Ranking Steve Nash and the Best NBA Players Approaching 40

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2012

Ranking Steve Nash and the Best NBA Players Approaching 40

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    Basketball is a young man's game, but some players in the NBA don't really believe that for a second. In honor of Steve Nash and Juwan Howard's birthdays today, we're going to be taking a look at the NBA players who are quickly approaching the ripe old age of 40. 

    To qualify for this distinction, a player has to have already celebrated his 35th birthday, leaving him closer to the dreaded four-oh than the slightly-less-dreaded three-oh. 

    There are only 23 players in The Association who are still on active rosters despite this distinction, all of which you'll see ranked in the following slides. Please take note that the rankings are based on current performance and not historical greatness. 

    Read on to discover who the wily old veterans of the NBA are. 

23. Brad Miller

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 1.0 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.0 steals

    Advanced Stats: 39.9 TS%, 1.4 PER, 0.0 WS, -0.105 WS/48

    Now in his 14th season in the NBA and first with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Brad Miller has appeared in only three games for his newest team, playing a total of just 16 minutes. 

    He's hit three of his four free throw attempts, none of his two field goal attempts and logged as many turnovers as he has assists or rebounds. 

    Miller didn't do much last year either, but he's really only in the league as a roster filler at this point. 

22. Juwan Howard

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Age: 39

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 0.7 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.1 steals

    Advanced Stats: 37.5 TS%, 3.1 PER, 0.0 WS, -0.018 WS/48

    It's been a long time since Juwan Howard was drafted fifth overall by the Washington Bullets or made the 1996 All-Star team during his second year in the NBA. 

    Sixteen years later, Howard is now cruising along and enjoying the Miami Heat's thrilling pursuit of redemption after he watched the Finals letdown from the bench last season. 

    The big man has appeared in nine games—it's been two solid seasons since he's started a single game—and he's not staying in those games for very long, playing a total of just 40 minutes. 

    As you can tell by his WS/48, Howard has actually had an ever-so-slightly negative impact on the Heat's chances of winning games. 

21. Anthony Carter

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Age: 36

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 1.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.1 steals

    Advanced Stats: 42.7 TS%, 7.7 PER, -0.1 WS, -0.029 WS/48

    Anthony Carter has actually hurt his team a bit more than Juwan Howard, but at least the Toronto Raptors are letting him play a little bit more. The 12-year veteran has logged 125 minutes in 15 appearances so far during his first campaign with the Canada-based franchise, the sixth team of his career. 

    Carter has never been a very good player but somehow he's hung around the league ever since he was drafted in 1999 by the Miami Heat. His 2007-2008 average of 7.8 points per game with the Denver Nuggets is a career high, as is his 12.8 PER that season, a mark that still leaves him below the league average.

    This year, Carter has struggled in all areas of the game. He's hitting on just 34.5 percent of his field goal attempts and has logged more turnovers (12) than made shots (10). 

20. Francisco Elson

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    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 0.7 points, 0.3 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.0 steals

    Advanced Stats: 33.3 TS%, 5.5 PER, 0.0 WS, 0.004 WS/48

    With Francisco Elson, we move into the group of players who have been awful, but not awful enough to statistically hurt their team's chances of winning by themselves. 

    During his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers, the true seven-footer has played just 12 minutes thus far, an average of four minutes per contest. 

    Literally the only contributions that Elson has made are the following: one made mid-range jumper from 10 to 15 feet, two missed shots from the same area, one defensive rebound and one block.  

19. Eduardo Najera

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    Team: Charlotte Bobcats

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 2.3 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.2 steals

    Advanced Stats: 63.6 TS%, 9.6 PER, 0.1 WS, 0.123 WS/48

    Eduardo Najera is another player who's hung around in the NBA for over a decade without ever making an overwhelmingly positive contribution. Despite the fact that he's now in his 12th year in The Association, the Mexican forward has never averaged even seven points again and his career-best PER is 14.8. 

    This season has been underwhelming, even by the Bobcats' low expectations. 

    Najera has played 46 minutes over the course of his six appearances and has shot 45.5 percent on limited attempts without turning the ball over. 

18. Raja Bell

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    Team: Utah Jazz

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 5.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.5 steals

    Advanced Stats: 54.8 TS%, 8.0 PER, 0.5 WS, 0.059 WS/48

    Raja Bell may very well be the worst starter in the entire NBA. If he's not the absolute worst, he's at least very close to that ignominious title. 

    The shooting guard was once a player who could easily score double-digits on any given night, but that is no longer the case. 

    Bell has shot decently from the field and nailed his fair share of three-pointers, but nothing about his game really stands out anymore. 

    Actually, I take that back. His complete lack of defensive ability does actually stand out a good bit. 

17. Jerry Stackhouse

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Age: 37

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 2.7 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.1 steals

    Advanced Stats: 54.1 TS%, 20.7 PER, 0.3 WS, 0.236 WS/48

    During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Jerry Stackhouse was one of the best players in the entire NBA. While playing with the Detroit Pistons for the 2000-2001 season, Stackhouse led the league in total points while averaging 29.8 points per game. 

