The Debate: Top 5 C's Offensive Players of All Time

Who are the top scorers in Celtics history? How about the top rebounders, passers, offensive players and defenders?

With so much history – unquestionably the most of any franchise in the sport – these debates are heated. However, we have dug through the numbers and come up with our top-five lists for each of the five categories.

Over the next week, we will release our lists while likely throwing fire onto the debate. So without further ado, here are the top five offensive players in Celtics history. All statistics are from a player’s career with Boston.

5. Kevin McHale

11,386 20.6 6,830 55.4

Making the case...

Kevin McHale cracks our top five, but not by a wide margin. Multiple players were hot on his heels simply because the separation between the top four offensive players in franchise history and the rest of the list is so great. McHale was an incredible offensive player, most notably from the low post. He ranks fifth on the team’s all-time scoring list with 17,335 points despite coming off of the bench for the majority of his games. What gives McHale an enormous boost on this list is the fact that he made 55.4 percent of his field goal attempts during his career with Boston, which ranks third on the franchise list behind only Kendrick Perkins (56.5 percent), a junk-points scorer, and Cedric Maxwell (55.9 percent).

4. Bob Cousy

17,335 17.9 6,945 7.6 6,621

Making the case...

Here’s where it gets tricky – and difficult. Bob Cousy could easily be higher on this list because he was not only a great scorer, but he was also a great passer. Cous scored the sixth-most points in franchise history (16,955) and dished out the most assists in franchise history (6,945). His average of 18.5 points per game is the seventh-highest among all Celtics, and the free-throw line was a big part of his scoring prowess. Cousy made 4,621 free throws during his career, the third-most in team history, and he canned better than 80 percent of his attempts. Cousy was not known as an elite shooter, but that didn’t prevent him from being an incredibly dangerous offensive player.

3. John Havlicek

24,021 24.3 6,114 6,689 10,513

Making the case...

As Boston’s all-time leader in points, and the second-ranked passer in terms of total assists, John Havlicek is cemented in Celtics lore forever. It hurts to have him ranked third on this list, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Havlicek logged at least 5,745 minutes of playing time more than any other player in team history, which ironically works against him; his numbers are greater than everyone else’s thanks in large part to that fact. Still, minutes played aside, Hondo got it done. He scored. He passed. He got to the free-throw line (and made his freebies at an 81.5 percent clip). There really wasn’t much that he didn’t do, and that’s why we call him the franchise’s third-best offensive player of all time.

2. Paul Pierce

26,395 20.8 4,305 6,434 7,979 44.7

Making the case...

Who’s the guy who challenged (and in many cases surpassed) Havlicek in nearly every statistical category? That would be Paul Pierce. Pierce is the franchise’s all-time leader in free throws made (6,434) and attempted (7,979), and his 24,021 points in a Celtics uniform trail only Havlicek on the franchise’s all-time list. Pierce accomplished all of these feats despite playing 6,142 fewer minutes than Havlicek. The small forward, who wore No. 34 for Boston for 15 seasons, finished his Celtics career with the franchise’s second-highest scoring average, at 21.8 points per game. His assist average, at only 3.9 per game, is not overwhelming, but he was certainly capable of running the offense when his team needed him to. Hence why he averaged 5.6 assists per game after the All-Star break of his final season with the team, after point guard Rajon Rondo went down with an injured knee. Pierce, a guy who could take the ball off of the dribble and stroke it from long range (he won a 3-Point Shootout title and is far and away the franchise leader in 3-pointers with 1,823), might be the greatest pure scorer in the history of the franchise. And he could distribute when his team needed him to do so.

1. Larry Bird

21,791 24.3 49.6 37.6 88.6 6.3

Making the case...

There’s a reason why Larry Bird is nicknamed Larry Legend. His legend and aura is unmatched in franchise history, thanks mostly to his offensive abilities. Bird, who averaged 24.3 points per game during his career, is far and away the team’s leader in that category. He also ranks third on the team’s all-time points list despite having effectively played only playing 12 seasons due to injuries. He was a career 49.6 percent shooter, 10th among Celtics, and a career 37.6 percent shooter from long distance. He also is the franchise leader in free throw percentage, at 88.6 percent. As a facilitator, Bird dished out an impressive average of 6.3 APG, which ranks sixth on the franchise list. He was an incredible shooter, an incredible scorer and an incredible passer all rolled into one. That’s why he’s the greatest offensive player to have ever donned a Celtics uniform.

Honorable Mentions

Bill Russell 14,522 15.1 4,100 44.0 56.1
Sam Jones 15,411 17.7 2,209 45.6 81,1
Robert Parish 18,245 16.5 1,679 55.2 73.0

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