Retirement is a hard event to predict, because every NBA player is a unique individual with a different career history, a different personal life, and a different set of goals. Some players are looking to add another - or a first - championship, others want to pad their all-time career stats, and some are just looking for consistent playing time in the game that they love.
Even with all these aspirations, players often need to call it quits simply because their bodies aren’t capable of handling the constant physical demands of the game. Other reasons to retire include the desire to spend more time with family, to pursue coaching or ownership goals, or because a player doesn’t think they can compete with the current crop of young superstars. The latter may occur when a formerly solid player is reaching an embarrassingly-low level of production, or when a formerly dominant guy doesn’t want to end their tenure with a few mediocre years. Sometimes the decision is made for the player when they aren’t signed by any teams and have to remain unemployed, officially quit the game, or move to a D-league or overseas.
Before we begin, it’s important to note a couple things. First, this is not simply a collection of the worst players in the league. These are all guys who are advanced in either age or experience (or both), have generally had some success, and can legitimately classify their stepping away from the game as “retirement.” Also, not all the players listed here are lousy performers. Then again, some really do need a wake-up call that they’re finished, regardless of their prior career achievements. Whatever the case, here are the top 20 NBA players that need to retire.
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20 Kendrick Perkins
It might be odd to see a 31-year-old player so high on a list that calls for players to retire, but to put it bluntly: Kendrick Perkins simply isn’t very good, and he hasn’t been for some time. Despite having 13 years in the NBA, Perkins has never had an All-Star selection, he’s only had one season with a double-digit PPG average (10.1 in 2009-10), and he already has a championship ring (with the Celtics in 2008), so what’s the hold up? Perkins is sluggish, can’t shoot, can barely dribble, and had an injury limit him to only a dozen games this year. Although there have been numerous opportunities before, the end of 2015-16 looks like a better time than ever for Perkins to call it a career - or at least try his chances abroad.
19 Pablo Prigioni
At the end of the 2015-16 season, Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni will be 39 years old, and one of the oldest players in the NBA. In fairness, Prigioni only made the move to the States in 2012, so one can’t blame him for considering staying a bit longer. Still, Prigioni hasn’t exactly been tearing the league up. He owns a cumulative PPG of only 3.5 with 1.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and one steal - and he’s played to about that level in 2015-16, except for his PPG, which is a disappointing 2.1.
On top of all that, after his initial two-plus seasons with the Knicks, Prigioni was traded twice in the last year, before signing with the Clippers this past offseason. His career overseas was a lot more successful, so even at 39 he could still pick that back up - but regardless, the end of the 2015-16 season probably also spells the end of Prigioni’s NBA career.
18 Richard Jefferson
Remember when Richard Jefferson could be routinely counted on to put up 20 points a night? That was eight years and five or six teams ago, and Jefferson is currently only managing a paltry 5.7 PPG with only 1.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists. Sure, he’s 35 and still plays in almost every game (rarely seeing a start though), but with those numbers, are the Cleveland Cavaliers really benefitting by putting him on the court? Regardless of whether or not he wins a championship with LeBron James this year, it’s probably time to hang up the sneakers when the season comes to a close.
17 Udonis Haslem
Udonis Haslem has played in the NBA for 13 years and won three championships with the Miami Heat, the only team he has ever played for. Kudos to Miami for sticking with the 35-year-old Haslem for this long, because it’s been several seasons since he was a game-changing player. Sure, he’s a respected veteran in Miami as someone who appears in the top 10 for basically every franchise statistic (he’s the leader in rebounds), but it’s been a while since the Heat could count on him to really hold up his end, let alone put up the occasional double-double. With only a miniscule 1.7 PPG and 2.1 rebounds in 2015-16, you gotta wonder why he’s still hanging around. It’s not to hit his first-ever career three-pointer, because he already did that last year.
16 Tayshaun Prince
At 35 years old, Tayshaun Prince can still be counted on year after year to play in almost every game. In fact, Prince has played in all 82 games in seven of his 14 NBA seasons. Although this is a valuable trait, Prince’s biggest value nowadays appears to be as trade bait. Following 10-plus seasons in Detroit, he was traded to Memphis in 2013, Boston in 2015, back to the Detroit a month later, and signed with Minnesota in the offseason. Moving around hasn’t fared well for Prince, who has seen his stats drop drastically in every category. Assuming he doesn’t get traded before the season ends, Prince might want to bow out with his dignity intact before he gets passed around the league any more.
