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Brooklyn Nets: Should Paul Pierce Come Off the Bench Next Season?

BOSTON, MA - MAY 3:  Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics gets by Pablo Prigioni #9 of the New York Knicks during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Andy HuSenior Writer IIJuly 24, 2013

Earlier in the offseason, the Brooklyn Nets made one of the biggest blockbuster trades in the past few years as they were able to haul in two future Hall of Famers in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and a bunch of future draft picks, per Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.

Kevin Garnett will most likely hold down the starting power forward spot next season, as he is the perfect candidate to play next to budding All-Star center Brook Lopez.

However, Paul Pierce's role on the team is still iffy.

On paper, a lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Lopez seems like an All-Star team. However, team chemistry among these stars could take a while to develop, especially since this team has been put together in the span of less than two years. 

Would Pierce function better as the starting small forward in a starting lineup already loaded with stars, or as the Nets' main weapon off the bench?

 

Matchup Nightmare for Opposing Benches

Pierce has been the star and face of the Boston Celtics for over a decade. Relegating him to a bench role could stir up some psychological issues. At this stage in his career, though, Pierce doesn't care about anything except for helping the team win, and he would welcome a bench role if it were to give his team the best chance at competing.

When Pierce comes off the bench, he is still a deadly scorer and playmaker who could help the team keep momentum and continue to put pressure on the opposing team's defense. Last season, Pierce averaged 20.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 5.2 APG per 36 minutes, along with a PER of 19.1, per Basketball Reference. He also boasted a career-high in assists per 36 minutes and assist percentage, which indicated his growth as a backup playmaker last season when Rajon Rondo was injured.

He has a great all-around game on offense, and his defense is very respectable, despite age slowing him down. According to 82games.com, Pierce held opposing small forwards to a PER of 13.1, and this was when he was matched up against starting small forwards most of the time. 

Most bench players on opposing teams won't have the talent or depth to match up with Pierce, and it would force them to uncomfortably adjust their lineups to deal with a superstar sixth man. 

 

Too Crowded in the Starting Lineup

The Nets lineup could be an example of having "too much of a good thing." If Pierce joined the starting lineup with the rest of the stars, the team could suffer because there are too many players that do the same thing.

Williams, Johnson, Pierce and Lopez are all great players, but they're most effective when the offense runs through them. The inside-out game between Williams and Lopez worked well last year, but Johnson experienced his least productive season in 10 years. 

With Pierce added to the mix, he would rarely have the opportunity to showcase some of his biggest strengths, which is playmaking and taking defenders one-on-one. Although he can pose as a spot-up shooter by standing in the corner and waiting for the ball to come to him, that's not an effective way to use him. His 37 percent career three-point field-goal percentage isn't spectacular either.

If Pierce comes off the bench, he has the green light to do whatever he wants to utilize his greatest strengths.

 

Andrei Kirilenko Is a Better Fit to Start

Kirilenko, another offseason acquisition, would be a much better starting small forward on this team than Pierce would be.

Kirilenko was one of the most versatile players in the league earlier in his career. He's older now, but he proved last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves that he can still play. In a starting lineup with capable scorers and great isolation players, Kirilenko brings a new dimension to the team with his restless defensive energy and by doing all the little things to help the team win.

Even though Pierce is a capable defender in his own right, he cannot play at a high level on both ends of the floor as he did when he was younger. But for Kirilenko, defense and energy have been his niche since he came into the league, and those are the only things that he is expected to do.

The Nets' loss of Gerald Wallace was bigger than it seems, and they needed another versatile forward who could guard multiple positions. Kirilenko fit this bill perfectly, and he should be able to fill in nicely for Wallace's spot next season. 

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