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Advanced Stats Analysis: Paul Pierce's Value with the Wizards

Marc Roberts

Marc Roberts

Marc F Roberts writes about fantasy basketball for RotoWire. He has won no fantasy awards, but his mom thinks his writing is "fantastic".

Paul Pierce has agreed to a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards, according to ESPN. Next season will be Pierce's 17th NBA season but only his second season with a team other than the Boston Celtics. Pierce filled in nicely as a small-ball power forward for the Brooklyn Nets last season due to injuries (namely Brook Lopez' broken foot) but will likely return to playing most of his minutes as a small forward with the Wizards. He's replacing Trevor Ariza, who left the Wizards to sign with the Houston Rockets.

From a fantasy perspective, Pierce finished below expectations last season. In the preseason, he was ranked 54th by ESPN/Yahoo, but finished the year as the 69th most valuable fantasy player on a per game basis:

2013-2014 Stats

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Paul Pierce

28.0

9.5

45%

4.1

83%

1.5

4.6

2.4

1.1

0.4

13.5

$8

69


Pierce's fantasy value comes from his ability to put up near-replacement-level production or better in every fantasy category. Last season, his best category was steals (1.1 spg), followed by three-pointers made (1.5 3PM).

Will joining the Wizards and returning to his more natural position of small forward impact his fantasy value? Let's look at how the move will affect his playing time and pace of play to find out.

Pace Impact

The Nets ran at the fifth slowest pace of play in the NBA last season, averaging 91.4 possessions per game. This rate was well below the league average of 93.9. The Wizards weren't speed demons despite John Wall's presence, and they played at a faster pace than the Nets last season, coming in just below the league average pace, at an average of 93.2 possessions per game.

For a player like Pierce, who averaged 28.0 minutes per game last season, the difference between a pace of 91.4 and 93.2 is worth about 1.1 possessions per game. That change would have been enough to improve Pierce's fantasy rank from 69th to 63rd last season.

Playing Time Impact

The RotoWire depth chart for the Wizards' has Pierce slotted in as the starting small forward, sharing minutes with Otto Porter and Glen Rice. Last season was the first of Pierce's career where he failed to average over 30 minutes per game. That decrease in playing time could be a result of his age but was also likely heavily influenced by Jason Kidd's coaching philosophy. Here is a comparison showing the top five players, by playing time, on the Wizards and Nets last season:

Nets

Age

GP

MPG


Wizards

Age

GP

MPG

Joe Johnson

32

79

32.6


John Wall

23

82

36.3

Deron Williams

29

64

32.2


Trevor Ariza

28

77

35.4

Brook Lopez

25

17

31.4


Bradley Beal

20

73

34.7

Paul Pierce

36

75

28.0


Marcin Gortat

29

81

32.8

Shaun Livingston

28

76

26.0


Nene Hilario

31

53

29.4


The Wizards had four players who averaged over 32.5 mpg, while the Nets had just one. This would seem to indicate that the Wizards are more inclined to play their best players more minutes during the regular season. As a result, I've projected Pierce to finish next season with an average of 31 minutes per game, in between his average minutes from the past two seasons, 33.4 mpg with the Celtics in 2012-13 and 28.0 mpg with the Nets in 2013-14. That change would have been enough to improve Pierce's fantasy rank from 63rd to 44th last year.

Projection For Next Season

If we combine Pierce's previous seasons on a per-100-possessions basis to develop his projected stats for next season and then adjust that projection for the Wizards' pace of play and an average playing time of 31 minutes per game (a method I explain in detail here), we get the following projection for Pierce next season:

2014-15 Projection

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Paul Pierce

31.0

11.9

46%

4.9

83%

1.6

5.2

3.5

1.1

0.4

16.6

$19

41


This projection would have ranked 41st last season, a major improvement over his actual ranking of 69th. His fantasy value still comes from his across-the-board production, but this projection adds value to his scoring average (16.6 ppg vs 13.5 ppg last season), which is more in line with his career averages. I'd recommend targeting Pierce in the fifth round of 10-team rotisserie drafts next season.

*Stats used in the articles are from basketball-reference.com.

Do you have an opinion about Paul Pierce that you'd like to share? Would you like to know how he would rank at a different level of playing time? Please leave a comment below, or contact me on twitter @MarcFRoberts.

To see the fantasy impact of other players who have changed teams this offseason you can click here to see my archive (for example: LeBron James to the Cavs). I won't be posting an article about players who rank outside of my top 130 in most cases, but I will be tweeting about those players, so please follow me on twitter if you'd like updates on deeper-league players. For example, here is my tweet about Vince Carter:



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