15 Mike Miller
After helping the Miami Heat win a championship in 2012 despite a bad back, Mike Miller seriously considered retirement. However, he returned in 2013 to help his team successfully defend their title. Miller signed with Memphis and Cleveland after that, but the latter traded him to Portland, who waived him after two months. Determined to still play, he signed with the Nuggets for 2015-16, but has only managed 5.4 PPG. Miller is still valuable as a durable bench player capable of grabbing a rebound and making his fair share of assists, but how many more one-year contracts is the 36-year-old willing to take?
14 Caron Butler
If you told a veteran NBA player that in their age 35 season they’d still be putting up 10 PPG with 4.6 rebounds, they might still sign on for it. Those are Caron Butler’s current stats, but they don’t quite tell the full story. Since playing two seasons of a three-year deal with the Clippers, Butler has been traded to Phoenix (2013), Milwaukee (two months later), was bought out by the Bucks and signed with the Thunder (early 2014), signed with Detroit (mid-2014), was traded back to the Bucks (2015), and a signed a new deal with the Sacramento Kings this past offseason. Butler is still with the team, but he has only played in nine games this season (with one start), and is reportedly on the trade block once again. Despite possibly having another year or two in the tank, how much longer is he willing to keep relocating?
13 David West
At age 35, two-time All-Star David West has already made it known that retirement is on his mind. And if there’s any doubt that the 13-year veteran is serious, this past offseason he turned down $12.6 million from the Pacers to sign for the league minimum ($1.4 million) with the San Antonio Spurs - one of the top contenders for a championship in 2016. Now a bench player, West is only averaging 6.8 PPG with 3.9 rebounds, and it looks like it’s do or die for the power forward that used to routinely put up 20 points a night.
12 Metta World Peace
What the heck happened with this guy? His performance dipped in his second and third years with the Lakers, but he had a bit of a resurgence in 2012-13, only to get waived in the offseason to clear salary cap space. World Peace responded by signing a two-year deal with the Knicks and having a terrible season in which he was waived again before the first season ended. This time World Peace went abroad to China and Italy, with positive results (aside from getting ejected in a playoff elimination game), and returned to the NBA prior to this year to capitalize on his performance. Unsurprisingly, the 36-year-old is playing almost exactly as badly as he did with the Knicks, offensively, with only 4.8 PPG, 0.9 assists, and 0.6 offensive rebounds. His defense isn’t bad, but Metta World Peace should use 2015-16 as a chance to retire as a Los Angeles Laker - the only team with whom he won an NBA championship.
11 Elton Brand
If you recall, two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year Elton Brand already retired on August 11, 2015 after a 16-year NBA career with the Bulls, Clippers, 76ers, Mavericks, and Hawks. However, Brand came out of retirement on January 4, 2016 to suit up for the 76ers again. But he still has yet to enter a game, which makes one wonder what the deal is. “He doesn’t need to get into a game to provide our team tremendous value,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said a few weeks ago. The guy is almost 37 and coming off a year where he averaged 2.7 PPG and 2.8 boards; if he provides value beyond playing, then hire him in a coaching role. Why resurrect his career as a player? The experiment was interesting, but Brand needs to retire for good now.
10 Manu Ginobili
Prior to the 2015-16 season, two-time All-Star and four-time world champion Manu Ginobili contemplated retirement. He decided to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs (the only team he ever played for) and for a 14-year veteran, he was actually putting together a decent season. But 10 PPG with 3.3 assists, three boards, and a steal per game is still a substantial drop from his prime days, but the guy will be 39 in July, so it’s understandable.
However, on February 3rd Ginobili suffered a testicle injury that required surgery and will put him out for a month. Each of these reasons might not be enough to retire by themselves, but the combo of age, declining performance, and injury (and also the fact that he has a wife and three young kids at home) might add up to the end of Ginobili’s basketball tenure.
9 Jason Terry
In his 17-year NBA career, Jason Terry has played for the Hawks, Mavericks, Celtics, Nets, and Rockets, earned Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2009, won a championship with Dallas in 2011, and compiled a career 14.5 PPG average. So why, at 38 years old, is Terry still playing? He currently owns a PPG of 8.5 and hasn’t seen double digits in three seasons. He also hasn’t started more than 24 games in almost a decade. Sure, he’s been generally healthy, but other than padding his career totals (while bringing down his career averages) what is Jason Terry holding out for?
