It was a simple question that probably deserved a short, diplomatic answer.
"Sure," Danny Ainge could have said, "Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade were both great players, but I'm preferential to my own guy."
But that's not how the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations chose to handle what's become a hot-button issue since Pierce boldly declared himself better than Wade on ESPN.
"I'm gonna say Paul, because I just went into my analytics group the other day and I asked them that question," Ainge said Wednesday morning during his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich."
That's right: Not only did Ainge not dismiss the debate, he enlisted the Celtics' analytics team to settle it. Here's how:
"We have an analysis called Adjusted Plus/Minus," Ainge said. "That's probably the best number you can come up with for a player's impact in the game. ... (Pierce and Wade) were very high in the prime of their career in adjusted plus/minus, meaning they were in the 10-11 range per 100 possessions, which is enormous."
According to Ainge, Wade was "slightly better" from age 20 to 29 than Pierce, with an Adjusted Plus/Minus of 6.4 compared to Pierce's 5.4. But if you look at both players in their 30s...
"Pierce was actually better than he was in 20s," Ainge said. "Pierce was 5.8, and Dwyane Wade was minus-0.4.
"And that was my initial feeling: that Pierce was a little more consistent for longer than Dwyane."
So, there you have it. Ainge and his stat geeks ran the numbers, and they chose the Celtics star over the Heat legend.
"I think everybody came to the conclusion that they would have to give the nod to Pierce, on our staff," Ainge said.
Shocker, we know.
Now is a good time remind you that statistics can prove anything. Indeed, there's a ton of evidence supporting Wade -- some of which Ainge admitted -- like his three first-team All-NBA selections to Pierce's zero, his three rings to Pierce's one and his 2009 NBA scoring title.
But let's acknowledge Ainge and his staff taking the time amid a playoff push to dig up statistical proof that Pierce had a better overall body of work than his Heat counterpart.
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