Power Ranking the 5 Best NBA Stars over 35
The NBA has become a game for the young and freakishly athletic, but the league still has stars over the age of 35 who are making a significant impact.
As the athletes get better, the game of basketball is transitioning into something we've never seen before. The speed, the jumping ability and the strength of the new players is becoming almost super-human. The older players that relied on their athletic ability are becoming dinosaurs, while the true stars who depend on their brains and fundamentals are still around finding ways to help their team.
There are less and less players in the NBA that were drafted in the 90s. Shaquille O'Neal is gone. Rasheed Wallace is gone. Heck, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter are both basically gone.
Coincidentally, the best current NBA stars over the age of 35 were all free agents. Some moved to new teams, while some returned to their teams for a last hoorah.
No. 5 Andre Miller
Harry How/Getty Images
Draft Year: 1999. Selected No. 8 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Andre Miller may not look like an elite athlete, but there's no denying his talent. Some guys are just meant to be basketball players. Miller fits that mold.
Miller, if he wanted, could have signed with a team where he would've had a chance to start. Before the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Steve Nash, they were in need of a point guard. The Miami Heat could have used an improvement over Mario Chalmers. Instead, Miller chose to re-sign with the Denver Nuggets for three years and an average of $3 million per season.
Miller missed only two games last season. In those 64 games Miller played, the Nuggets outscored their opponents in 39 games while he was on the court. Miller is a true difference maker, especially backing up the speedy Ty Lawson. He's a nice change of pace and is more than capable of carrying the Nuggets for lengthy stretches.
With the addition of Andre Iguodala, the Nuggets have improved their chances of making it past the first round of the postseason. Once you get past Round 1, anything can happen.
No. 4 Ray Allen
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Draft Year: 1996. Selected No. 5 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
It wasn't too surprising that Ray Allen chose to sign with the rival Miami Heat instead of the Boston Celtics. He felt unappreciated in Boston, and there were talks that his relationship with Rajon Rondo didn't help with his decision.
As a result of age and injuries, Allen is no longer the superstar he was with the Bucks or the Seattle Supersonics. Father Time eventually catches up with everyone.
Instead, Allen is now an extremely valuable niche player. Although he struggled in the playoffs due to injuries, he still managed to shoot 45 percent from behind the arc in the regular season. Players wish they could shoot that kind of percentage from three. Allen did it on a Celtics team that literally had to fight to score points.
On paper, the Heat should be a dream job for Allen. He may no longer be an All-Star, but even at 37, Allen is still a deadly tool.
No. 3 Tim Duncan
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Draft Year: 1997. Selected No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs.
The Big Fundamental is kind of a goofy nickname, but it's the reason Tim Duncan is still able to compete at a high level.
Following the 2010-11 season, Duncan looked as done as a period at the end of a sentence. He finished the season averaging a career low in points per game and rebounds per game. For the first time ever, Duncan looked mortal.
As the 2011-12 season got going, Duncan looked good, much better than the season before. He was no longer the best power forward of all time, but he was still above average compared to the competition around the rest of the league. Every once in a while, Duncan would go back in a time machine and pull off a dunk that wouldn't seem possible for a big man his age.
Against the Sacramento Kings on March 28, 2012, Duncan was so good he even surprised hot head DeMarcus Cousins. "S#@! you're good," Cousins said. Even at 36, Duncan can still go back to the tool shed and own just about any player in the NBA.
Duncan's physical talents may be rapidly depleting, but the Big Fundamental is still one of the smartest players in the league. You can almost say he's mastered the game of basketball, or at least has come close. It's like muscle memory for him. He's no longer the Duncan of old, but the current Duncan is still one of the best NBA players that's over the age of 35.
No. 2 Steve Nash
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Draft Year: 1996. Selected No. 15 overall by the Phoenix Suns.
The question no one should be debating is if the trade will work for the Lakers. The reason it will work is simple—Steve Nash.
Steve Nash is a basketball magician. If there's any player in the NBA that can orchestrate this Lakers situation to success, it's Nash. You could give Nash four scrubs and he'd make them look like decent basketball players.
In case you forgot, Nash almost led the starless, role-player filled Phoenix Suns to a playoff spot last season. His three best teammates last season were Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat. This season, his three best teammates will be Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. That's more than a huge improvement. It's the equivalent to the difference between the Ocean's 11 cast and the Step Up Revolution cast.
Nash did things last season a player his age shouldn't be able to do. He averaged a double-double with points and assists while shooting 54 percent from his jump shots. Nash will instantly be the Lakers' best three-point shooter, something the team desperately lacked a season ago. With Howard, Gasol and Bryant, Nash should see plenty of open jump shots.
Defense may be an issue for Nash, but the Lakers recently won two championships with Derek Fisher as their starting point guard. Fisher isn't exactly Gary Payton. They've had defensive issues at point guard for a while now. It's a classic case of nitpicking.
The Howard acquisition also makes Nash's defensive issues not too huge of a concern. If a speedy guard blows by Nash, he'll meet a giant Howard clogging the paint ready to block or tip his next move.
Nash takes incredibly good care of his body, which allows him to compete at such a high level this late in his career. The Howard trade was huge, but the Nash sign-and-trade is going to be the reason that trade works.
No. 1 Kevin Garnett
J. Meric/Getty Images
Draft Year: 1995. Selected No. 5 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
You probably wouldn't have said this two seasons ago, when Kevin Garnett's storied basketball career appeared to be coming to an end, but Garnett is the best player in the NBA over the age of 35. He reinvented himself in the 2011-12 season in a big way.
The 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons showed serious signs of a Garnett decline. His points per game average dipped below 15 in both seasons. Before 2009-10, the last time Garnett failed to average more than 15 points per game was his rookie season.
Last season, Garnett was famously moved to center, where he used his athleticism and mid-range game to expose defenders. Similar to Chris Bosh, Garnett's jump shot is money anywhere from 16 to 19 feet. With centers struggling to get out on him from that distance, 81 percent of Garnett's field goals were jump shots. Garnett averaged 9.7 points per game alone on jump shots.
Defensively, Garnett was a beast in 2011-12. He was selected to the 2011-12 NBA All-Defensive Second Team as a forward, even though he guarded centers for most the season.
Although he contemplated retirement, Garnett decided to re-sign with the Boston Celtics for three years, $34 million. It's an expensive price tag, but if you look around the NBA, there aren't many centers or forwards currently playing at a higher level than Garnett. You also can't discount the intangibles Garnett brings to the locker room. With Allen gone, Garnett's locker room voice will become even more valuable.
The 2012-13 season is shaping up to be a promising one for the Celtics. Despite losing Allen, the team added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger, while also re-signing Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Keyon Dooling. The Celtics remain as the Heat's No. 1 competitor for the Eastern Conference crown. With Garnett returning to the fold, the Celtics will have something to say about which team is the best in the East.