Following the retirements of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant, the NBA is on the verge of a new ERA. The transition happened already when Stephen Curry showed up virtually from nowhere and starting shooting the lights out of arenas. He turned the Golden State Warriors into NBA Champions and one of the top three teams in the NBA for the fourth consecutive season.
But it is not just the sudden rise of two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry that has been a part of the transition from the '90s era. LeBron James has finally reached his potential and has lead two different teams to five consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning three of them. He has been a huge part of the new look of the NBA which is now a Run 'N' Gun, fast-paced, up-tempo style of offense that rewards scoring over defense. Although that can be bad for the future of the sport, it has actually helped bring more people to the arenas, more viewers on television, and some of the highest TV ratings in recent memory.
The defense and fundamentals that a lot of these new guys entering the league lack is something that can be taught if the coaching staff is up to the test.
Only time will tell if the NBA is heading in the right direction or not, so for now, let's just take a look at the future of 15 of the biggest names in the NBA this season.
16 Jason Terry: Possible Retirement
When a player retires, it is the toughest choice they have to make for their entire career. It means the end of a life spent playing basketball every day since they first started playing the game. Some people find it difficult and end up playing much longer than they ever should have played, like Jason Terry. This is not a knock against him, he is still a truly talented athlete at 39 years old, but enough is enough already.
He is almost at the age that the human body, regardless of how good of shape it is in, begins to break down. Jason has seen his minutes decline over the past few seasons, as well as his overall performance. He now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks and with just under 17 minutes a game, on average, Jason is putting up three points per game. That is not an error, he is only averaging one shot a game and is still earning around $1.5 million for one year.
If he rides off into the sunset or not, is yet to be seen. But when he does, he will leave behind a great career as one of the best sixth man in NBA history.
15 Danilo Gallinari: Traded
Consistency is the key to having a long and solid NBA career. Danilo Gallinari should know all about that as he has been a 15 points and five rebounds per night kind of player since 2009. He is another big man that has range, making him even tougher to guard from beyond the perimeter. So he is left more open for the big shots than most other players in his position, which can be Small Forward, Power Forward, or even, Center.
But the Denver Nuggets are not sure what to do with Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Danilo Gallinari. Since you cannot put all three men in without having potential stars like Emmanuel Mudiay or Jamal Murray on the bench. It also does not help that Danilo is going to be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. If the Denver Nuggets can figure out how to use all of their talented big men, they will be fine. If not, there is a good chance Danilo gets traded before February for two players or a player and some draft picks.
14 Vince Carter: Possible Retirement
Is Vince Carter ever going to retire? According to the man himself, "Did I say I was retiring? I'm very thankful for (the recognition on the road). Don't get me wrong, But I plan on coming back."
Now 40 years old, Vince turned into more of a bench player than anything else. He has played for Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, and Memphis since 2010 and looks as if he is fine with playing in whatever capacity the team wants to use him in. This season he is playing more minutes than he has since 2013 and is averaging around 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game which makes him more useful than any other 40 year old veteran just looking for those last few paychecks. Carter may call it a career at the end of this season; unless he feels the need for one more year.
13 Zach Randolph: Signed With A New Team
The Memphis Grizzlies are about to be without Zach Randolph for the first time since they acquired him in 2009 because they are moving into a new era with a younger, faster squad that is being built to compete in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies are already starting to look for trading partners and have already started to gain some traction with two teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers. Whether or not anything happens is yet to be seen but there is no reasons to believe that Zach Randolph cannot continue to produce. He is still averaging around 15 points and eight rebounds per night, which is something that both of those teams could use this year. Randolph will likely finish out the season in Memphis before signing with a new team in the summer.
12 Rudy Gay: Traded to Cleveland
Now that J.R. Smith has to have surgery, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to need some scoring help. They could also use a scorer that can play defense out on the perimeter. Those type of players are known as a Three-and-D player, like Rudy Gay.
Gay is a true two-way wing player that is a very capable scorer with the ability to create his own shots. Rudy would be left wide open in Cleveland, just like J.R. Smith was when healthy. The biggest difference between Rudy Gay and Smith are on the defensive side of the ball. That is where Rudy's value soars and he becomes a key to the future of the Cavs winning another NBA title.
