No matter how good a player can be, you can never avoid the circle of life. We see it with nearly every single professional athlete as their last few seasons before retirement are only fragments of what they used to be. We see it in all sports, some later than others, but we always see it. Going from star to bench player is a tough pill to swallow, not only for the players themselves but the fans too. It hurts to see these guys aging and decline, because it’s just a reminder that the end is near and we won’t be able to watch them much longer. Aging superstar athletes in today’s sports that have been on their decline include Tiger Woods, Ichiro Suzuki, Adrian Peterson, and Wayne Rooney. There’s too many to talk about, therefore we’re going to focus on the NBA.
We most famously saw it with Michael Jordan, often referred to as the greatest of all time. He was such a dominant scorer but in his two final seasons with the Washington Wizards, he averaged 21.4 PPG on only 24% shooting from beyond the arc. This wasn’t the same MJ and surely enough, after that 2002-03 season with the Wizards we never saw MJ on the court again. LeBron James is starting to get up there in age and people keep speculating when his dominance will end. In his 15thseason at 33-years old, LeBron finished 2nd in MVP voting, had one of the best playoff performances we’ve ever seen, and had arguably the best season of his career. He’s clearly not slowing down anytime soon, but let’s see who in the NBA is.
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20 Josh Smith
From 2004-2013, Josh Smith was a beast on the Atlanta Hawks. He scored over 15 PPG for seven straight seasons and was productive with his passing and rebounding as well. He also was an excellent defender, making the All-Defensive team in 2009. He was an avid shot blocker, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record 1,000 career blocks. After the 2012-13 season Smith became a free agent, and the Hawks let him walk. He signed with the Detroit Pistons where he had one good season.
Since 2014 he’s been on four different teams and hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
In 2016-17 he missed the entire season and in 2017-18 he only played three games, playing 4.0 MPG.
19 Jason Terry
Jason Terry, nicknamed “The Jet” has been in the NBA since 1999. He made the All-Rookie team and by his second season he was already putting up 19.7 PPG. He had years of success with the Hawks and Mavericks. He was one of the main contributors on the 2010-2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks team, putting up 18.0 PPG and 3.2 APG in the finals. He’s been on three different teams the past five years, and none of those seasons has he averaged more than 7.0 PPG. This past season with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was only playing 16.0 MPG and scoring 3.3 PPG.
18 Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson is another player who got off to a hot start, as he made his respective All-Rookie team as well. He found his groove in year three, and for nine straight seasons he averaged over 16.0 PPG and 8.4 RPG. He was an All-NBA selection for the 2013-14 season. The past two seasons he’s played for the Indiana Pacers and not had much of a role. Playing only 13.7 MPG and producing 7.5 PPG with only 4.1 RPG. There's no reason to think his role will get any bigger this coming season and he will likely remain a bench player until he retires.
17 Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings was an extremely talented prospect out of Oak Hill Academy. With the one and done rule in place, Jennings decided to play pro ball in Europe instead of going to college. After one year in Europe, he was drafted 10thoverall by the Bucks and went on to make the All-Rookie team. During his first six seasons, he averaged at least 15.4 PPG and 4.8 APG.
During the 2015-16 season is when it all went downhill. He only played in 48 games averaging 6.9 PPG.
Since then he’s been on four teams in six seasons, only playing two 50+ game seasons. This past season he was back with the Bucks, playing in only 14 games averaging 5.2 PPG.
16 Richard Jefferson
Richard Jefferson enjoyed seven years of success with the New Jersey Nets. Excluding his rookie season, he averaged over 15.5 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He was a key element to the Nets making it to the finals in back to back seasons in 2002 and 2003. In 2008 he was traded to the Bucks where he had a good year averaging 19.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG. But surprisingly he was traded the following season to the Spurs where he spent two and a half lackluster seasons. Since then he’s been on five teams in five seasons. This past year he was on the Denver Nuggets, only getting 8.2 MPG and 1.5 PPG.
