As is the case with different professional sports leagues from all around the world, it is often said that the National Basketball Association is a young man’s game. There is, of course, some truth to that notion, as the NBA is filled with numerous younger stars who are set to take the league by storm and, eventually, replace older and well-known names in power rankings of the best overall players in the Association. Of course, individuals such as Cleveland Cavaliers Superstar LeBron James have something to say on this subject. James, as he has joked during the current campaign, has proven to age like a fine wine, and he could be on the verge of winning yet another MVP trophy if he is able to guide the Cavs to the title in June.
Different players and athletes age differently, obviously, and there are multiple individuals currently signed to NBA franchises who may want to consider reading the writing on the wall, admitting their ages and riding off into the sunset. As harsh as it may be to say, others, simply stated, shouldn’t be in the NBA today because of their skills and because others deserve opportunities to show what they can do on basketball's biggest stage. As the 2017-18 campaign comes to an end, teams and players alike will have decisions to make heading into the summer months, free agency and the rest of the offseason. The combination of players who lack the needed skill along with those who should consider exiting the NBA because of their ages makes for a list of players recognizable to even casual followers of the product.
16 Dirk Nowitzki: Age
Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki has already publicly stated that he plans on returning to the NBA for the 2018-19 season. Nowitzki has even claimed that he would be willing to come off the bench in order to extend his career another year.
While Nowitzki unquestionably has earned the right to retire when and how he wants, there’s something to be said for an athlete knowing when to walk away and admit that time has caught up with him. Far too often in sports, fans have witnessed all-time greats become shells of their former selves because they hung around too long. Nowitzki will turn 40 years old in June. He’s done all there is to do, and he’s a sure Hall of Famer. Dirk may want to reconsider his plans.
15 Dragan Bender: Skills
The good news as it pertains to Dragan Bender is that he is only 20 years old and has plenty of time to prove all of his critics wrong and show that he has the skill required to start and play in the NBA. One couldn’t complete this list without mentioning somebody from the worst team in the league, so we decided to focus on who may be the most disappointing player who managed to appear in 82 games for the franchise.
Perhaps the most amazing stat that sticks out involves Bender averaging 4.4 rebounds per game. That’s astonishing and also somewhat unbelievable considering he stands at 7-foot-1. He did manage to end the regular season with a pair of double-doubles, so maybe he will play himself of such lists by the time April 2019 rolls around.
14 Joakim Noah: Skill
The New York Knicks reportedly tried to trade Joakim Noah ahead of last February’s deadline. Apparently, the Knicks couldn’t find any interested parties, probably because Noah is a lousy player who is still owed a boatload of money up through the spring of 2020.
Noah’s inevitable divorce from the Knicks, however it plays out, could represent the end of his NBA career even though he is only 33 years old.
His body has betrayed him on multiple occasions, and it has been alleged that he wasn’t the best teammate or most coachable guy during his New York tenure. Regardless, Noah has literally millions of dollars to try to remain in the NBA as long as possible despite the fact that he lacks the skills to deserve even a roster spot.
13 Jamal Crawford: Age
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford deserves credit for continuing to show he can get the job done, to a degree, in his 18th season. Crawford averaged over 10 points during the regular season, and he came up big for the Wolves during the latter stages of the campaign.
Minnesota isn’t going to do anything significant during the playoffs, and there is nothing that Crawford of anybody else can realistically do about that.
Both the Timberwolves and Crawford will have decisions to make once the Timberwolves’ season comes to its inevitable end. Minnesota shouldn’t be all that interested in bringing him back, and he should want to go out with his head held high knowing that he helped a young team before it began pursuing titles down the road.
12 Derrick Rose: Skill
Here is a memo to teams around the NBA: stop hoping that Derrick Rose will ever again be anything close to an MVP or even a reliable player. Rose’s injury history has been well-documented, and those who have watched him over the past couple of years realize that, outside of fleeting moments, he is no longer an All-Star.
Even worse, Rose physically disappeared from both the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers during the past two seasons.
The 29-year-old is playing for financial reasons, most notably an Adidas endorsement that continues to pay him like one of the biggest stars in the NBA. That’s great for him, but teams should realize that he lacks both the skills and passion to deserve minutes following the spring of 2018.
11 Jarrett Jack: Skill
There is something to be said for Jarrett Jack being a mature and, in a way, an emotional leader for a New York Knicks side that lost his way because of an unfortunate injury. Jack even showed some hints that he has something left in the tank during the spring months.
While the 34-year-old could probably add something to a team that will be planning for beyond the winter and spring of 2019 next season, such clubs should look for similar production from younger assets. Jack can’t shoot the three-pointer, he doesn’t offer much from anywhere else in the field and multiple teams have moved on from him in recent memory. Odds are he’ll find some home in the NBA between the end of April and October because that’s the way the league works.
10 Jason Terry: Age
Jason Terry will not only be 41 years old before the 2018-19 NBA regular season begins. Terry also isn’t good anymore. The guard for the Milwaukee Bucks who has done well to keep himself in good shape for his age saw his minutes limited throughout the final stretch of the campaign, and his overall numbers indicate that his prime is now nothing but a memory.
He failed to average even 1.5 points per game during what should, realistically, be the final regular season of his impressive career.
It takes a special type of athlete and also tremendous work ethic to hang around in the NBA for nearly two decades. There were reports earlier this year that Terry wanted to extend his career for one more season. Those stories will hopefully prove to be inaccurate.
