Awards Series MVP: Paul Pierce

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst Awards Series

Although Boston’s 2012-13 season wasn’t championship caliber, several players delivered strong campaigns during the Celtics’ 81-game regular season and their six-game postseason. As the spring rolls on, we will dole out our Award Series, which consists of seven different awards. These seven awards will be handed out one-by-one, so check back throughout May and June to see who will be called on for an acceptance speech.

Most Valuable Player

Paul Pierce takes a jump shot against the Detroit Pistons

Paul Pierce put the Celtics on his back after Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

There really is no debate as to who the Most Valuable Player of the Boston Celtics was during the 2012-13 season. It was the captain, Paul Pierce.

Pierce, in his 15th season with the Celtics, put together another All-Star caliber season in Boston. He did not make the All-Star team for the first time in six years, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t bring the goods.

Many will remember Pierce’s shooting struggles from the early months of the season and the playoffs, but we must look at his overall work to make his clear-cut case for MVP. Pierce led the team in scoring this season and he did so by a landslide. His 18.3 points per game were nearly four points more than the team’s next-best scorer, which was Kevin Garnett with 14.8 PPG.

Many people associate MVP awards with gaudy and sexy numbers (ex: points), but Pierce did a whole lot more than score. He also finished second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 rebounds per game as a small forward. That was his highest average since the 2005-06 season when he grabbed 6.7 RPG, and it was a 1.1 RPG spike in comparison to last season.

Pierce’s assist rate also increased for the fourth straight season, all the way up to 4.8 assists per game. That was the second-highest average of his career, trailing only his 2003-04 campaign that featured 5.1 APG. The most important aspect of Pierce’s assist average is the fact that it was the highest number posted by any Celtic not named Rajon Rondo. That’s a critical statistic considering the fact that Rondo missed the final three months of the regular season due to a torn ACL in his right knee.

Which brings us to the most important factor of all: Paul Pierce picked his game up when his team needed him the most.

Everyone wrote the Celtics off when Rondo went down on Jan. 25, leaving them without a point guard for the final 39 games of the regular season.

That sentiment would have been necessary if the C’s didn’t have someone to handle Rondo’s floor-general role. Thing is, they did.

Pierce became Boston’s primary ball handler in what became a motion offense. Set plays were a rarity in this offense, as the Celtics utilized constant dribble-hand-offs and multiple screens. Still, though, Pierce dominated the ball and kept his team more than relevant.

Boston’s captain put the team on his back over the final 39 games of the season. He participated in 34 of those contests and hovered around triple-double numbers nearly every night. In fact, he tallied three triple-doubles during that portion of the season, which (believe it or not) is more than he had totaled in the past seven seasons combined.

Pierce maintained his scoring punch by dropping in 18.3 PPG over his final 34 games. Meanwhile, he also grabbed 7.1 boards a game and dished out a team-high 6.1 dimes a night. He did all of this while increasing his field goal percentage by 3.9 percent and his 3-point percentage by 6.5 percent compared to the games he played in before Rondo went out.

There’s a reason why Danny Ainge and his staff didn’t feel the need to go out and sign a point guard after Rondo’s injury. They felt that they had someone who could perform at a high level with the ball in his hands.

Had Pierce not been on there to fill in, all while providing the team’s top scoring numbers, the Celtics may have been on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture.

Instead, he was there to carry the load. Pierce led his team to a 21-13 record in his final 34 games of 2012-13 and propelled the C’s into the postseason for the sixth consecutive season.

That type of impact is worthy of an MVP. Pierce did it all on the court and he carried his team when it needed him the most.