15 Devin Harris
From 2007 to 2010, Devin Harris was a great guard for the Nets, averaging at least 15.0 PPG and 6.5 APG. He was an All-Star in 2008, putting up 21.3 PPG and 6.9 APG. In the middle of the 2011-12 season he was traded to the Jazz in a huge package for the Nets to receive Deron Williams. Since then he’s been on four different teams. This past season he was on Dallas and then got traded to Denver. In his 27 games with Denver, he played 19.7 MPG and scored 8.2 PPG. Hey, at least he's still in the NBA, right?
14 Jameer Nelson
The Orlando Magic hit a home run in the 2004 draft. With the 1stoverall pick they selected Dwight Howard and then traded their 2005 1stround pick for the 20thoverall pick in the 2004 draft, Jameer Nelson. Nelson and Howard carried this franchise up the ranks, eventually making it to the NBA Finals during the 2008-09 season, where Nelson was selected as an All-Star.
In 2014 he was waived by the Magic and has been on five different teams since.
This past season he was on the New Orleans Pelicans and then traded to the Detroit Pistons. In seven games with the Pistons, he played 16.6 MPG and only scored 3.7 PPG.
13 Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler has been a very successful post player in the NBA, making his buck off his rebounding and defense. He was a big part of the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks Championship team; averaging 9.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 1.2 BPG in the finals in addition to being an NBA All Defensive Second Team selection that season. In 2012 with the New York Knicks, he was an All-Star selection, All-NBA Third Team selection, as well as winning Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the spent the past three seasons with the Phoenix Suns where he’s struggled to stay healthy. This past season he only played 46 games, playing 25.0 MPG and scoring 6.5 PPG.
12 Andre Iguodala
It's very easy to forget that Iguodala was once considered a big star in the NBA. Andre Iguodala had four straight seasons with the 76ers in which he averaged at least 17.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 5.7 RPG. He was an All-Star during the 2011-12 season. He’s found his niche with the Warriors where he’s been the past five seasons and won three championships and even was named the 2015 Finals MVP. However, due to the Warriors stacked team he has primarily been a bench player. This past season he played 25.3 MPG and scored 6.0 PPG.
11 Isaiah Thomas
The former Mr. Irrelevant as the last pick in the draft, turned into a prolific scorer in the NBA. Particularly the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with the Boston Celtics, where he averaged 22.2 PPG and 28.9 PPG, and was selected as an All-Star both seasons.
Once he was traded out of Boston, he hasn’t been able to be the same player.
Most think it’s a direct result from the serious hip surgery he had to receive following the 2016-17 season. In 2017-18 he only played 15 games as a Cavalier before being traded to the Lakers. In 17 games with the Lakers this past season, he only started once.
10 David West
David West found lots of success with the New Orleans Hornets complementing Chris Paul. In six straight seasons, he averaged at least 17.1 PPG and 7.4 RPG. West also had some good years in Indiana, playing a key role in them making the Eastern Conference Finals in back to back seasons in 2012 and 2013. At age 35, he decided to go to the Spurs in an effort to ring chase. After one season with the Spurs, he took even more desperate measures and joined the Warriors where he’s gotten two rings. This past season with Golden State, he played 13.7 MPG and scored 6.8 PPG.
9 Luol Deng
Luol Deng had nine productive seasons with the Chicago Bulls where he was a two-time all-star. He was a good scorer and rebounder, as well as an excellent defender due to his athleticism and length. After the Bulls, Deng has spent the past five seasons with three different teams. In the 2016 offseason, as a free agent he signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Lakers. They’re now doing everything they can to get rid of him. This past season after the opening game they deactivated him for the rest of the season. That's about as demoralizing as it gets.
8 Joakim Noah
Along with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah is what helped make those Bulls teams so great. In his time as a Bull, Noah was a two-time All-star, two-time All-NBA first team, one-time All-NBA second team, and in 2014 he was the defensive player of the year.
In 2016, Noah signed a four-year, $72 million contract with his hometown team, the New York Knicks. The Knicks were hoping this move would move them back to relevance.