When Rudy Gay is traded, it is more than likely going to be Cleveland.
11 Chris Bosh: Retirement
When LeBron James left Miami and returned back to his home in Cleveland, the All-Star lineup that the Heat had in South Beach was about to break up, forever. Not long after King James left town, Dwyane Wade left and signed with the Chicago Bulls leaving the last remaining member of the "Big 3" to fend for himself.
Chris Bosh started missing time in early 2015 when a blood clot was found in his lungs. He missed the rest of the 2014-15 season only to return the following year and having to miss that most of that season with a calf injury and another blood clot, this time in his leg. He has been considered a risky option because of the medical dangers that come with blood clots so after failing his physical exam this season, his odds to return are looking even slimmer each day. He might not have a choice but to retire due to his various medical problems.
10 Kyle Lowry: Signed with New York
The 2017 NBA Free Agent market is going to be stocked with Point Guards when Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Kyle Lowry enter the market. Curry has already stated he plans on returning to the Warriors so that leaves just the two, CP3 and Lowry, left to sign massive deals with whomever they want to sign with.
Kyle Lowry has already announced he plans on opting out of his final year and hitting the market and he hopes that the Raptors will step up and sign him, however, he is 31 years old. He has taken a little longer to reach his true potential but now that he has gotten there, he is one of the league's best Point Guards.
As for Toronto, they cannot just let Kyle walk without a fight but if they sign him, they would have DeMar DeRozan and Lowry on big deals which could spell disaster for them moving forward, leaving them with little wiggle room to sign anyone else.
He wants to stay in Toronto but if he has to go elsewhere, the Knicks come in as a very good possibility.
9 Nerlens Noel: Traded To Portland
What is going on in Philadelphia? How can the 76ers find themselves in this position? Oh that's right. They traded with the New Orleans Pelicans by sending Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson in exchange for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 protected first round pick, also from the Pelicans. It was a good trade at the time but they knew he was injured and they could be without him for awhile. Little did they know, he would become their biggest injury prone star on the roster.
He played in 75 games in 2014, after missing his entire rookie season, and 67 games in 2015. The 76ers have spent the last few years trying to rebuild their roster while taking their time with Nerlens Noel, however, he does not seem to care for it. He wants to play and with their recent announcement of limiting his playing time this year, he has taken his frustrations out to the media. That is a disaster waiting to happen.
It has also started the trade talks between several teams looking for a big man. The biggest name today is the Portland Trail Blazers who just lost their big man for the year, Festus Ezeli.
8 Manu Ginobili: Retired
At 39 years old, Manu Ginobili has seen his performance dip over the past few years and he has become less of a factor than he once was in San Antonio. He was a sixth man that averaged around 26 minutes per game but has been declining each year since 2012. In 2012, he was getting 23 minutes, then 22, and now he barely gets 19 minutes per game.
Without Tim Duncan's leadership around the locker room, Gregg Popovich does not mind having Manu around to fill that void. But it is not just up to the head coach, the front office makes decisions like these, especially when Manu is earning $14 million for a one-year contract and is performing well under that level.
He seems to think he will continue beyond this season but that is not up to him anymore. It is up to the team that wants to shell out $14 million bucks to get a role player that is not contributing anywhere close to the level he should be for that much money.
7 DeMarcus Cousins: Traded
Every year, DeMarcus Cousins will find himself involved in the trade rumors because he is a fantastic talent but he has issues dealing with his emotions and can be a bit of a problem in the locker room. So regardless of how good he is, the danger in trading him is having him find out that the Kings are trying to move him but cannot find any suitors. How would you feel if your parents tried to trade you for another kid but had no luck? You would have some awkward Thanksgiving dinners, that much is true.
Even so, he remains near the top of the trade rumor mill and it has more to do with Willie Cauley-Stein than Cousins. WCS is future star that is being suffocated by poor coaching and a terrible front office that does not know how to manage DeMarcus Cousins. If the Kings want to win, they will not trade WCS, they will trade Cousins to an Eastern Conference team before his contract expires in 2018 and he signs elsewhere anyways. They have an asset that they can get a return on now instead of waiting until he has the power to choose and hope he chooses the Kings.
