As players age, we get used to watching used-to-be stars fade into a comfy bench spot. It happens all too often where once stars outlive their welcome in the NBA, and walk the fine line between being remembered as a great player, or a complete dud.
You can’t blame these guys. It’s got to be impossible to walk away from a profession they’ve put their entire life into. Plus, if teams are still willing to pay millions of dollars, why not milk it and get everything you can out of the game of basketball.
Most of us are set knowing we’ll be working into old-age (as good or bad as that thought can be). While those in the NBA are left with a decade or two in the league before being tossed into the land of uncertainty. So, why not stay on the court if an organization is going to offer up another contract, no matter what it does to your legacy.
We’ve seen it time and time again in sports, watching guys fade into the abyss. Unfortunately, there’s a large group of young fans that remember Michael Jordan as an average player for the Wizards rather than the superstar he was on Chicago.
Not all guys on this list should be considering retiring yet, but there are guys who make the list that should have left the league years ago. It would have been better for their legacy, and the team squandering away cash on someone who’d be better used off the court.
This list takes a look at the 20 oldest players in the league, and ranks them starting with the worst and finishes with the best.
20 METTA WORLD PEACE, 37
With his current production, it’s tough to remember that Metta World Peace is still playing in the NBA. It’s easy to forget a guy who doesn’t play that often. This season he’s averaging less than five minutes a game. And the two seasons before that, he was averaging about 15 minutes a game. At least in those seasons though, he was contributing at least a little bit on the offensive end.
Nowadays, Metta World Peace doesn’t score too often when he’s in the game (he’s averaging 0.9 points a game), and he doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet often. If he does, it’s at the very bottom. The last time he was given any consistent meaningful playing time was the 2012-13 season. Since, he’s been getting increasingly forgotten about.
19 MIKE MILLER, 36
Mike Miller is another guy who it is hard to justify staying in the league. Most of the NBA are in their twenties and Miller hasn’t looked like he can keep up with those youngsters for the past couple of seasons. Of course, Miller never amounted to what people expected after he was Rookie of the Year in 2001. Though, he has put together a very respectable career coming off the bench, and he was even named the Sixth Man of the Year in 2006 (oh, and he has two championship rings, 2012 and 2013, but he wasn’t a huge factor in those).
These days, Miller takes a seat near the end of the bench for Denver and has played in less than 10 games this season. When he does make it in the game, he’ll splash a three-point shot from time to time, but won’t contribute much else.
18 MIKE DUNLEAVY, 36
Mike Dunleavy has been relatively inconsistent in terms of playing time throughout his career. Some seasons, he’d play well over 30 minutes, while other seasons he’d be in the 20s. Regardless, nowadays Dunleavy averages about 16 minutes a game. He started the season with the aging Cleveland squad, and now plays for Atlanta.
Dunleavy is probably most known for the fact his dad – also named Mike Dunleavy – was also a NBA player and head coach. For some reason, this guy initially refused to report when traded to Atlanta. Though he must have realized his fading options and eventually showed up. He did score 20 points in one game for them, but has be relatively quiet since.
17 CHRIS ANDERSEN, 38
Chris Andersen has always been better known for his crazy hair and tattoos than his gameplay. Andersen, though he has a championship ring from 2013, has no real accomplishments that warrant him any type of consideration in being higher on this list. He’s going to finish his career much as it started – in obscurity.
Andersen began in the league as an undrafted prospect, and he’s had worst seasons than he’s having now at age 38. But that’s because his career has been filled with more ups and downs than most guys is NBA history. After his first handful of seasons, he was suspended for an entire year because of substance abuse. He rallied back into the league, but was never more than a bench-warmer.
You can’t blame him for joining LeBron James and the Cavs in attempts at another ring. But you also can’t credit him for any success the Cavs might have this season.
16 JASON TERRY, 39
The past four years have been garbage for Jason Terry. Terry was never really a superstar in the league, but before the past four seasons, he never looked as bad as he does now. Terry, at his best, was more of a game facilitator who didn’t really show up big on the stat sheets. At his best, he averaged 19 points a game with a few rebounds and a handful of assists. He’s always been a fairly consistent free throw shooter, but you expect that from an NBA guard. He’s had some seasons as a consistent starter, but those days are long gone.
Realistically, Terry should have hung up his jersey five seasons ago when he was still playing with Dallas. But since, he’s bounced around from Boston, Brooklyn, Houston to Milwaukee, where he currently plays solely from the bench. Terry isn’t terrible yet, but he’s close.
15 JAMES JONES, 36
James Jones must have been requested by LeBron for Cleveland’s aging squad. Cleveland has one of the oldest rosters in the league and it must be because they want veteran experience for the expected Finals run. Jones was with James for each of his Championship runs, but never provided much of a presence on the stat sheet. Most fans recognize Jones because he was the 3-point shootout champion in 2011.
