Pierce averaged 1.02 points per possession last year in post-up situations—the eighth-best mark in the NBA. At 6'7" and 235 pounds, Pierce is rarely at a size disadvantage with those tasked to guard him, and he uses his wide frame to set up his defender for one of his vast array of moves.
Pierce may not be the most chiseled player in NBA history, but don't let the smooth stomach fool you. As we saw during the Celtics/Sixers series last spring, the crafty small forward—even at 34 years old—can get to the rack with the best of them.
Opponents always have to respect his jumper, and as a result, Pierce will always be able to attack the basket when given the opportunity. In the clip below, once Pierce realizes that Andre Iguodala is a half-second late recovering from a screen, he blows past one of the league's best wing defenders for an easy dunk.
Anything that Pierce may lack athletically, he makes up for with an overabundance of confidence. Many facets of his game may be subtle and unassuming, but his bravado is anything but.
Rare is the player who gets even better when the outcome of the game hangs in the balance: Pierce, meanwhile, embraces those moments like few others in the NBA. In clutch situations last season, the Celtics' small forward shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc, and averaged 38.3 points per 48 minutes of action.
Thirty years from now, during a pickup game near his hometown of Inglewood, Calif., it isn't all that hard to envision Pierce pulling an Uncle Drew act at one of the local playgrounds. Since his "old-man game" has worked well for him up to this point (10 All-Star appearances, four All-NBA nods, 2008 NBA Finals MVP, No. 25 on the NBA's all-time scoring list), who's to say that it won't become more potent when he actually reaches his golden years?
Paul Pierce's offensive game may not be pretty, but for the past 14 seasons, it has been devastatingly effective. And as the saying goes, age before beauty, no?
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