    Now in the twilight of his career, the veteran swingman is coming off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks and earning very limited minutes. But with those minutes, Stackhouse has been incredibly productive. 

    The 17.1 points per 36 minutes that Stackhouse is averaging right now is his best rate since the 2006-2007 season. 

16. Tony Battie

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    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 2.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.1 steals

    Advanced Stats: 50.4 TS%, 9.4 PER, 0.5 WS, 0.133 WS/48

    Tony Battie seems to be quite good at fouling LeBron James. The rest of his skills have declined dramatically since his hey-day in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he was a productive starting option at either power forward or center. 

    Battie is now in his second season with the Philadelphia 76ers and has actually earned eight starts thus far in relief of the injured Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic. 

    He hasn't done much to help the team. But then again, he hasn't done much to hurt them either. 

15. Jeff Foster

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 3.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.2 steals

    Advanced Stats: 60.9 TS%, 15.8 PER, 0.3 WS, 0.198 WS/48

    Jeff Foster hasn't seen the court much for the contending Indiana Pacers, but he's made the most of his limited opportunities. 

    The versatile big man has been on the court for just 73 minutes spread out over six appearances. But he's hit six of his 11 field goal attempts, including his one and only three-point shot, and two of his three free throws. Additionally, he's pulled down 23 rebounds and swiped the ball away six times. 

    Foster doesn't play a lot, but he's remains a terrific threat on the glass when he does enter the game. 

14. Anthony Parker

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Age: 36

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 6.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.7 steals

    Advanced Stats: 45.6 TS%, 9.1 PER, 0.3 WS, 0.038 WS/48

    Anthony Parker has started 18 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers so far in his third season with the franchise. But he probably wouldn't be starting on a more talented team. 

    The 6'6" shooting guard is only in his ninth season in the league due to a failure to make an impact at the beginning of his career and a subsequent extended stint playing overseas. 

    When he returned to the states for the 2006-2007 season with the Toronto Raptors, Parker was productive for a solid three-year stretch but his star has been slowly fading away. 

    As you can see by his numbers, Parker has been solid, just nothing special at all for the Cavs during the 2011-2012 campaign. 

Greg Oden

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    Oops, sorry.

    Greg Oden isn't actually on the wrong side of 35. He just looks like it and gets injured often enough that this is an easy mistake to make. 

13. Kurt Thomas

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Age: 39

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 3.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.6 steals

    Advanced Stats: 58.5 TS%, 11.8 PER, 1.2 WS, 0.142 WS/48

    Kurt Thomas is the oldest player in the league but he doesn't really play like it as he remains a productive end-of-the-bench player for the Portland Trail Blazers. 

    The almost-40-year-old was drafted 10th overall by the Miami Heat all the way back in 1995 and is now in his 17th season, playing for the ninth team of his career. 

    Thomas has appeared in 20 contests thus far this season, starting three of them, and has been on the court for an average of 16.7 minutes per game. While he's been fairly limited on he offensive end of the court, Thomas has remained a very good defender despite his old age. 

12. Grant Hill

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Age: 39

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.6 steals

    Advanced Stats: 46.4 TS%, 10.1 PER, 0.0 WS, 0.000 WS/48

    Grant Hill was once one of the most talented players in the NBA. Before he hurt his ankle and the injury woes began, Hill had totaled 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists during his first six seasons in the league, numbers surpassed by only Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and LeBron James. 

    But the injuries took their toll and Hill quickly declined into a shell of his former self. 

    Now, even the luster of that shell is fading away. Hill still starts at forward for the Phoenix Suns, but only out of necessity. 

    He's averaging more turnovers than assists for the first time in his career and his scoring average of nine points per contest is the first such average in single-digits. 

11. Derek Fisher

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Age: 37

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 5.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.1 steals

    Advanced Stats: 44.7 TS%, 9.3 PER, 0.8 WS, 0.063 WS/48

    Derek Fisher may have played an instrumental part in the off-court negotiations during the lockout, but he hasn't exactly been instrumental to the Los Angeles Lakers title hopes. Could that possibly be because he's spending time on the court practicing his karate moves?

    Fish has still started 24 games for the purple and gold at point guard but his job has become getting the ball to Kobe Bryant more and more. 

    He's still good for the occasional three-pointer, like the game-winner he hit against the Dallas Mavericks, but his mark of 29.7 percent from downtown is well below his career average. 

    Fisher is averaging more assists per game than he has since before he rejoined the Lakers in 2007, but he same can be said about his turnovers.

10. Jason Kidd

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Age: 38

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 4.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals

    Advanced Stats: 40.5 TS%, 9.2 PER, 0.4 WS, 0.045 WS/48

    It would almost be sacrilegious to leave Jason Kidd out of the top 10, even though he's shown this season that the Dallas Mavericks need to seriously considering letting Rodrigue Beaubois drastically eat into his minutes even when the ancient point guard is fully healthy. 

    Kidd still manages to blend together points, rebounds, assists and steals marvelously, but he's doing so at a very depressed rate. 

    After finally winning a much-deserved ring and completing his Hall of Fame resume, Kidd has dropped off his level of play significantly. It had to happen eventually. 