Even though Jones is still playing as he has for most of his career, he doesn’t rank very high on this list. His production hasn’t dropped too much, though he only plays about seven minutes a game. That’s compared to his career average of about 16 minutes a game. So, no matter what stage of career Jones is at, he doesn’t see much action. But he has a shot to be a four-time NBA Champion if LeBron can lead the Cavs there again this season.
14 NICK COLLISON, 36
Nick Collison has had a comfortable spot on the bench for most of his career. He started with Seattle, before it turned into Oklahoma City Thunder, so he’s essentially been on the same team for his entire career. As his career has progressed, he’s played less and less. At his peak, he had eight seasons of more than 20 minutes a game on average. This season, he’s played in just 11 games averaging about six minutes.
You’ve got to give credit to Collison for sticking with his team for the entirety of his career. And the organization has thanked him in the terms of a two-year $7.5 million contract extension in 2015. Who knows what’s in store next, but don’t expect any big numbers from Collison.
13 UDONIS HASLEM, 36
Here’s another guy that you have to credit for sticking with the same organization throughout his lengthy career. However, Udonis Haslem has pretty much been a non-factor for the last couple of seasons. And he hasn’t provided much of a presence since 2012. But like others on this list, he brings a veteran experience from three championship runs. In 2006, he added some value to that run, but in 2012 and 2013, that was the LeBron James show.
But for the Heat, Haslem will go down in history. He’s currently their all-time rebounding leader. But you don’t see many players playing an entire career with one team. Early in his career he averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game. The past two seasons, though, he’s averaged just two rebounds per game as he is not on the court much anymore.
12 PAUL PIERCE, 39
Paul Pierce’s last year in Boston during the 2012-13 season should have been his last year in the league. But again, we have a used-to-be star sullying his reputation by sticking around in the league. If he would have retired in 2013, he would have given 15 seasons of star studded work. He would have finished his last season scoring nearly 20 points a game with five rebounds and five assists, which was a bit less than, but close to his career averages at that point. He would have been, without a doubt, remembered as the star he was.
But now, fans are watching Pierce fade into obscurity on the Clippers. Pierce can barely keep it together enough to string together a couple of games play time. Last season, he managed to play in 68 games, but this season he’ll be extremely lucky to get half that in by the end of the season. And when he does play, he’s not seeing any more than a quarter of basketball. Pierce used to be good, but now he’s comparable to all of those non-factors sitting at the end of the bench.
11 RICHARD JEFFERSON, 36
You know what you’re getting from the aging Richard Jefferson when he steps on the court. He’ll show up for about 20 minutes of game time, get a couple of scores and provide a nice presence on defense. At this point, he’s more of a playoff presence for Cleveland rather than someone you expect to add value during the postseason.
Jefferson has never been much of a scorer in his career and has spent time on seven different teams since he joined the league in 2001. Like a lot of guys on this list, Jefferson’s time is limited. But while he’s on Cleveland, he’ll be a good substitute for a Cleveland team that will continually make runs for the Finals while LeBron James is on the team.
10 KYLE KORVER, 35
Here we go again. Another one of Cleveland’s aging bench players. It seems with LeBron James on the roster that there’s no need to worry about developing future talent. Obviously, the time is now for the Cavs. Kyle Korver has a career average of about 43-percent from behind the arc. Surprisingly, he shoots only slightly better when he’s closer to the hoop.
Korver’s numbers this year have been relatively stable to what he’s done his entire career. In fact, he might be getting better as he ages, and with LeBron on the court, the year to come might be his best yet. Korver will work to assist James in his Championship-quest, and he’ll definitely splash a bunch of 3s in the process.
9 DAVID WEST, 36
Over the past couple of years, David West’s production has slacked from what he’s seen for a majority of his career. West now averages less than 10 points a game – he averaged 7.1 last year and 4.1 this year – and adds a couple of rebounds and assists per showing. West still plays in just about every game, but his game time is dropping to the point of not mattering.
That’s a stark difference from nearly a decade ago when West was named to back-to-back All-Star games (2008 and 2009). West used to be a guy who averaged more than 20 points a game during those years and spent just about his entire career averaging double-digit scoring totals. But now, he plays barely more than 10 minutes a game and gets a couple of scores a game.
8 MANU GINOBILI, 39
Though Manu Ginobili is one of the oldest guys in the league, he doesn’t have as many seasons of work because he started in the NBA when he was 25. So, compared to the other guys on this list, it’s a bit more understandable that Ginobili wants to try and stretch out whatever is left of his playing career.
Ginobili has never really been a man of the stat sheet and has been more about getting his team involved. Who can blame him? When playing with Tim Duncan it’s much, much easier working the ball inside rather than tossing up shots. But Ginobili looks to have outstayed his welcome in the league. He’s now averaging less than 20 minutes a game and is shooting a miserable 38 percent from the floor. His free throw percentage is better than ever, but the guy can’t take much more physicality before he needs to call it quits.
