NBA / Jun 7, 2010 / 10:00 am

Who’s Had a Better Career: Paul Pierce or Ray Allen?

Paul Pierce covers Dime #5

We argue. You decide.

PAUL PIERCE (by Adam Flomenbaum)
Of course, nicknames don’t define a player, but both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have nicknames that will live on with them past their playing days. The difference is that Allen’s nickname, “Jesus Shuttlesworth,” is fictional. It was given to him as the lead in Spike Lee‘s He Got Game (a fine performance), and when I hear the nickname I think first of the perks of being a highly-touted college recruit rather than Allen’s deadly shot. Pierce, though, is “The Truth.” Pierce got the nickname when, years ago, Shaquille O’Neal apparently pulled aside a Boston reporter and said, “Take this down: My name is Shaquille O’Neal, and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth. Quote me on that, and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.”

Maybe Shaq said this because Pierce carried the abysmally mediocre Celtics team to the ’02 Eastern Conference Finals. Although they lost the series in six games, Pierce and the Celtics mounted a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of Game 2, where Pierce had 19 of his 28 points. It was the largest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.

Or maybe Shaq just had the foresight that Pierce would be the leader of a rejuvenated Celtics franchise. Kevin Garnett is more vocal and Ray Allen more flashy, but Pierce leads foremost by example. Simply, he gets the job done on both ends of the floor. He doesn’t have a quick release and he can’t blow by defenders anymore, yet he somehow finds his way to the basket at will. With his signature step-back, he creates more space than the legroom in a Maybach. Many people also forget that during the ’08 NBA championship run, besides countering LeBron‘s 45 points with 41 points of his own in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, Pierce was a lockdown defender when it mattered. He has shown that he could shut down Kobe, LeBron and other elite scorers. It is this aspect of Pierce’s game that separates his career from Allen’s.

If we look at Offensive Win Shares — an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offensive production — both Allen (18th all-time) and Pierce (48th all-time) are historically good. But if we look at Defensive Win Shares, Allen’s numbers were horrible until he joined the Celtics, while Pierce’s numbers are good for 59th all-time. Also, Pierce’s edge over Allen becomes more clearly defined when we look at their Player Efficiency Ratings. Bearing in mind some flaws in Hollinger’s PER system — which attempts to quantify a player’s contribution both positive and negative — the numbers are pretty indicative of a player’s performance. Pierce’s career PER of 20.8 places him 50th all-time, while Allen’s 19.4 puts him 81st.

From Pierce’s buzzer-beating shot to beat Miami in Game 3 of this year’s first round, to his 31-13-5 stat line in the Eastern Conference Finals clinching Game 6, he is largely responsible for the Celtics being in position win their 18th championship. Allen’s three-point and free-throw shooting numbers alone warrant a ticket into Naismith and we will always remember his smooth stroke, but when looking at the players’ complete body of work, we want nothing but The Truth.

Ray Allen covers Dime #11

RAY ALLEN (by Austin Burton)
Maybe it’s because I was raised on the West Coast — where Ken Griffey Jr. and Steve Largent even suffered the pitfalls of “small market” success — but I’ve always appreciated athletes who star under the radar.

So I followed Ray Allen while he was building the first half of his Hall of Fame career in Milwaukee, well before he moved to Seattle and became the best pure scorer the Sonics ever employed. And yet, I grew to appreciate Ray’s game even more in the years he played for my team.

It would be easy to look at the last three seasons and say Paul Pierce beats Ray head-to-head. Pierce has been Boston’s leading scorer every year of the “Big Three” era. Pierce won the ’08 Finals MVP. Pierce made three All-Star teams in three years versus Allen’s two. Pierce is the go-to guy in crunch time and the team leader.

But it’s not that simple. In the same ’08 Finals where Pierce certified his Hall of Fame status, Ray went for 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals, hitting 50% from the field, 52% from three, and 86% at the line. Pierce got MVP, but it’s not like Ray was an innocent bystander.

And for the better part of a decade before that — when Ray was the No. 1 option in Milwaukee and Seattle — his stats were on-par with Pierce’s numbers, and he led his teams just as far in the playoffs. Pre-’08, Pierce and Allen each made four playoff appearances, with one conference finals trip apiece.

In a pinch, I’d still take Pierce over Ray in a clutch situation. But over the course of their careers, I’d say Ray has been (and still is) tougher to guard. Consider this: In 33 regular-season games against the Lakers — essentially his career versus 10-time NBA All-Defensive selection Kobe Bryant — Ray has averaged 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists, shooting 43% from the field, 36% from three, and 90% at the line. Yesterday he lit up L.A. for 32 points and eight threes (a Finals record), and while Kobe only guarded Ray occasionally, that wasn’t by accident: Phil Jackson knows Kobe will get worn out trying to chase Ray around. That’s not exactly a concern when assigning a defender to Pierce.