9 Udonis Haslem: Skill
You know that famous Internet meme that asks “why not both?” That could be the case with Udonis Haslem and this piece, as both age and a lack of skill could result in his exit from the NBA as quickly as this summer.
We’re sure Haslem enjoyed Dwyane Wade (more on him later) making a return to the Miami Heat, but Wade didn’t help the 37-year-old become any more of an important figure to the lineup. Haslem ended the regular season averaging less than one point and one rebound per game, and he appeared in only 14 contests. He is set to enter free agency during the offseason. It would be difficult to imagine any team giving him an opportunity to extend his career in October.
8 Kyle Singler: Skill
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a fascinating team to follow since the start of the 2017-18 campaign because of its stacked roster and because of the club’s roller-coaster campaign. Kyle Singler, meanwhile, remained in the shadows for the majority of the year, largely because his numbers aren't all that good.
Singler never matched any expectations teams had for him after he joined the Thunder from the Detroit Pistons, and he only appeared in 12 regular season games for OKC up through the middle of April. The best thing he has going for him as it pertains to his future with the Thunder and the NBA is that his contract is cheap. Oklahoma City may decide to hold onto him for that reason alone, but it’s not skill that will be keeping him in the NBA at this rate.
7 Manu Ginobili: Age
As of April 11th, San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili has stated that he has not yet decided on if he will play during the 2018-19 season. Ginobili will turn 41 years old in July, he’s accomplished all that he will achieve during an amazing career and he will receive Hall of Fame considerations even though he isn’t known for routinely filling box scores.
Just as with the previously mentioned Dirk Nowitzki, nobody who has enjoyed watching Ginobili over the years should want to see him hang around any longer.
Ginobili is no longer good for ten points per game, and he isn’t going to be part of an inevitable rebuild once the Spurs are dismantled by the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. Thanks for the memories, Manu.
6 Timofey Mozgov: Skill
We can only assume that Brooklyn Nets big man Timofey Mozgov will be sending LeBron James gifts every Christmas for the next several decades, at least. Had Mozgov never earned a ring as a member of the Cavaliers team that won the 2016 NBA title, it’s possible he would not have been able to cash-in on a contact reportedly worth $64 million in guaranteed money.
It didn’t take long for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets to realize Mozgov isn’t worth a fraction of that dough.
Mozgov is still signed through the end of the 2019-20 season, so don’t expect him to go anywhere anytime soon. The only hope the Nets have is that some other team will accept Mozgov’s contract before it expires.
5 Luol Deng: Skill
Those running the Los Angeles Lakers can smile and realize that some team may accept Luol Deng’s contact, via a trade, if no resolution is reached via a buyout. Deng, much like another player mentioned later in this piece, once played like a cornerstone of a Chicago Bulls team that could compete for at least one championship, but those Bulls failed to topple sides led by LeBron James.
As of the spring of 2018, Deng is a complete non-factor who was essentially shut down following the first game of the season. His contract will keep him around with the Lakers or a different team, but that’s the only thing he has going for him. We may never see him become a mainstay in a starting lineup again.
4 Dwyane Wade: Age
Everybody loves Dwyane Wade, one of the best players of his generation who made an emotional return to the Miami Heat during the 2017-18 season after a brief run with the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t work for anybody involved. Wade clearly enjoyed playing in South Beach one last time, but this final stint with his beloved club should represent the end of his playing days.
He doesn’t need the money. He is guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame. He had an opportunity to play alongside LeBron James, if only for a short time. Earlier this year, Wade hinted that he wouldn’t want a retirement tour. Assuming that’s true, Wade walking away while still on a Miami roster in the summer of 2018 is a logical last step.
3 Damien Wilkins: Skill
The argument could be made that Damien Wilkins shouldn’t be in the NBA because of his age rather than because of skill. Either way, the 38-year-old is probably on his way out of the league sooner than later, possibly as quickly as later this year.
Wilkins, in actuality, is more of a G League player than an NBA star these days, but the Indiana Pacers gave him an honor when the club recalled him in April for the season finale.
That feel-good story would be a nice way for somebody such as Wilkins to call time on his career. While he never came all that close to matching the accomplishments of Dominique Wilkins, his famous uncle, he managed to play professionally starting in 2004 through the spring of 2018.
2 Quincy Pondexter: Skill
The Chicago Bulls were hoping that Quincy Pondexter would find some of his old form and prove to be a solid contributor for the club. Instead, Pondexter quickly became another reminder that these Bulls were more about tanking and building for the future than they were about competing for anything of note during the 2017-18 campaign. Knee problems slowed Pondexter before he joined the Bulls, and Chicago decided to let him go in February 2018 after he averaged a paltry two minutes.
Other teams seem to agree that the veteran also doesn’t belong in the NBA because of skills these days, as he doesn’t have a home in the league as of the posting of this piece. He may turn to coaching if a club doesn’t give him a chance to play during the summer.
1 Vince Carter: Age
Following the conclusion of the 2017-18 NBA regular season, Vince Carter stated that he wants to play one more year. We don’t yet know where he will do so, but the Golden State Warriors and, of course, the Toronto Raptors could be interesting options.
Carter will turn 42 years old in January, and the gimmick of watching the ageless wonder go up for the occasional highlight-reel dunk gets old pretty quickly unless you enjoy turning the clock back and remembering what he was in his prime. Vinsanity was once a lot of fun, and he is an icon of the sport in his own way. At 42, Carter is more so a name than a meaningful contributor. He may want to rethink playing after the spring of 2018.