7 VINCE CARTER, 40
Vince Carter has been in the NBA longer than a lot of fans watching have been alive. Carter is the oldest guy in the league. Carter has played for nearly two decades, and surprisingly, has played in most of the games this season. That’s not bad for a guy who entered the league in 1998.
But Carter is far from the days when fans were in awe of his talent. Not only did he used to consistently average well over 20 points a game, he used to be a dominant force in the league. And even better, he made the dunk contest must-see TV.
Nowadays the dunk contest has turned into commercial garbage, with the same-old dunks year after year. When Carter was in his prime, he left people talking for days about his gravity-defying, through-the-legs, 360-degree spin dunks.
Carter was a visionary when it came to the dunk contest and he made the Toronto Raptors fun to watch. Carter even spent some good years with the Nets, before he began to fade away. Now, he’s averaging just over 20 minutes a game (which is much better than his past couple seasons) and scores about eight points each time he’s on the court. He doesn’t turn the ball over much, but he doesn’t contribute much on the offensive end either.
Carter may be able to make it through the rest of the season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should keep tarnishing his reputation to stay in the league. But then again, Carter is putting up better numbers than anyone would expect a guy to at age 40.
6 MATT BARNES, 36
Matt Barnes had one of his best seasons last year since he joined the league. His numbers weren’t huge (10 points, five rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes a game). But those numbers were some of the best of his career, though just slightly above his career averages. This season, his production has slightly dropped, but not to a point that a lot of guys his age has seen.
Barnes, though mostly a bench player, still averages about 25 points per game. He’s not a guy that you’ve seen or will see in an All-Star game, but he’s a consistent athlete that deserves to be on the court more than some of the guys on this list, and probably has at least a couple years left in the tank.
5 JOE JOHNSON, 35
Joe Johnson has seen a steep drop in production this past year. Johnson has been really good throughout his career. So good that he’s been an All-Star selection seven times (2007-20012 and 2014). But he hasn’t looked like that player in his most recent season with Utah. It’s not that he’s been injured, but he has been tossed to the bench, which hasn’t suited him well. Compared to his career average of 35 minutes per game, he’s now playing barely more than 22 minutes a game.
Johnson’s scoring has decreased, along with his assists. Johnson may still have some left in the tank. However, it’s doubtful we’ll see any of that this season with the Jazz, who gave him a two-year $22 million contract. He has the skill to produce, but he might need to move to a new team to do that.
4 DIRK NOWITZKI, 38
Owner of the Mavs Mark Cuban would probably pay Dirk Nowitzki for the rest of his life to sit courtside on the bench. You can’t really blame him. If you bring one of the richest guys in the world, and one of the biggest sports fans in the world, a championship ring, he’ll forever feel as if he’s indebted to you. But at age 38, it looks like this star may be trending downward.
But for his age, he’s still a force in the league. Last season, he played and started in 75 games and averaged 18 points and seven rebounds. He also averaged more than 30 minutes of play time each game. That was impressive for a guy who was 37.
But one year later things have shifted. In less than two dozen appearances this year, he’s averaging 13 points and six rebounds in about 25 minutes of action. But that’s still not bad compared to what other guys his age are doing. And if he can recover from his Achilles injury, he may be able to turn those numbers around.
3 ZACH RANDOLPH, 35
Zach Randolph’s production hasn’t dropped as much as some of the guys on the list, but at 35, it shouldn’t have. He has seen a decline in most statistical categories from a couple years ago and about a 10 minute decrease in playing time from where it was two years ago.
Randolph is still on the court for more than 20 minutes a game, but that’s vastly different from where his career average sits – about 32 minutes a game. Randolph has a pretty good list of accolades to look back on. He was the most improved player in 2004 and has been named an All Star twice (2010, 2013). But as Randolph gets older, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be seeing any more awards. But he should still be a solid presence in the league for a couple more seasons.
2 JAMAL CRAWFORD, 36
Jamal Crawford has come off the bench most of the time in the past few years, but that has been similar to most of his career. Crawford was only a consistent starter for a handful of seasons through his long career. But he’s been much better off the bench and his stats prove it. He has been named the Sixth Man of the Year three times. That includes last season when he won the award (he also received the award in 2010 and 2014).
Additionally, Crawford has been consistent in terms of playing time the last couple of years. That’s something you don’t expect to see out of a guy his age. Though he might not be playing as well as last season, or as well as he did early in his career, Crawford is still posting numbers deserving of a continuing NBA career.
1 PAU GASOL, 36
Despite being one of the top-20 oldest players in the league, Pau Gasol is still performing, at times, worthy of a spot on the daily fantasy basketball lineups. He’s played in most of the games this season for the Spurs and has started in each game he’s played. That trend has remained consistent through just about every season in his career.
Gasol, though, has been slacking in terms of production that he has seen in the rest of his career. Except for this past season, Gasol had been a big man that averaged about 18 points, 10 rebounds and a few assists. Each of those numbers has dropped in this most recent season (12 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists). But for being among the oldest players in the league, his production ranks near the top and makes us hopeful that he has at least a couple years left.
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