Ray has the accolades to match Pierce, with nine All-Star picks, two All-NBA nods, and one championship. He has similar stats. What sets Ray apart is that he does one thing — shoot the basketball — better than everyone else. Ray could easily be considered the best long-range sniper the game has seen (next season he’ll pass Reggie Miller as the all-time leader in threes), and his 89.4 free-throw percentage ranks 5th all-time. Pound-for-pound, he may be the best pure shooter ever. Paul Pierce is a top-flight scorer, a solid defender and a clutch performer, but does he crack the “best-ever” discussion in any of his specialty areas? Not really. That’s why, at the end of the road, Ray will leave a bigger impression on the game.

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  • Celts Fan

    Versatility means a lot to me, so I’d probably say Pierce in a really, really close decision, but it seems like Ray’s aging better than Paul so who knows where we’ll stand on this when they hang ‘em up in a few years.

  • stupid

    Ray Period. Remember Pierce had Antoine Walker as his sidekick during ‘Toine’s peak years

  • http://Rapzilla.com Jayo

    Gotta go w/ Ray-Ray. That stroke is just to pure & he pretty much matches Pierce stat for stat

  • Heckler

    tough one.
    i’ve always been a fan of both players.

    as for their careers, I’d probably say Ray Allen has had the better (overall) career.

    Paul Pierce is gonna be great in the memory of (just) Boston fans.

    Because Ray Allen played for different teams, in different systems, in different conferences, he achievements may mean a little more.

    and Ray Allen will be remembered as a great basketball player and shooter. Paul Pierce will only be remembered as a celtic

  • Lurk Nowitzki

    Thank God for Ron Artest’ shooting tendencies. If he had any remote idea of clock management or how to handle late game possessions, L.A might’ve won that game. This nigga Ron shootin off balance out of control 3’s when Gasol has dominated all game and Kobe is Mr. 4th quarter lol

    QB gangstaz FTL

  • Dave

    Interesting you post up this article.. After Ray went berserk last night, I asked a similar question to myself, but this one:

    Who’s had a better career: Ray Allen or Reggie Miller?

    Reggie definitely has a lot more legends, but perhaps that’s only because he’s been known to be a Knick killer? Everything done in New York is blown up ten fold. For all Reggie’s accolades, he’s only been an all-star 5 times (I could have sworn he was like a 10 time all-star).. Ray’s been an All-star 9 times.

    Would you guys put Ray over Reggie? If not, what would Jesus have to do?

  • Dave

    btw, that poll you got on the side is interesting too.. and sort of fits my question..

    Down THREE points, and most people would call MJ’s number? I dunno about that, I think I’d actually pick him last in that lineup.. There are some real long-range bombers there..

  • Celts Fan

    @Dave – agree completely on the poll. I’d say it’s Larry, Reggie, Ray, Kobe, then MJ and I’d be ECSTATIC to get to have any of them putting up a pressure shot for my team. BTW, if that’s a 2 instead of a 3, you essentially reverse the order except sliding Larry after Kobe (MJ, Kobe, Larry, Ray, Reggie.)

    @Stupid – “Ray Period. Remember Pierce had Antoine Walker as his sidekick during ‘Toine’s peak years”
    I can’t tell if you’re trying to make a case for or against Pierce! (and don’t forget, Shuttlesworth was flanked by Sam Cassell and Big Dog when they were actually really good.)

  • Heckler

    about this side poll:

    why is larry bird in LAST place right now?

    …yall young dumb fucks dont know shit!

  • Nyeme

    I chose Ray. If you remember Paul Pierce/Toine years, they were equal in importance to the team. Pierce was the leading scorer, but Toine was the leader, ran the offense; and they both were guns with horrible shooting percentages. In their primes, I’ll remember Pierce as a scorer with a knack for finishing in the paint and getting to the line. With Ray, I think of him as one of the greatest shooters, off the dribble and off the ball.

  • control

    Ray for sure.

    If you made a movie about Ray’s career, it would be called “Pure stroking” and be pornographic in how pure his shot is.

    If you made a movie about PP’s career, it would be called “Me and My Wheelchair” and show him going through life with a silent wheelchair following him around, ready to catch him when he falls.

  • Heckler

    Ray Allen had some dunks too:

  • sh!tfaced

    Nope. Too damn close to get a vote here.

    But I’m gonna go with Heckler though, the fuck is Larry doing LAST?! A lot of dumb young fucks is right. MJ?! Y’all kids gotta be shitting…

  • KeithG

    I say PP is the best all around, but Shuttelsworth has been a much better shooter….but what about a hype comparison:




  • control

    If we are talking about acting careers, I think PP takes it hands down. Ray has been in a real movie…shit, he played JESUS!

    PP beats him though, because if you check his IMDB profile, there’s just one word “tough”.

  • JAY

    “Who’s had the better career?”
    To answer that question, Ray may have the edge by half a whisker, but not without explanation.
    Pierce played most of his years with GARBAGE teammates. Outside of Walker, who else did he play with? He was doubled and tripled for like 10 years straight. Given some extra talent around Pierce, it would be a different story. But as it stands, Ray Allen has the better career.

    I still think Pierce is the better player. More creative, bang inside, crafty. Ray is straight dead-eye.

