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Who’s better: Pierce or ‘Melo?

By 12.02.08

We argue. You decide…

PAUL PIERCE (by Aron Phillips)
There is a reason they call Paul Pierce the Truth. He’s arguably one the NBA’s most lethal perimeter and clutch scorers and could even be the Celtics’ greatest pure scoring machine ever. Leading his team to a World Championship last season, while Carmelo Anthony has struggled to get out of the first round his whole career, P-Double is a warrior. Night after night this guy just gets it done. So much so that the two All-Star teammates that flank him just keep feeding him the rock in the clutch.

Paul PiercePaul Pierce, Dime #5

Unlike Anthony, Pierce demands the ball and can take over games. Leading Boston to their ninth straight win last night over Eastern Conference foe Orlando, Pierce scored 17 of his 24 points in the third quarter alone. With the game on the line, Pierce is like a bull in a china shop, barreling to the bucket for either the deuce or the foul. ‘Melo on the other hand often defers to his teammates with the game on the line.

Sure his 18.7 points per game is well below his career average of 23.0, but to illustrate Pierce’s presence on the floor does not always mean you should look in the box score. In Friday’s blowout win over the Sixers, Pierce had only six points on 1-6 shooting, but his presence was equivalent to Stephen Curry‘s eternal double-team – just drawing the attention of the defense.

What’s most amazing to me is how Pierce has improved his free throw shooting over his career. I can remember a couple years ago when Pierce would step up to the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and miss two. After beginning his career shooting 71%, Pierce shot a career-high 84% last season and is on track to do the same this season as well. With his uncanny ability to get to the line, if he can consistently knock them down, he could be unstoppable.

CARMELO ANTHONY (by Austin Burton)
It’s all about opportunity.

Given the opportunity to play with multiple Hall of Famers who know their roles and will do whatever necessary to win it all, would Carmelo Anthony be able to take over a series and walk away with a ring, an MVP, and a newfound appreciation for his game? Of course.

Given the opportunity to play in a system that highlights his strengths and compensates for his weaknesses, would Carmelo Anthony be able to make a declaration like, “I think I’m the best player in the world” despite averaging under 20 points a game? Of course.

Carmelo AnthonyCarmelo Anthony (photo. Mannion)

Every NBA player has a specialty, a niche, and few are as good at performing their niche as Carmelo. He’s a professional scorer. He gets buckets. Above the rim, in the lane, mid-range, baseline, off the dribble, on the block, 23-9 … he was fourth in the NBA in scoring last season (25.7 ppg), and that was with Allen Iverson as a teammate. Of the League’s top four scorers — including LeBron, Kobe and A.I. — ‘Melo had the highest field goal percentage and played the fewest minutes. Translation: He’s efficient, and he’s a dominant scorer even when sharing the spotlight with another dominant scorer.

The strongest pro-Pierce argument is his proficiency as a clutch scorer, but ‘Melo is just as — if not more — adept at coming through in clutch situations. According to the number-crunching website 82games.com, which defines “clutch time” as “fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by five points,” Carmelo put up 36.3 points per 48 minutes of clutch time last season, while Pierce averaged 20.2 points. If nothing else, the stats show Pierce isn’t head-and-shoulders above Carmelo in the clutch department as some would have you believe.

This season hasn’t been Carmelo’s best, but consider the circumstances. He had a long summer playing with Team USA — his fourth long summer in a six-year NBA career — and immediately after returning from a preseason elbow injury that never really healed (he re-injured it over the weekend), his entire team was given a facelift with the Iverson/Billups trade. (And don’t forget the Marcus Camby trade before that.) With that sore elbow on his shooting arm, of course ‘Melo has struggled from the field, hitting a hair under 40 percent while averaging 19.9 points. But his rebounding is up (8.4 rpg, on pace for a career-high) and his defense has improved, helping the Nuggets rank 15th in the League.

All things considered, head-to-head, ‘Melo is on a level plane — if not above — any scorer in the NBA. And that includes The Truth.

Who do you think is better?


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