In his first two years with the Knicks, he’s only played a total of 53 games, getting 3.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG
7 Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili has had an illustrious career with the San Antonio Spurs. He had seven straight seasons of averaging at least 15.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 3.5 RPG. The two-time All Star selection has been a valuable asset to the Spurs four championship teams. But the past three seasons, his scoring average has been under 10 points as age is getting to him. This past season he was 40-years old. He played 20.0 MPG, scoring 8.9 PPG. Many have expected him to retire the past couple of offseasons, but he's seemed content to continue his career, even if he's played a minimal role.
6 Derrick Rose
D-Rose was drafted #1 overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA Draft. He immediately took the league by storm, as his rookie season he had 16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 3.9 RPG. He was an All-Star selection the following three seasons including winning the MVP in the 2010-11 season.
He missed a whole season due to tearing his ACL, and hasn’t been able to get back to his MVP self since.
Since the injury, he’s been on four different teams in six years. This past season he was on the Cavaliers before being traded to the Jazz mid-season. Two days later, he was waived by the Jazz and acquired by the Timberwolves where in nine games he only played 12.4 MPG, scoring 5.8 PPG.
5 Pau Gasol
Over his career, Paul Gasol has been one of the league’s most dominant big men. And he’s found success almost everywhere he’s been. He was an All-Star in 2005 with the Grizzlies. From 2008-2010, he was a three-time All-Star with the Lakers where he helped them win two championships. And from 2014-15, he was a two-time All-Star with the Chicago Bulls. In his six All-Star seasons over different spans of his career, he’s averaged 18.3 PPG. His fourth team he hasn’t been able to find the same success. In his two seasons with the Spurs where he’s been 36 and 37 years old, he’s only averaged 11.2 PPG
4 Tony Parker
Another legendary, but aging Spur (now Hornet) makes the list. Tony Parker has spent his entire 17-year career in San Antonio where he’s been a six-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion. It seems like he’s been the starting point guard for the black and silver for as long as we can remember, but that changed this past season. At 35-years old, he only managed to play in 55 games, starting in 21 of them. His scoring average was 7.7 PPG, which is the lowest of his career. He'll now try his luck in Charlotte, but he'll mostly remain a bench player there behind Kemba Walker.
3 Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson became one of the NBA’s best shooting guards during his time with the Atlanta Hawks. He played seven seasons with the Hawks, averaging at least 18.2 PPG in all of them, and being selected as an All-Star in six of the seven seasons.
In 2010 he re-signed with the Hawks to a six-year, $123.7 million contract which made him the highest paid player in the entire league.
He ended up being traded two years later to the Nets where he was an All-Star in 2013. He had a couple more decent years in Brooklyn before being waived in the middle of the 2016 season. Since then he’s been with the Heat, Jazz, and Rockets where he hasn’t been close to the same player he used to be. He hasn’t eclipsed over a 10-point season scoring average since 2015.
2 Vince Carter
Vince Carter was a force in the NBA as soon as his career began, averaging 18.3 PPG in his rookie season. He followed that with a 25.7 PPG season in year two. He was then an all-star for eight straight seasons with the Raptors as well as the Nets. His super stardom declined slightly after 2007, but he was still a productive player no matter where he went. He had success with the Magic, Suns, and Mavericks. However, the past four seasons it seems father of time has finally caught up with him. This past season at 41 years old, he was on the Kings where he played 17.7 MPG and scored 5.4 PPG. He'll now try his luck in Atlanta.
1 Dwyane Wade
D-Wade is often regarded as the third greatest shooting guard the game of basketball has ever seen, behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant respectively. The man is a three-time NBA champion, twelve-time all-star, one-time scoring champion and the face of a franchise in the Miami Heat. However, this past season he took on the role of a bench player. In 2017-18 he played 46 games with the Cavaliers, starting 3. He then came back to the Heat where he played 21 games, none in which he started. With that being said, he’s been productive off the bench as he averaged 12.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 3.4 RPG.
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