This season’s most important free agent signing didn’t happen in Cleveland.
Yes, the Cavs will come together at some point just like LeBron James did with his teammates in Cleveland, and there isn’t much doubt that at some point he will once again rule the NBA with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love alongside him. But at this particular point, and this particular season, the most important free agent signing – the one that could spell the difference between victory and defeat – is that of Paul Pierce to the Wizards.
It didn’t get as much press as the other free agent signings over the summer; if anything, many were merely surprised at how Pierce would look in a Wizards uniform. But it was a little difficult to predict Pierce’s role in D.C. His signing came after Trevor Ariza left for Houston, leaving the Wizards without a viable three-point threat other than Martell Webster (who is currently out until 2015 at the earliest). On a team that has many veterans, there wasn’t a veteran player who could have a particularly big impact on the game.
Enter Pierce. A future Hall-of-Famer, Pierce was known for his scoring abilities throughout the duration of his seventeen years in the NBA. Scoring has not been a problem for the Wizards, with the “House of Guards” of John Wall and Bradley Beal providing plenty of offensive output for the team. Coming in, it seemed that Pierce’s primary role would be to provide leadership for the younger stars on the team.
Through the first five games, those perceptions have definitely changed. Due to the injuries to Beal and Webster, Pierce is not only starting (which was assumed before the season began), but is playing more minutes than it was originally thought.
Playing nearly 30 minutes a game, Pierce is averaging more than 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. The emergence of Garrett Temple and Otto Porter as legitimate scoring threats has helped, but Pierce has proven that when push comes to shove, The Truth is just as good as ever.
While Pierce is exceeding expectations now, he wasn’t signed for the regular season. With a lack of playoff experience, picking up an NBA champion (and a Finals MVP at that) is just what this Wizards team was lacking last season. Even at the age of 37 (when Pierce was drafted, Beal was a mere four years old), he has proven to be up to the task of a team relying on him. His clutch buckets in the final two minutes of a game last week against Orlando were a glimpse into what Pierce is capable of.
As they proved last season, The Wizards are most definitely title contenders. And while it may be flying under the radar now, the addition of Pierce may be something that’s looked back on as one of the most important moves the Wizards have made in recent memory.
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