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Pierce, Garnett among Hollinger's best of decade

1/1/2010

As 2009 came to a close, ESPN's John Hollinger unveiled his top 10 players of the decade, with a pair of Celtics landing on the list in Paul Pierce (10) and Kevin Garnett (2). Here is Hollinger's blurb on both:

Paul Pierce - He didn't have the blow-up years players like McGrady, Vince Carter or Gilbert Arenas did, but he was phenomenally consistent and durable. Pierce kept his PER in the 20 range all decade, was a much better defender than most high-scoring wings and, of course, was the MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals. He never made first-team All-NBA and never should have, but his body of work across the entire decade puts him on this list.

Kevin Garnett - Unfairly lampooned for not leading a deeply flawed Minnesota team past the likes of L.A. and San Antonio, Garnett showed what he can do with some better help around him after he was traded to Boston. He led the league in PER in back-to-back seasons in Minnesota, but didn't get a single MVP vote the second year because his supporting cast was so bad. In Boston, he proved his defensive dominance by leading one of the greatest defensive teams in history to a title. He made the All-Defense team every year of the decade, was a first-team pick eight times and won the defensive player of the year award in 2008; had he been traded to Boston a few years earlier he probably would have won the award a few more times. Since I presume I'll need to defend this ranking to the larger world, I'll add two more facts. First, it will no doubt shock readers to learn that Garnett's career playoff PER is better than Bryant's and, in fact, ranks in the top 10 in post-merger history; his primary shortcoming in Minnesota wasn't a lack of mettle in the clutch, it was that he couldn't fire Kevin McHale. Second, recall that the one time this decade Garnett and Bryant met as the alpha males on their respective teams, Garnett's side rolled.

For those who just want the nitty gritty, here's the list of top 10 players:

1. Tim Duncan

2. Kevin Garnett

3. Kobe Bryant

4. Shaquille O'Neal

5. Dirk Nowitzki

6. LeBron James

7. Steve Nash

8. Chauncey Billups

9. Dwayne Wade

10. Paul Pierce

Hollinger also handed out the following decade-end awards:

Coach of the Decade: (tie) Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson

Rookie of the Decade: Chris Paul, 2005-06

Sixth Man of the Decade: Manu Ginobili

Defensive Player of the Decade: Ben Wallace

Decade All-Defensive Team:

C: Ben Wallace

PF (tie): Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett

SF: Ron Artest

SG: Bruce Bowen

PG: Jason Kidd