There comes a point in every NBA players career where they must look in the mirror and ask themselves how much longer they can keep playing professional basketball. Even the greats have to face reality and hang up their sneakers when they just can't keep up with the younger and more durable stars of tomorrow. Kevin Durant and Lebron James are currently facing off in this years NBA Finals and the spotlight has been on them for a majority of the season; this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since they're two of the best athletes on this planet. With so much attention being drawn towards Cleveland and Golden State this year, the lesser teams in the league are often forgotten during the 82-game season. Along with those teams are a few names that may jog your memory a bit.
These guys just aren't ready to call it quits and can you blame them? 40 years of age is generally the benchmark for retirement in the NBA and that's if you last that long in the league. Retiring at the top of one's game doesn't happen very often. Might as well make the most of your time playing professionally. Although Ice Cube's Big 3 League could make up for the extra downtime that retirees have once their days in the NBA comes to an end. One thing to note about this list is that some of the entries are flourishing in their lesser roles while others have struggled to stay in the rotation of their respective franchises. Here are the players that were once a mainstay in a starting lineup but have now been delegated to a spot on the bench.
15 Jeff Green
Jeff Green has never been an all-star caliber player, but a team could rely on him to give you 15 points per game during the early stages of of his NBA career. Now a member of the Orlando Magic, The Georgetown product has seen his production drop all across the board. He averaged just 9.2 PPG while shooting a career-low .394 percent from the field. The decline is a bit worry some since Green is still only 30 years old. At least he's still playing the game he loves since he is now five years removed from open-heart surgery. We'll see what next season has in store for Green as the Magic don't seem to have any real sense of direction at the moment.
14 Mo Williams
Back in the day Mo Williams could provide buckets in succession. A shoot-first point guard, Williams has accomplished two of the largest feats that most players can only dream of: be selected to an All-Star Game (2009) and win an NBA Championship (2016). Most recently he found himself being used as trade bait for Kyle Korver this past January. The Hawks then sent Williams to Denver who also used the guard to acquire better assets for the future. The fun doesn't end there though, as Denver wound up waiving him, allowing the 76ers' to pickup the veteran guard to immediately waive him shortly after to clear up cap space. After all of this Williams is not on a team at the moment. If a team does pick him up in the future, he most likely will find himself coming off the bench since there are a surplus of point guards in the league today (plus he's been playing the role of backup point guard since 2013 now). If Williams is remembered for anything it's for randomly dropping 52 points on the Pacers back in 2015. It is still one of the most jaw-dropping performances to this day.
13 Eric Gordon
Injuries riddled Eric Gordon during his days with the Clippers and Hornets/Pelicans but that hasn't stopped the shooting guard from becoming one of the Houston Rockets most reliable offensive weapons. Gordon, alongside Lou Williams, served as the Rockets sixth man and boy did he dominate when coming off the bench. Gordon was fourth in the NBA in total 3-point field goals made this season which put him behind only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and teammate James Harden. That is some elite company to be associated with. In terms of durability, Gordon played the most games in a season since his rookie year back in 2008. This has to be a great sign for Houston, who took a bit of a gamble by signing the sharpshooter last July. Gordon may have finally found his home in the NBA.
12 Brandon Jennings
When Brandon Jennings wasn't getting torched by Derrick Rose, he was the best player on a struggling Bucks team that had a winning record in just one out of the four seasons that Jennings spent in Milwaukee. After being traded to Detroit in 2013, Jennings was slotted as the starting point guard of the team and continued to play solid basketball until he ruptured his left Achilles on January 25, 2015. The injury led to him playing the D-League later that year before the team eventually called him back up to the main roster. It was clear that the injury had gotten the best of Jennings and Detroit ended up sending him and Ersan İlyasova to Orlando for Tobias Harris.
Jennings finished the 2016-17 season as a member of the Washington Wizards after the New York Knicks waived him this past February. He is now towards the bottom of the point guard hierarchy and he will most likely continue to come off the bench for the rest of his time in the NBA.
