First it was Kobe Bryant, then Tim Duncan and most recently, Kevin Garnett. All iconic players, all first-ballot Hall Of Famers and all players who played two decades of NBA basketball (give or take). Whether it was Kobe and KG straight out of high school or TD from the college ranks, all three players have left an irreplaceable presence on the game. This week another NBA great, Paul Pierce, has let it be known that he will be hanging up the kicks at the end of the 2016-17 season and although he probably will not receive the same farewell tour that The Mamba had last year, Pierce is one of a dying breed of player. Duncan reached the big Four O in his final season, as did Garnett. Bryant finished his twentieth season at the age of 37 and had injuries not taken over his body, he may have well played into his forties, chasing that elusive sixth ring and 5,000 more points needed to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring title.
When looking that the current NBA game, the players and stars appear to be getting younger and younger. Sure the league moved away from the prep to pro draft, but all that has meant is more players have been declaring after their freshman season. While the game may be younger, more athletic and playing at a faster pace than in the past, there are still a number of players in the league that have something left in the tank and sadly a few that should just call it a day.
22 Needs To Retire: Andre Miller (40)
The Professor has been in the league since 1999. As the 8th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miller was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. After three bottom feeding seasons in Ohio, Miller was traded to the LA Clippers, the West Coast equivalent of the Cavaliers. After his one and done in California, Miller became a NBA vagabond, playing for the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver again, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings and eventually splitting last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs. Whereas his role with the T-Wolves was that of a mentor to the young squad, he would find the exact opposite in San Antonio, joining a veteran roster. One of the NBA’s Ironmen, Miller has missed only a handful of games over his 17 year career that were health related (DNP-CD’s not included). Currently without a contact, Miller’s knowledge and experience of the game serves him well on a bench or in the locker room, but his lack of speed and the slow it down/back it in game is very passé for today’s run and gun game.
21 Something Left In The Tank: Richard Jefferson (36)
Drafted by the New Jersey Nets in 2001 with the 13th pick, Richard Jefferson was a key player in back to back trips to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Jefferson and the Nets, they ran into a pair of dynasty franchises in the LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. A return trip to the NBA Finals and eventually a championship ring would have to wait until his fifteenth year in the league as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers supporting cast. Last season, Jefferson found nearly as many DNPs on his stat sheet as he did double digit points, hitting the 20 point mark only once, but he really came alive in the playoffs, helping the team in the Finals against the Warriors. At 36 years old, Jefferson’s game is more suited towards being a cog in the machine rather than a focal point and is more impactful on the defensive end rather than attacking the basket. After years of chasing the championship ring that he will soon place on his finger, Jefferson has decided to return to a Cavaliers crew that is seeking back to back titles, rather than riding off in to the sunset on a guaranteed high note and they'll hope he can have a big impact in the playoffs again.
20 Needs To Retire: Luis Scola (36)
Possibly possessing the slowest (yet at times effective) fast break in league history, the Argentina native is heading into his tenth year in the NBA. After three seasons of coming off the bench for the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers, Scola found himself as part of the Toronto Raptors starting five last year, hearing his name called during player introductions for all 76 games that he played. Drafted by the Spurs in 2002, Scola wouldn’t actually pull on a NBA jersey until 2007, when San Antonio traded his rights to the Houston Rockets. Other than being a part of the NBA All Rookie First Team, Scola’s basketball highlights can be linked to the International game, where he has helped Argentina capture a total of 13 medals during his time with the program. Scola has averaged 12.3 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game during his career, but other than for a couple early years in Houston, has never been a focal point of any team. While for some, ten years in the NBA is the middle of their prime, Scola may find that he is the old dog in the yard, especially on a talent-deficient Brooklyn Nets team in 2016/17.
19 Something Left In The Tank: David West (36)
Entering his fourteenth season, the former Xavier Musketeer has climbed on the Golden State Warriors bandwagon in search of a championship (not a bad wagon to be on!). Following an eight year career in New Orleans, where he currently is the franchise all time leading scorer, West would head east and sign with the Indiana Pacers, where he would spend the next four seasons. Unfortunately for West, his two best opportunities for a championship ring would be cut off by the Miami Heat super team. Last season, the 6’9" combo forward spent time with the San Antonio Spurs, playing the least amount of minutes since his rookie season while posting single digit points and his worst rebounding numbers of his career. This year, West joined Kevin Durant in Golden State as the Warriors looked to a revamped lineup in search of another championship. Odds are West will find easier scoring opportunities this season and increased minutes on a team that loves to play the small ball game.