6 Giannis Antetokounmpo: New Face For the NBA
Thanks to Jason Kidd, the Milwaukee Bucks have discovered a surprisingly talented star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis has virtually came out of nowhere to become one of the league's best overall threats and is a sign of things to come in the NBA. He is only 22 years old and growing. He has gotten bigger each year and is built very much like an Anthony Davis but with the outside shooting capabilities of a LeBron James.
He is fast. He is so fast that it should be illegal for a 6'11" player with long legs to run up and down the floor so quickly. He has slowly been given more ball-handling responsibilities too and has been a scary one-two punch with teammate Jabari Parker. The two men have turned Milwaukee into a city people want to play in. That's part of why Greg Monroe surprisingly signed with them. He wanted to play with a team that had a future and the Bucks could very well be just that thanks to Giannis.
5 Andrew Wiggins: Legitimate NBA Superstar
Speaking of the future of the NBA, Andrew Wiggins is the best thing that has ever happened to the Minnesota Timberwolves, sorry KG. Since being drafted first overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins improved his game every single season, increasing his per game averages in just about every category. He averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game in his rookie season and now averages 21.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game, as well as increased his shooting percentages, across the board.
He is even being called the next Kobe Bryant based on his ability to adapt to the NBA as quickly as he has done in three years and become a great scorer which is something that the NBA scouts did not expect. Before the 2014 draft, scouts were talking about how passive he was offensively and how it will hurt him in the NBA. But he has worked hard enough to dispell those critics and become one of the best overall talents in the league, already. Imagine what he will do in five years?
4 Dirk Nowitzki: Retired
Since the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, Dallas Mavericks best Power Forward, and their best player ever, Dirk Nowitzki has been battling a right Achilles strain that has held him out of most of the season. He has only played in five games this season but is projected to return very soon. This has turned a once dominate offense into one of the league's worst. As the Mavericks continue to slide, they own one of the league's worst records, and it might be easier for Dirk to make the decision to hang up the trunks and call it a career.
Dirty Dirk will be a first ballot hall of famer, there is no doubt about it. He has been the best scoring 7'0" superstars the NBA has ever seen. He has averaged 22.0 points per game over his entire 19-year career while adding 7.9 rebounds per game also. He was also a fantastic free throw shooter with a 87.9% percentage for his entire career. There are not too many Power Forwards that can come close to that efficiency.
He is 38-years old and is starting to deal with injuries all over his body. He has a NBA Championship and has really nothing left to prove so it would not be very shocking if he retires before the end of the season, depending on his health.
3 Chris Paul: Signed In Cleveland
Regardless of how old he is, Chris Paul has proven, year-after-year, that he is the league's best, without question, point guard. Next summer's free agency class features six or seven of the best players in the NBA and Chris Paul will be 32 by then so will he be able to earn the same respect as he has earned already?
Of course he will. He is the best. How many times do we have to say that about him before you guys get it? He has not seen a dip in production because of his age but because of the star-studded lineup the Clippers put on the court each night.
With the ability to sign anywhere he wants to next season, and with the Clippers being in the Western Conference, chances are Chris Paul is heading to the Eastern Conference to play with his best friend LeBron James in Cleveland. There is very little chances he will stay in LA, especially if they fail to reach the NBA Finals.
1 Anthony Davis: Biggest Star In the NBA
Anthony Davis is built to play the Center position but has the abilities of a Point Guard and a Small Forward. He can square up from 20 feet and nail a basket or he can bounce out to the wings and do damage on the baseline. When you combine his incredible athleticism and extremely long arms, it is tough to stop him, or even slow him down. At 6'11", you would think that he is slow and bulky but he is quick and slim. He can move like a guard which just adds to his impressive set of skills.
Anthony Davis has used his unique skills to put up some incredible numbers over the first few years of his career. So far this season, he has scored at least 40 points, 15 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks three different times. AD is tied with David Robinson as the only two players to accomplish this feat three times in a season. He is also averaging 29.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game which has only ever been accomplished three other times. Shaquille O'Neal and Bob McAdoo each did it three times and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it once. Do we need to keep talking about how much better this guy is going to get, or do you trust us now?