A member of the Boston Celtics from 1998-2013, Paul Pierce evidently bleeds green. Having been retired since the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, Pierce is still expressive of his love for the team he led to a championship in 2008. And for good reason: the Celtics are one of the best teams in today’s NBA, led by none other than Jayson Tatum, who has ascended into one of the best players in the entire association. But has he surpassed Kevin Durant in the superstar hierarchy?
Paul Pierce thought so when the Celtics took a 3-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of last season’s playoffs. And now, around seven and a half months later, Pierce still thinks so, especially when the Celtics possess the league’s best record while the Nets recently just climbed over the .500 mark.
“I think after last season’s playoffs, [Jayson Tatum] surpassed [Kevin] Durant as far as a better player in the NBA today. I said this last year. I’m taking Tatum over KD after last season’s playoffs. I think him going against Kevin Durant was like a passing of the torch. I’m not taking none of that from KD. KD’s still one of the greatest ever players. He’s still one of the best in the game. I just think Tatum today has passed KD,” Pierce told his former teammate Kevin Garnett in his podcast, KG Certified.
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) December 2, 2022
For all of the flip-flopping from pundits these days, at least Paul Pierce is consistent with his opinions. And it’s not as if his take is that far-fetched anyway. It’s difficult to attribute the Celtics’ greatness as a team solely on Jayson Tatum’s shoulders, given Boston’s plethora of quality weapons, but the numbers don’t lie.
Tatum is averaging 31.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists through 21 games – MVP-caliber numbers made better by the fact that the Celtics are winning at an extremely high rate.
Nonetheless, Pierce is right too that Durant remains on top of his game, as the Nets forward puts up 30.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on a nightly basis across 23 games. It’s not Durant’s fault that Kyrie Irving missed a chunk of time or that the Nets’ depth is worse than that of the Celtics’. Still, this should spur a fun debate that borders on the contentious given how little there is in distance between the two in the NBA’s hierarchy – if there’s even any.