18 Needs To Retire: Mike Dunleavy (36)
It would be great if all former Duke players could just retire (IMO), but such is not reality. An all-round contributor for each of the four teams he has previously played for, Dunleavy is hoping to fit in with the reigning NBA champions in Cleveland this season. Unfortunately for the hybrid player, lack of consistent positive health has been an issue in four of the previous six seasons. If he remains healthy and his back issues are behind him, Dunleavy can help provide the Cavs with a long range threat off the bench, especially if J.R. Smith continues to be without a contract. However considering that he has only played 94 out of 164 games over the past two years, expectations are low for the contributions that Dunleavy bring to the Cavs lineup.
17 Something Left In The Tank: Jamal Crawford (36)
J Crossover may have entered the dark side of 30 last spring, but there is no reason to believe that his game is slowing down. Entering his 17th season and fifth with the LA Clippers, Crawford may have seen a slight dip in his playing time, but that could be attributed to the depth on the Clippers roster more than a knock against the Seattle native. Capturing his third NBA Sixth Man Award last season, Crawford provides the Clippers with a multi talented guard who can play either of the back court positions, a threat playing with the ball in his hands or off the ball and behind the three point line. This past offseason, Crawford inked a new three year, $42 million deal with the Clippers that will likely carry out the remainder of his career. As a reward for his services and belief in his value (not to mention the new salary cap and pay structure of today’s free agents), Crawford will make more money per season over the next three years than he has in any of his previous contracts.
16 Needs To Retire: Elton Brand (37)
After seventeen years, five different jerseys (two stints in Philly) and four years of dwindling stats, it is time for the former Duke Blue Devil to hang up the kicks. However, such is not the case as Brand has resigned with the Sixers for the 2016-17 season as a mentor for the mass amount of young forwards on the roster. Sitting behind Nerlans Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric, chances are Brand won’t be removing his warmup jacket until late in blow-out games. Despite a career average of 15.9 points per game, Brand’s single digit scoring average over the course of the past four seasons, combined with seeing only thirteen minutes a night of playing time, makes Brand more valuable to the Sixers as an extension of the coaching staff on the bench and in the locker room rather than on the court.
15 Something Left In The Tank: Pau Gasol (36)
How do you replace a multi-time champion and Hall of Fame bound forward? With another multi-time champion, Hall of Fame bound forward, of course. The San Antonio Spurs enter the post Tim Duncan era with Gasol taking over his role at the power forward/center position. After a rough couple of seasons to end his tenure in LA, Gasol looked to team up with the Chicago Bulls, who on paper were a threat to compete for a championship, but did not live up to expectations during the Spainard’s two years in the Windy City, though it would be impossible to blame Gasol for that, as he made the All-Star game in his two seasons there. Many believe that Gasol is the perfect fit for Coach Popovich’s system, considering his shooting range, passing abilities and basketball IQ, so life for LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker will be made that much easier. Yes his defensive talents and lack of foot speed may make it tough to keep up with today’s “small ball” system, but the Spurs lineup features enough defensive minded individuals that will help cover up Gasol’s limitations.
14 Needs To Retire: Chris Andersen (38)
The Birdman is, and probably forever will be, the only player from Blinn College to step foot in the NBA. Following some misguided advice, Andersen would end up playing in the Chinese Basketball Association and then the IBL and SBL and NBA D-League. Upon being called up by the Denver Nuggets in 2001, Andersen would also add the New Orleans Hornets, Nuggets again, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and recently the Cleveland Cavaliers to his resume. Known more for his body ink and shot blocking presence early in his career, Andersen has been viewed as a one trick pony and unfortunately for him that one trick seems to be coming up a little short as his age increases. Despite being 6”10”, Andersen has never really been a huge asset on the glass on either end of the court and is limited in his offensive abilities. With Timofey Mozgov now in LA, the Cavaliers felt the need to add some size to their bench, but, unlike Mozgov, Andresen at this stage in his career has very little left to offer.
13 Something Left In The Tank: Jason Terry (39)
Jason Terry entered the league as the 10th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. After four years with the Arizona Wildcats, including a NCAA title in 1997, Terry joined a Hawks team that featured Bimbo Coles as their starting point guard. With all respect to Coles, it was inevitable that Terry would quickly take over the role as the starting point guard. Posting All-Star level numbers in his second and third year in Atlanta (though snubbed), Terry would spend his first five years with the Hawks before a trade landed him in Dallas for the next eight years. At 35 years old, Terry would sign as a free agent with the Boston Celtics, lasting one year in Beantown before an epic trade with Brooklyn took place in 2013. Following a cup of coffee in Sacramento and Houston, Terry recently signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for the 2016-17 season.