11 Richard Jefferson
Who can forget that 2002 New Jersey Nets team? Okay they might have lost in the finals to the San Antonio Spurs and the NBA was in a bit of a slump at this point but they were still one of the more exciting teams to watch for a few years. Richard Jefferson manned the three spot for that Nets squad and started all 80 games that he appeared in that year. Fast forward 15 years and Jefferson is obviously a bit older and is in a much different situation. Jefferson now finds himself in a reserve role with the Cavaliers and is trying to earn his second consecutive ring. Like a majority of the players over 35 on this list, Jefferson has lost a bit of bounce over time and finds himself playing the crafty veteran role that many teams look for. Will Jefferson and company win back-to-back championships? Your guess is as good as mine, but we all know that Golden State isn't going to make it easy for them.
10 Devin Harris
What's there to say about Devin Harris? The Milwaukee native was an All-Star back in 2009 with the New Jersey Nets, averaging 21.3 points, 6.9 assist and 3.3 rebounds but has seen his numbers on the court drop sharply every season after that. The 2016-17 campaign saw Harris average just 6.7 points in 16.7 minutes of play. Ouch. Injuries, particularly in his left and right big toes, have begun to plague Harris since 2013, the year he returned to the Dallas Mavericks who acquired him from the Washington Wizards during the 2005 NBA Draft via trade. Any future all-star nods have been thrown out the window and Harris will continue to fill the role of back-up point guard until his days in the NBA are all said and done.
9 Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert has had one of the steepest falls from grace we've seen in quite some time. During his time in Indiana, Hibbert provided scoring and crashed the boards effectively at the center position. He was the anchor for the Pacers defense who finished first in efficiency from 2012-2014. The 2011 season saw him average 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, career highs for the two-time all-star but his numbers in both categories have been on a downward spiral ever since; he is now a shell of a player that once posed a threat to anyone who dared to bring the ball in the paint. The center position is changing. Plain and simple. Guys like Hibbert have felt the change the hardest as the league continues to get smaller and faster. Centers are shooting threes like there's no tomorrow, and Hibbert just isn't very versatile which is why he has felt the transition the most when compared to others like Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan. Pinpointing the exact reason as to why he's struggling is basically impossible. What we do know is that Hibbert may find himself playing outside of the United States sooner rather than later.
8 Luol Deng
As a member of the Chicago Bulls Luol Deng was what every Bulls fan wanted out of a player: a workhorse like athlete that wasn't the flashiest but could get things done on both ends of the floor. With Coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls instilled a defensive mindset and Deng was the second in command behind Derrick Rose who carried the team offensively for quite some time. Thibodeau loved Deng. He loved Deng so much that the man from Sudan led the league in minutes during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The Bulls wound up parting ways with Deng in 2014 and his talents have begun to fade ever since.
After stints in Cleveland and Miami, Deng now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers but doesn't seem to be a very big part of their future plans. The Lakers are rebuilding and a guy like Deng just doesn't fit the picture for them. We'll see if Deng ends up being traded this upcoming off season.
7 Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson's career averages of 16 points and 8.6 rebounds might be a bit inflated since he's played on terrible teams for a majority of his career. He's made it to the playoffs only four times in his 13 year career and is seeing his stock drop faster than Ron Artest jumping into a crowd in Detroit. Jefferson has been a starter for a majority of the teams that he's played for but came off the bench this season for the Indiana Pacers. He played just 15 minutes per game and wasn't much of a factor for the Pacers who were hoping to get some more offense out of the center. Indiana signed Jefferson to a three-year, $30 million contract last July but one has to believe that they will move him before that contract is up. It's not the worst signing we've seen but it isn't a very good one either.
6 David West
A member of the highly touted 2003 NBA Draft Class, David West has had a solid run in the league after being drafted by the team formerly known as the New Orleans Hornets 14 years ago. With two consecutive All-Star appearances in 2008 and 2009 West has flown under the radar for a majority of his career as his Hornets teams struggled in the playoffs year after year, making it out of the first round on just one occasion (2008). In 2011 he signed with the Indiana Pacers and had a bit of a career resurgence while playing alongside Paul George and Roy Hibbert. After playing a single season in San Antonio, West is now a member of the Golden State Warriors and is still looking for his first ring before he rides off into the sunset.
