Paul Pierce: One of The 5 Greatest Draft Steals Ever?
[Pierce showing his bounciness, flexibility in unique pre-Draft workout. Courtesy SI Vault.]
When the Wizards have the 10th pick in the NBA Draft, we get a player like … Jarvis Hayes.
The Celtics? They get an All-Star like Joe Johnson—or even better, a future Hall of Famer like Paul Pierce.
The Facts about ‘The Truth’
For today’s Boston-Washington game, the Wizards will likely ask rookie Chris Singleton to guard Pierce, a player who:
- Has an NBA championship ring;
- Has been named to four All-NBA teams; and
- Is on pace to finish his career among the top 20 scorers of all-time.
You probably knew those things. (Singleton surely does.)
What you might have forgotten: Pierce was never expected to be a Celtic at all.
In the 1998 draft, most experts projected Pierce as a top-three pick. Instead, nine teams passed on the Kansas star to select players like Robert Traylor … Jason Williams … even Larry Hughes.
(And the Celtics hadn’t even planned on Pierce falling to them—they’d honed in on Dirk Nowitzki as their ideal late-lottery steal.)
Putting Pierce in Context
In the past few years, it’s become obvious: Pierce is the greatest player ever drafted at the No. 10 slot, especially in the years since the NBA moved to its lottery format.
By making another All-Star team this year, Pierce also joined a unique club: Players who were taken with the 10th pick (or later) and made at least 10 All-Star teams.
Uniquely, Pierce is one of three NBA players to be a double-digit draft pick who also made as many All-Star teams as his slot. Only Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant have accomplished the feat when drafted later (both at No. 13).
One more stat of note: 562.
That’s how many NBA victories that Pierce already has under his belt, entering today’s game.
The entire Wizards starting lineup today has 392—a respectable 297 from Nene, and a scant 95 from everyone else.