    @heckler: “and Ray Allen will be remembered as a great basketball player and shooter. Paul Pierce will only be remembered as a celtic”
    Only a celtic?? I read that like it was a bad thing. The big difference with that point is Pierce will have his jersey hanging from the rafters in the Garden. Allen’s jersey won’t be hung anywhere.

  • JAY

    Now that i’m thinking about it… I’d have to give it to Pierce. His jersey will be hanging from the frikkin rafters!!!!

  • me

    I can’t argue with either pick, neither has really been better than the other.

    If forced to pick one though, I’d go with Ray just because as a shooter I respect the work that goes into getting and maintaining something so perfect. PP’s clutch as can be, but he looks so flabby. Looks like he doesn’t do much to stay in game shape at all.

  • e

    ray allen has had a way better career but just hasnt had the spotlight playing in those other cities he wont get the props he deserves until her retires

  • Jim

    No disrespect to Ray, who is a lock for the Hall of fame. But, anyone who thinks Ray and/or Garnet are better players than Paul Pierce needs to go back to watching hockey.

  • Marcus

    If you ask any Celtic fan Im guessing they’ll shout out “are you f ing kidding me? Its Paul Pierce” He has been as loyal as can be and has carried himself well. Ray Allen kind of fades off into the background most times but has the smoothest, maybe even the best jump shot in the assosciation.

    When its all said and done who has had a better career? Paul Pierce

  • http://www.gentlemansmagazineonline.com Gentleman’s Magazine Online

    Ray Allen did star in a b’ball flick wasn’t half bad.
    Too bad i can’t say the same for Shaqs movies.

  • LP REP

    Both are good, but ill break it down now

    Pierce has had a better career

    Pierce played with horrible teams, pre-KG-allen ,

    He took a team to the confrence finals with Walker as his number 2…

    Walker was a PF, a PF who shot 39% and grabbed 8 RPG, Bad Defender… the rest of the celtics roster were Old Kenny anderson , Erik williams and Tony battie to finish out the starting Lineup

    Is that a joke? Jordan wouldnt be able to make it to the Finals with that joke of a roster…

    Pierce statistically is on par with allen, and better acually., Pierce is also a much better defender and usually draws the tougher matchups, and usually defends the other teams superstars

    Pierce, but pierce is also better then Kobe bryant, the world cant see this though, cause they are fooled by Kobe getting strapped with the most talented rosters ever since he joined the NBA

    Odom is a better Player then antoine walker ever was and Kobe has him comin off the bench , he still wont beat the celtics and pierce to win the championship

    PP will have 2 championships now , with only 2 realistic shots at winning one, He is 2 for 2

  • Gregory Jarvis

    Paul Pierce has had the better career, better all round player and defender – Ray’s had a great career but I would go for Pierce easily.

  • Ian

    wtf? you forgot the bazzinga at the end.
    pierce had toine?? pts for pierce there.
    allen made the conf finals once with cassell and big dog pierce did with the worst side kick ever.

    pierce wins this one easy agree with gregory.

  • Nyeme

    lol LP Rep

    Walker was the leader of those teams. The offense ran through Toine’s hands; he called the plays; he distributed the ball; he was the one in control and the real reason the teams were a success. He did average 5apg.

    The only reason Toine’s game took such a hit is because he fell in love with that 3 and got out of shape. He was shooting like 8 per game at one point. Odom is better? Has Odom EVER played aggressive or averaged 20ppg?

    Pierce better than Kobe? LOL! Pierce has a hard time getting to his spots, especially from the perimeter. He has virtually no handle and a horrible shot selection.

  • dwayne

    After all the Hoopla I ask one question DOWN BY 3 with seconds to go who do you want coming off a screen RAY ALLEN or REGGIE MILLER?

  • Ian

    easy miller over anyone in nba history everyone knows that the game in going to overtime.

  • GFrank

    I dont know if that I remember Reggie Like I remember Jordan (mean i cant ever remember there misses)because I was akid and as a kid they never missed……Where as for Ray Im an adult in his prime and so I notice his misses and flaws. that being said my Heart say Reggie becuz I never saw him Miss a three.

    But my head say Jesus because statistically he’s a much better shooter than Reggie!

  • Ian


    statistically??? really ??? please tell me where did you get those stats from.

    reggie took tougher shots and took alot of shots a full step away from the line. trust your childhood memories my man they arent wrong.

  • Nyeme

    Eff Reggie!! His career is overblown. How many big shots has he made in big time games? They always bring up the Knicks, but they lost MOST of those series. Besides, Reggie couldn’t create a shot off the dribble, didn’t play a lick of defense, didn’t rebound, couldn’t pass, didn’t slash….

    I’m going with Ray for the tie if we down by 3

  • Tony

    I’d have to say Ray had the better career. I would say Paul is the better over all player, but the question is who had the better career? Ray is considered one of the best shooters in NBA history especially from long range and three point range. Paul is a very good all around player who is more versatile, but in the end Ray just stood out more in certain categories. If you want to break it down further, ask who had the better college career!!!

  • king

    Shaq said that after a game that the c’s beat the lakers and PP destroyed them