Now, I’m not saying that Trevor Ariza is a superstar nor irreplaceable, but he was arguably the most consistent player on the Washington Wizards’ roster this past season and helped get them out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.
Trevor Ariza was the Washington Wizards’ best perimeter defender and brought consistent offense, which is tough to find on a team that relies so much on their young back court. Washington reportedly offered Ariza a deal that would’ve gotten him $8 million per season, the same deal he received with the Houston Rockets, but he opted to go back to Texas where there’s no state income tax.
So, instead of breaking the bank to keep on of their most consistent players and locker room leaders, the Washington Wizards went in a different direction.
They signed future Hall-of-Famer and NBA Champion, Paul Pierce, to the mid-level exception.
Paul Pierce, who will turn 38-years old at the start of this upcoming NBA season, is not the same player he once was, but for what he brings to the table, the Washington Wizards might’ve gotten a bargain.
There were some rumblings about Paul Pierce possibly reuniting with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, but he decided to go to Washington, which helped solidify them as a legitimate top team in the Eastern Conference. In the past, the Washington Wizards never would’ve had the chance to land Paul Pierce, but given their success in the playoffs and their back court’s rise to stardom, they’ve finally begun to emerge.
Adding Paul Pierce will give the Washington Wizards another offensive weapon, taking some pressure off John Wall and Bradley Beal, but he’ll also serve as a threat in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce struggled at times against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, but when it counted late in the game, he delivered.
Paul Pierce’s ability to play both the small forward and power forward position will give the Washington Wizards some flexibility in terms of their lineups, but I think we’ll also see his production increase when paired up with John Wall.
Both Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster had career seasons after playing with John Wall, and even though I don’t expect Paul Pierce to play at an All-Star level, I do think his productivity will increase. Pierce shot over 50% from the corner three with the Brooklyn Nets last season, albeit at a relatively small sample size, and I think he’ll become a legitimate threat from that spot in Washington.
But, even though I believe that the addition of Paul Pierce will give the Washington Wizards a boost on the court, his presence off the court and in the locker room could be even more important.
Last year, Trevor Ariza called a team meeting early in the season after they got off to a bad start, which ultimately helped them climb out of the hole and finish fifth in the standings. Ariza’s leadership on and off the court is something I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to replace after his departure, but those worries quickly disappeared after the Wizards snagged Paul Pierce from the free agent market.
Losing veteran players, especially those who were major contributors on the court, could become a real issue when the team’s best players are still considered young players in the league.
Paul Pierce’s leadership and pride has been an underrated addition to the Washington Wizards this summer, and I think he’ll make up for some of the loss that occurred when both Ariza and Al Harrington weren’t brought back.
Ariza and Harrington were both very helpful in helping to lead the team off the court, but neither of them have had the amount of success that Paul Pierce has had in his 16 year NBA career.
Pierce is a 10 time NBA All-Star, 2008 NBA Finals MVP, and just simply knows what it takes to win on and off the court. Even though Ariza and Harrington have had success in their respective careers, Paul Pierce is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and will help lead the Washington Wizards’ young stars in a season where they’re expected to make some noise in a stronger Eastern Conference.
Paul Pierce’s presence on the team will not only help the Washington Wizards on the court, but just being around the likes of John Wall, Bradley Beal and even Otto Porter help them learn and grow for the future.
I realize that the Washington Wizards will lose a major contributor in Trevor Ariza, but adding a player like Paul Pierce will be instrumental to their success this upcoming season. Paul Pierce is much more than a replacement. He’s a leader and he’ll help contribute to a promising season.