8 Andre Miller
First, let’s give credit where it’s due. Andre Miller currently has over 16,000 career points, almost 8,500 assists (9th all-time), and over 1,500 steals in his 17 years in the NBA, and will be remembered as one of the best point guards in league history. He will also be 40 years old next month, and is the oldest active player in the NBA. If he was still putting up 15+ PPG, this wouldn’t be an issue, but after posting only 4.9 in 2013-14 with two teams, 4.4 in 2014-15 with two teams, and 3.4 thus far this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he is probably most useful as a trade chip at this point. Even Miller’s most dependable skill, playing in almost every game, has finally tapered off this season.
7 Amar’e Stoudemire
Amar’e Stoudemire is still capable of coming off the bench and putting up a big game once in a while (he’s had a couple of 13 and 14-point games in the last month), but is this really what he wants? Once a player whose idea of a lousy game was scoring less than 20 points, Stoudemire is currently only averaging an embarrassing 5.1 PPG as a center for the Miami Heat, and that’s when he’s healthy enough to play at all. Although still only 33 years old, Stoudemire’s 14 years of NBA experience have left him with the knees of an 80-year-old man.
6 Vince Carter
In addition to being the all-time most valuable player in Toronto Raptors history (and still the team’s all-time leader in PPG with 23.4, and amassing 9,420 points in his six-plus years that yielded the franchise’s first three playoff appearances), eight-time All-Star Vince Carter also played for the New Jersey Nets (where he’s in the top-ten all-time in 19 different statistical categories, while also leading the team to three postseasons), Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies. The only thing missing from Carter’s resume is a championship, but at age 39 (and with rapidly aging knees), how long can he realistically keep playing? Carter has been on a tear over the last month, but is still only averaging 5.2 PPG with two rebounds and 0.7 assists through 40 games this season. This could easily be his swan song.
5 Paul Pierce
The best time for Paul Pierce to retire would have been when his 15 years with the Boston Celtics (which yielded a championship and 10 All-Star selections) came to an end after 2012-13. Since then, Pierce has played with the Nets, Wizards, and Clippers, and has featured a drastically declining average in points, rebounds, and assists (only 5.2, 2.8, and 1.1 this year, respectively). With Los Angeles, Pierce has also been relegated to a bench role, and started off the year by going scoreless in five of his first 20 games - two more times than his first 17 years combined. Despite signing a three-year contract prior to this season, the 38-year-old small forward (who has already said he’s year-to-year and would retire if the Clippers won it all) should probably think about hanging up his sneakers for good.
4 Ray Allen
Although Ray Allen hasn’t played since the end of the 2013-14 season, he has yet to officially retire. The 19-year veteran shooting guard, 10-time All-Star, and two-time world champion sat out 2014-15, but last August confirmed that he would not be retiring quite yet. However, as a 40-year-old who has missed almost two years and most recently only shot 9.6 PPG, how much work is he expecting to get? Based on the fact that he just announced he and his wife are opening a restaurant in Miami this month, it would appear Allen is already settling into retirement quite nicely, even without making an official announcement.
3 Kevin Garnett
When making this list, I almost left Kevin Garnett off - not because I don’t think it’s time for him to retire, but because I legitimately forgot he’s still playing. Now in his 21st (21st!) season in the NBA, the 39-year-old, 15-time All-Star still starts every game he plays, but is barely a shell of his former self, currently averaging only 3.2 PPG. Traded back to Minnesota (where he previously spent 12 years and once posted a career-best 24.2 PPG and 13.9 rebound season in 2003-04) at the end of last season, Garnett signed a two year extension in July, but for dignity’s sake, his best bet is probably to finish this season and call it quits.
2 Tim Duncan
When Tim Duncan finally walks away from the NBA, his resume will show at least 19 seasons (potentially all with the San Antonio Spurs), around 26,500 points, 15,000 rebounds, 4,200 assists, 15 All-Star selections, two MVP awards, five championships, and a whole host of other accomplishments. So what, exactly, is he still playing for? Now almost 40 years old and only averaging 7.5 rebounds and 8.4 PPG, it seems the end of the 2015-16 season would be a prime time for Duncan to call it quits and enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. But with another year left on his current contract, will we still have to watch him and his balky knees battle though one more season?
1 Kobe Bryant
Sure, this is kind of a cheap shot since Kobe Bryant has already announced his plans to retire at the seasons end, but that means you really can’t deny that he does, in fact, need to retire. While other players might kill to still be dropping 17.1 PPG - especially at age 37 with 20 years of NBA experience (all for the Lakers) - Kobe is still a long way from his heyday, is physically beat up, and is making the right call by taking the Derek Jeter approach and bowing out before he becomes a burden to his team or a frustration to himself or the fanbase. We wish him all the best.
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