5 Zach Randolph
Zach Randolph is a consistent threat to put up 15 and 10 on any given night. 2017 will see him enter his 16th season in the league and things have changed quite a bit for the Grizzlies power forward. This season Coach David Fizadale opted to bring Randolph off the bench, a move that many questioned since the 35 year old is one of the most reliable front-court players in the game today. The move initially caught Randolph off guard but it really did workout for everyone. The Grizzlies second unit received a nice scoring boost and the veteran forward was able to save a bit of energy during the grueling 82-game season. Sure Randolph has always played below the rim, but that doesn't mean 15 years of professional basketball isn't going to start taking its toll on you. Don't be surprised if "Z-Bo" continues to come off the bench next season as well.
4 Joe Johnson
Need some scoring down the stretch? "Iso Joe" was the man to have on your team when it came to taking those last-second shots until his age started to catch up to him. Joe Johnson has received his fair share of criticism during his time in the NBA. He is best known for having one of the worst contracts in NBA history during his time with the Atlanta Hawks (six years, $123.7 million). The team was in need of a superstar and the Hawks figured that Johnson was the man to fill that position. Wrong. Johnson may have averaged 20.9 PPG during his seven seasons with the team, but they struggled each year in the post season with him leading the team. The seven-time all-star ended up turning into a volume shooter and really did prove himself to be one of the top scorers in the league, but the team around him wasn't getting any better and that's kind of important. Johnson is now a member of the Utah Jazz and is nothing more than a role player for the team today. The clutch factor seems to still be there, but Johnson's best days are definitely behind him.
3 Andre Iguodala
Many forget just how lethal Andre Iguodala was when it came to throwing down rim-rocking dunks during his days in Philadelphia. The ferocity of his jams are up their with Vince Carter himself. Iguodala was always reliable to do a little bit of everything: score, assist, rebound but more importantly defend. He made his name on the defensive side of the floor, becoming one of the best perimeter defenders the league has seen in quite some time. Nowadays, the 2015 Finals MVP finds himself coming off the bench for a Golden State squad that is being heralded as one of the greatest teams of all time.
Is Iguodala still an effective player today? Of course, but a starting gig is likely a thing of the past for him. Golden State is obviously star studded, but take Iguodala off that team and try to replace him with someone as versatile as the former all-star. It wouldn't be easy.
2 Pau Gasol
As Gasol enters the twilight of his career, the two-time NBA champ has proven to still be pretty crafty on the offensive end but can also be a defensive liability at times. After starting 39 games during the regular season this year, Coach Popovich made the decision to have Gasol come off the bench to see how the veteran could help bolster the bench. The move was a success as it allowed the Spaniard to become the focal point in the Spurs second unit offensively and allowed Dewayne Dedmon to make up for Gasol's immobility while on defense. With retirement quickly approaching, the Hall of Fame is without a doubt in Gasol's future. Popovich knows how to manage his veterans, so don't be surprised if Gasol continues to come off the bench next season.
1 Vince Carter
As stated earlier, the benchmark age for retirement in the NBA tends to be 40. Well Vince Carter is proving that age is just a number and continues to play solid basketball with the Memphis Grizzlies. We all know what Vince Carter has made his name on: highlight reel dunks that will more than likely never be duplicated. Carter continues to amaze fans with his consistent efforts today but what's really impressive is how "Vinsanity" has modeled his game to better suit his athletic ability. He has always been a reliable all-around scorer his entire career. With a career field goal percentage of .438 Carter can knockdown a shot from just about any spot on the floor (.374 career three-point shooter) when need be. Now that Carter can no longer fly out of the building like he used to, the Raptor icon has focused more so on his work from behind the arc while still pulling off a spectacular move from time to time. Most players at his age simply vanish and become irrelevant within a rotation but Carter continues to defy the odds and is still effective in any situation. Carter most likely won't be in the NBA for too much longer, which is why fans should really appreciate the fact that he is still getting buckets in 2017.
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