9. Marcus Camby

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Age: 37

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 3.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.0 steals

    Advanced Stats: 39.3 TS%, 14.3 PER, 1.4 WS, 0.132 WS/48

    When you see Marcus Camby crash the boards, it's hard to remember that he's 37 years old. 

    Unless he ups his average by 0.2 rebounds per game, this will be the first season since 2002-2003 that the big man hasn't cracked double figures. But he has still posted three separate games with 20 or more boards. 

    While Camby's scoring has taken a nosedive, he still remains a monster both on the glass and to opposing players who are trying to score in his territory. 

8. Antawn Jamison

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 15.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.2 steals

    Advanced Stats: 46.5 TS%, 15.6 PER, 1.2 WS, 0.085 WS/48

    It will be quite interesting to see what sort of legacy Antawn Jamison ends up with when he retires, especially if he keeps up this level of play in his late 30s. 

    After his rookie season, Jamison averaged 18 or more points per game each and every season except for one with the Dallas Mavericks when he only started two games throughout the year. He broke the 20 point per game barrier five times and contributes in quite a few other areas. 

    This year, Jamison has posted the numbers you'll find above while starting each and every game he's appeared in for the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his rebounding average is at a career low and his points per game are the lowest they've been since his first year in the league, Jamison still remains productive. 

7. Chauncey Billups

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.5 steals

    Advanced Stats: 54.6 TS%, 15.7 PER, 1.4 WS, 0.114 WS/48

    Even before suffering an Achilles tendon injury, Mr. Big Shot hadn't hit quite as many big shots this season as he's used to nailing. But he had been playing on a terrific Los Angeles Clippers team and was quite productive despite the fact that he's now on the wrong side of 35. 

    He's still not a great defender, but the scoring prowess was still evident as he's averaging 14.8 points per game despite shooting just 35.9 percent from the field. 

6. Vince Carter

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 steals

    Advanced Stats: 56.4 TS%, 16.7 PER, 1.4 WS, 0.143 WS/48

    As much as I don't like Vince Carter because of his overwhelming lack of consistent effort, I can't deny that he's remained a productive player into his 30s. 

    Carter has appeared in 20 games, starting 10 of them, so he's played an average of 23.1 minutes per game. In his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, Carter is shooting slightly over 45 percent from the field, a mark he hasn't hit since his 2007-2008 season with the New Jersey Nets

    The still-athletic veteran has put up his fair share of highlights this season while displaying one hell of a beard. 

5. Andre Miller

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.3 steals

    Advanced Stats: 54.2 TS%, 17.6 PER, 2.1 WS, 0.142 WS/48

    Despite only starting five of the 24 games he's appeared in, Andre Miller is still managing to average double-figures in the scoring column while dishing out a staggering seven assists per game. 

    Miller has always been an extremely productive pass-first point guard and he most definitely hasn't slowed his pace yet. 

    Even though he's playing less minutes than normal, Miller is still getting his assist numbers because his AST percentage is the second-highest it's ever been. 

4. Ray Allen

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Age: 36

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals

    Advances Stats: 65.9 TS%, 17.0 PER, 2.3 WS, 0.177 WS/48

    Ray Allen started off his 16th season in the NBA on fire from everyone on the court. He's cooled off a bit but he's still been quite productive for the Boston Celtics. 

    Among all qualified players, only Tyson Chandler, an annual contender in the category, has a higher TS%. 

    Not bad for a guy who was deemed to be on the edge of washed up by a good number of NBA fans before the 2011-2012 season started. 

3. Tim Duncan

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.6 steals

    Advanced Stats: 51.9 TS%, 20.6 PER, 2.0 WS, 0.145 WS/48

    Tim Duncan is still one hell of a player when he's on the court, but the amount of time that's the case is rapidly declining. This is the seventh-straight season that The Big Fundamental's minutes have gone down and he's now playing just 27.3 minutes per game to preserve his health for playoff time. 

    He's still terrific when it comes to the post moves and he remains a defensive presence, just not quite as often. 

    Duncan has made the All-Star team each and every year since 2000 but he probably won't make the contest this season. 

2. Kevin Garnett

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Age: 35

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.7 steals

    Advanced Stats: 54.9 TS%, 18.8 PER, 2.5 WS, 0.170 WS/48

    Kevin Garnett has been an absolute warrior for the Boston Celtics this season, playing in all 23 of the team's games while Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce have shuffled in and out of the lineup with various injuries. 

    Although he's relying more on his jump shot than his post moves now, Garnett remains an effective option on offense and remains a tenacious player both on defense and on the glass. 

    When you have intensity like KG has, age is but a number. 

1. Steve Nash

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Age: 38

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 9.9 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals

    Advanced Stats: 63.1 TS%, 23.1 PER, 2.3 WS, 0.169 WS/48

    Steve Nash just continues to defy Father Time. 

    Starting point guards in The Association aren't supposed to be 38 years old. They aren't supposed to averaging a near double-double. They aren't supposed to be shooting a higher percentage than they ever have in their career. They aren't supposed to be leading the NBA in assists per game for the third-straight season. 

    Nash is doing all of those things. 

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