Entering his 18th season, Terry will easily be the senior citizen on the roster as he will play backup and possibly the backup to the backup at either guard spot. In 15 of his previous 17 seasons, Terry has found action in no less than 72 games. While he may be playing less than twenty minutes a night, Terry has still proven to be a valuable product on and off the floor throughout his career and, with the young Bucks squad, he can be the wily vet in the locker room that players can lean on for support.
12 Needs To Retire: Paul Pierce (38)
Paul Pierce has officially announced that he will be walking away from the game with or without a second NBA championship ring at the end of this season. As a member of the Boston Celtics, Pierce was a do everything player and has etched his names among the greatest to ever wear the famed white and green jersey. Chasing a second title, Pierce tried his luck with the underperforming Brooklyn Nets for one season before moving on to the upstart Washington Wizards. After one year in DC, Pierce opted out of his contract and became a free agent, heading home after signing with the LA Clippers. In his eighteenth year in the league, Pierce was a shell of the player he once was, playing the least amount of minutes, averaging only 6.1 points per game and shooting a horrible 36.3% from the field. On a “super team” with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Pierce has one final shot to hoist another banner, though how much he will contribute remains to be seen.
11 Something Left In The Tank: Dirk Nowitzki (38)
Along with Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki was and is one of the players who changed the way that modern day seven footers play the game. Entering his 19th season in the league, Dirk remains the focal point of the Dallas Mavericks franchise. Although it has been a couple of years since he has seen his points per game average above the twenty point mark, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes in rewarding his prized player, signing Nowitzki this past summer to a two year, $50 million contract. Last season at 37 years old, and as the oldest player on the roster, Dirk was the team’s leading scorer by more than four points per game and the third leading rebounder. It has been a while since the Mavs lived past the first round of the playoffs (2010-11 season) and this year with the addition of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, the defense and offense could see some improvements.
10 Needs To Retire: Pablo Prigioni (39)
As with Luis Scola, Pablo Prigioni spent the better part of his basketball career playing overseas before coming to America in 2012 as a free agent signing by the New York Knicks. As the oldest NBA rookie ever, Prigioni spent two and a half seasons in the Big Apple before being shipped off to Houston at the trade deadline in 2015. Prigioni would then be waived by the Houston Rockets at the end of the 2015 season. The Argentinean point guard would end up signing a contract with the LA Clippers for the 2015-16 season, playing limited minutes behind Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. This summer, Prigioni signed a contract to finally suit up with the Rockets. Don’t expect an increase in minutes this season as Prigioni will once again be stuck in a logjam of guards with Patrick Beverley, Tyler Ennis, James Harden, Eric Gordon and Corey Brewer.
9 Something Left In The Tank: Manu Ginobili (39)
He may be the oldest player on the Spurs roster this year, but Manu Ginobili has shown that he still has value, especially with the second unit. Having spent 11 of 14 seasons coming off the bench for the Spurs, Ginobili has still be a focal point in the Spurs dynasty. Although he played the least amount of minutes of his NBA career and the least amount of games since the 11-12 season, Ginobili has stated that he still has a passion to continue playing the game. This past summer, Ginobili headed to Rio Olympics for one last international run with the Argentina National Team and while an eighth place finish was far from a successful final run, the 6’6” guard was once again one of the main focal points of the team. The Spurs have reloaded over the past couple of seasons with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol in anticipation of Tim Duncan retiring, but, make no mistake, Ginobili’s play this season will have a big impact on the team’s success.
2 Needs To Retire: Vince Carter (39)
It has been a while since “Vinsanity” took over a game and at his age “Half Man/Half Amazing” is more like “Half Man / Half Geriatric.” However, credit has to be given to Carter for lasting eighteen seasons, heading into his nineteenth. Midway through the 2016-17 season, Carter will celebrate the his fortieth birthday, but without his athleticism and questionable health (Carter only appeared in 60 and 66 games the last two seasons with Memphis), does he really possess any value to a team looking to keep up with the “Pace and Space” era that the NBA is currently in? For the previous two years, Carter has posted single digit scoring numbers, hovering around the six points per game mark and has seen his playing time sit just over fifteen minutes a night. Carter is well suited with the Memphis Grizzlies as a mentor to some of the young talent such as Troy Daniels, Wade Baldwin and Andrew Harrison.
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