The NBA's All-Old Team
The average NBA player is getting older.
Okay, that sounds stupid. Of course the average NBA player is getting older. Everyone is getting older, simply by virtue of the natural passage of time.
What I meant to say is, as of the 2007-08 "Mr. Average" survey, the average age of NBA players was on the rise again, following a relatively steep drop during the height of the preps-to-pros era.
That rebound in player age makes sense. High school kids are no longer allowed to jump straight into the NBA draft. Instead, the league's "one-and-done" rule has forced even the very best prospects to wait a year after the graduation of their high school class before they can throw their hats into the proverbial ring.
But this change in the rules doesn't account for the attendant uptick in average player experience in the NBA. Guys are playing longer and longer now, and not just because they are still starting their pro careers at young ages.
Across-the-board advances in science and technology have appeared in the field of sports medicine, allowing the world's best athletes, many of whom play basketball, to have access to cutting-edge diets, training techniques and medical treatments. These not only prolong their careers but maintain the quality of the ball played therein.
It's no wonder, then, that we've been witness to such remarkable play from stars in their mid-to-late 30s in recent years. The 2013-14 season has been no exception, even with Kevin Garnett looking like a shell of his former self and Kobe Bryant having played in just six games due to Achilles and knee injuries. Even with those declines in mind, you could field a pretty darn good team comprised only of veterans aged 35 or older.
And, well, we did. Click through to see who we picked!
Point Guard: Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili isn't a point guard, per se, but the way the wily Argentinian plays the game is much more akin to that of an aggressive floor general than it is to that of a shooting guard working off the ball.
That , in my mind, qualifies Ginobili as a point guard for this club. The 36-year-old swingman has averaged a sturdy 4.6 assists off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs. He's still sloppy with the ball from time to time (2.1 turnovers), but that's to be expected from a guy who whips passes with one hand and/or behind his back as often as he does.
More importantly, Manu is as healthy as he's been in years. He's played in 32 of San Antonio's 33 games thus far, averaging a modest 23.9 minutes per outing.
As a result, he's having himself a vintage Ginobili shooting season. A hot streak here and there, and Manu could see his splits of .472/.376/.915 creep ever closer to the 50-40-90 Club.
And his status as that exclusive group's oldest member.
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen
Speaking of 50-40-90, don't forget about Ray Allen, whose current shooting percentages (.479/.382/.900) put him even closer to that category than do Ginobili's.
Allen's accuracy from three-point range is nothing new. The NBA's all-time leader in treys has nailed a shade over 40 percent of his looks from behind the line over the course of his 18-year career.
What may surprise some is that Allen, at 38, is shooting two-pointers more accurately than he ever has. Does this mean that Jesus Shuttlesworth has improved as a marksman?
Not necessarily. If anything, Allen's success inside the arc has everything to do with the offense in which he plays. The Miami Heat are among the best at creating efficient, open looks, thanks in no small part to the talent of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and the attention that opposing defenses must pay them on any given night.
Allen, with his catch-and-shoot prowess, just so happens to be their biggest benefactor.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce got a taste this season of the "Sixth Man Life" that Ray Allen has enjoyed since landing in Miami, albeit with an inferior team and on a more limited basis. Jason Kidd brought "The Truth" off the Brooklyn Nets' bench seven times before reinstalling him in the starting lineup, in large part because of injuries up and down the roster.
Pierce has actually shot better from three (.417) and notched nearly as many rebounds (5.0) and assists (2.6) as a reserve since arriving in Brooklyn.
Still, scoring is the name of the game for Pierce, and he's done that much better as a starter (13.6 points) than as the first guy off the pine (10.4). He may not be producing or winning at the clip to which he (and we) had become accustomed during his days with the Boston Celtics, but at 36, Pierce's "old man game" is as effective as ever.
And now, more appropriate than ever for his age.
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
At this point, there's no choice for MVP of the All-Old Team other than Dirk Nowitzki.
At 35, the giant German is enjoying the benefits of being the youngest member of this squad. He's leading the Dallas Mavericks in scoring (20.9 points per game), with shooting splits (.485/.391/.920) that put him within striking distance of his second 50-40-90 season.
If that weren't impressive enough, remember that Dirk missed the first 27 games of the 2012-13 season after undergoing knee surgery during training camp. That Nowitzki has not only recovered from that procedure but returned to playing like the perennial All-Star that he was prior to it is a testament to just how much of a freak (in a good way) he really is.
And how helpful Monta Ellis (20.4 points, 5.8 assists) has been as his new sidekick in Big D.
Center: Tim Duncan
Quibble all you want with Tim Duncan's numbers—he's averaging career lows in points (14.0) and rebounds (9.4)—but don't forget that he's playing well under 30 minutes a night.
And, more importantly, that the San Antonio Spurs are still winning games at a phenomenal clip.
On a per-minute basis, Duncan's on pace for a career-average year—which means a lot for a guy who's solidified his status as one of the top 10 players of all time. Through 30 games, Timmy has poured in 17.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes. That's startlingly close to his career averages of 20.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per 36.
The only real downside? Duncan's scoring has dipped considerably on account of a shooting season that, by nearly every known measure, is the worst of his illustrious, 17-year career in the NBA.
On the other hand, the 37-year-old still ranks among the league's best defenders and does so while fouling less frequently than ever before.
Coach: Gregg Popovich
What good is a team of old guys without an even older guy to serve as the coach?
Gregg Popovich is far and away the one best equipped to handle this particular task. For one, he's getting up there in years; he'll turn 65 on Jan. 28.
Pop's not the oldest coach in the NBA, though. That title belongs to Rick Adelman, who's well into his 67th year of life. His Minnesota Timberwolves, though, with all their inconsistencies, aren't likely making those additional years any easier to handle.
Pop has had no such qualms with his San Antonio Spurs. Their 25-8 record is the third-best in the West and the fourth-best in the NBA overall, just behind the Indiana Pacers (25-6) at the very top.
As far as fit is concerned, there's no better choice for this squad than Popovich. For one, two of his own players are in this starting five.
Which points to Pop's expertise as a manager of minutes. He's helped to extend the careers of Duncan and Ginobili by resting them for long stretches on certain nights and, from time to time, by giving them entire games off. Pop has kept his top guys fresh for the playoffs, wherein most players are already worn down from the rigors of the regular season.
One can only imagine how he'd handle a team consisting entirely of elder statesmen whose minutes must be carefully manicured. If there's anyone who could handle that job, though, it's Pop.
Any other oldies who YOU think deserve a shout-out? Hit me up on Twitter!