If you had to choose two NBA players who are near carbon copies of one another in terms of production, you’d be hard pressed to find two guys that are more alike than the Celtics’ Paul Pierce and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. In this piece, I hope to find out what guy truly is the better all around baller based not only on scoring, but several other aspects of the game. To do this fairly, I will be analyzing each players’ averages from their first five years in the league (because The Truth has been in the league five years longer than ‘Melo). Let’s get down to business.
As expected, most people look to scoring first when analyzing a player’s game. Both of these guys have been high volume scorers since they entered the league, but they do it in different fashions. Pierce is deceptively shifty, can get to the rim, and knock down jumpers from all over the court even when contested. Anthony is more of a prototypical explosive scorer. He can also shoot the rock very well and get to the rim whenever he feels like it. In terms of their first five years of the league, the sky was the limit for both of these assassins. So who had the better averages?
Points per game: 22.7 Field goal %: 43.9 Three-point field goal %: 36.9
Points per game: 24.6 Field goal %: 46.1 Three point field goal %: 29.1
The edge here slightly goes to Carmelo, however I do believe Pierce is a better shooter, which is illustrated by his three point field goal percentage. For the sake of argument I could say they’re so evenly matched this category could be a tie, but with the stats slightly in his favor, the winner for this category is Carmelo Anthony.
Anybody with basketball knowledge should know that this category goes to Pierce by a significant margin. He’s a much better on-ball defender than ‘Melo, and regularly guards the best player on the opposing team. I’ve seen Carmelo get lazy more than once, and his defense has always been a bit suspect. Pierce, in his first five years, averaged 1.8 steals per game where Anthony averaged 1.1.
REBOUNDING AND ASSISTS
This is where the comparison gets tricky. We all know both guys can score, but who has the edge in hustle plays? Who is more unselfish and sets up teammates for open shots and layups? In terms of total rebounds, in his first five years, Paul Pierce averaged 6.5 per game. Carmelo averaged 6 even. Much too close to actually declare a winner for that category, a half rebound better statistically doesn’t necessarily mean Pierce is a better rebounder. So how about assists? Pierce’s five year average is 3.2, compared to Carmelo’s 3.1. Once again extremely close. I don’t want to call this whole category a tie, because even though it’s close overall, Pierce does hold the statistical edge, so he wins these categories by the narrowest of margins.
Running the risk of being called a homer because I am a Celtics fan, this comparison turned out just like I thought it would. Neck and neck in every category, but I have always implored that Pierce was a better overall player, especially when you talk about defense. I give Pierce the victory here because with every category being so incredibly close, Pierce is the only real decided winner when talking defense – it is the only category that one guy holds a decisive advantage. For that, I declare Paul Pierce arguably a better overall player than Carmelo Anthony. That can, and may change as Carmelo hits his prime, but we’ll only really know when both guys have retired.