Kevin Garnett and the 10 Best NBA Players Older Than 35

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

Kevin Garnett and the 10 Best NBA Players Older Than 35

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    Kevin Garnett's resurgence during the second half of the 2012 regular season and the playoffs informed NBA viewers of one thing: Just because you're old, doesn't mean you can't still play.

    In today's athleticism-driven league, people tend to look down on the older players, thinking that they simply cannot keep up with the young guns anymore and that they should just hang it up while they still have the chance to go out with some dignity.

    That opinion couldn't be any more wrong, as there are plenty of veterans in the NBA who are absolutely crucial to their respective teams' chances.

    So, let's determine the top 10 old guys in the league.

    What is this slideshow's criteria for "old," you ask? Well, they have to be over the age of 35.

    Just don't tell K.G. that I'm writing this piece.

10. Kurt Thomas (39), New York Knicks

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    There is a reason why Thomas, the oldest player in the NBA, is still in the league: He can play.

    The 39-year-old has played for more teams than the rest of the league combined (OK, slight exaggeration there, but he has played for nine teams, which is good for nearly one-third of the NBA) and is about to embark on his second go-round with the Knicks.

    Thomas was once a double-double threat, as he averaged 11.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game back in the 2004-05 season. Those days are long gone, but Thomas can still be a productive player, as evidenced by the fact that he has managed to find decent floor time for each club he has been a member of since then. (He most recently averaged 15.2 minutes per game with the Portland Trail Blazers this past season.)

    Thomas is probably not going to play big minutes for New York, but do not doubt for a second that he won't have a role. He still is a solid defender and rebounder, and he will bring a sense of toughness to a team that sorely needs it.

    You can't help but respect K.T.

    You can't help but fear those crazy eyes, either.

9. Jason Kidd (39), New York Knicks

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    The Knicks are actually going to wind up with three players on this list (you'll see who the third is later).

    While Kidd obviously is a mere shell of the former point guard he once was, he can still be a very valuable piece to a contending team, as seen two seasons ago when he played a key role in the Dallas Mavericks' championship run.

    It's not like the 39-year-old is completely washed up, either; in 2010-11, he averaged 8.2 assists per game. Of course, that number dipped to 5.5 this past season, but that also had something to do with the fact that the Mavericks lost some players in free agency after winning their first title.

    Kidd also is big enough to defend either guard spot. He even spent some time covering LeBron James during the 2011 finals—and did a very, very admirable job at it. Finally, Kidd provides some experience and veteran leadership; his recent DWI charge aside, he is a good locker room guy.

    No, Kidd isn't all that efficient of a scorer anymore (he barely shot more than 36 percent the past two years), but he can still do a fine job distributing the basketball and can still play better-than-adequate defense for stretches.

    It's also important to keep in mind that, unlike in Dallas in 2012, Kidd will not be the Knicks' primary ball-handler this coming season. He will be sharing that duty with Raymond Felton and perhaps even Pablo Prigioni, which should take an ample amount of pressure off Kidd's shoulders.

8. Grant Hill (39), Los Angeles Clippers

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    One of the true nice guys in the league, one-time superstar Grant Hill is still kicking at the age of 39.

    Now with his fourth NBA team (the Clippers), Hill will be expected to provide decent perimeter defense and some scoring pop off the bench.

    Hill's numbers took a bit of a dive across the board in 2012 as opposed to 2011; his points per game fell by three, his field goal percentage dipped from 48.4 to 44.6, his three-point percentage dropped drastically from 39.5 to 26.4 (although Hill was never really known for his outside shooting anyway), and his rebounding and assist numbers also were down.

    All of that said, Hill will have a significantly better supporting cast in Los Angeles than he did with the Phoenix Suns, and that should make his job much easier.

    I expect the 39-year-old forward to be very comfortable in L.A.

7. Andre Miller (36), Denver Nuggets

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    Now in the middle of his second stint with the Nuggets, Miller may be on the wrong end of 35, but he can still run the point very well.

    Miller averaged 6.7 assists in 27.4 minutes per game this past season, good for 8.8 assists per 36 minutes. It was the first time he didn't put up double-figures in scoring, but you have to remember that he is actually coming off the bench for Denver, as Ty Lawson is the starting point guard.

    Quickness and athleticism were never a big part of Miller's game, so he has been able to age well, relying on his basketball IQ and passing ability to remain productive. I expect him to continue being a useful player during the 2012-13 campaign.

6. Ray Allen (37), Miami Heat

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    Had it not been for the persistent ankle problems that Allen endured this past season, he would be higher on this list.

    However, due to the fact that I am not exactly sure how he will bounce back from surgery this year, Allen takes the sixth spot in these rankings.

    Of course, when Allen is healthy, he is still one of the deadliest weapons in the league. He managed to shoot 45.3 percent from distance in 2012, although his ankle clearly affected him in the postseason; he shot the three ball at only a 30.4 percent clip. Allen's free-throw percentage even dipped from 91 percent during the regular season to 71 percent in the playoffs, and his defense was truly abysmal thanks to the lack of mobility.

    Still, Allen's percentages demonstrate how effective he is when healthy, and now that he is with the Miami Heat, the 37-year-old should get ample, wide-open looks from the three on kickouts from LeBron and Dwyane Wade.

    If Allen's ankle is OK,—and that is obviously a big "if"—he could have a big year this coming season.

5. Marcus Camby (38), New York Knicks

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    And here is the aforementioned third Knicks player to make this list.

    Even though he is pushing 40, Camby is still one of the best rebounders in the league. He averaged nine boards in just 22.9 minutes per game in 2012, good for 13.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. Camby also put up 1.5 blocks per game, and that translates into 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes.

    Camby is not going to give New York much in the way of offense, but he will be a more-than-viable backup for Tyson Chandler up front, and I also assume that there will be times that we see both players on the floor at the same time. How dominant of a defensive frontcourt would that be?

    Camby alongside the reigning Defensive Player of the Year? Wow.

    The 38-year-old Camby may be ancient in NBA years, but he still is an extremely valuable player who could be a difference-maker.

4. Antawn Jamison (36), Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Lakers made one of the more shrewd moves of the offseason by signing Jamison, a player coming off a season in which he averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

    It is certainly a bit alarming that Jamison shot only 40.3 percent from the floor in 2012, but you have to remember that he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jamison should get much better looks in Los Angeles, with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and that new point guard (who will be revealed in the next slide) in tow.

    A 14-year veteran, Jamison is one of those guys who maintains a low profile, but still goes out there and gets the job done. He is a player you can rely on to consistently get you buckets night after night, and while he may not be the same player he once was, he should be able to adequately fill the void that Lamar Odom left when he was traded from the Lakers before the 2012 campaign began.

3. Steve Nash (38), Los Angeles Lakers

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    Well, it looks like the beloved Nash is going to get another chance to win a ring after all, as he was signed and traded by the Suns to the hated rival Lakers.

    Despite being 38 years old, Nash was able to post 12.5 points and 10.7 assists per game this past season, and get this: He shot 53 percent from the floor. That is ridiculously good for a point guard, especially one who takes a lot of threes.

    Along with Bryant, Bynum, Gasol and Jamison, Nash will help compose one of the most talented teams in the league. It also happens to be one of the older cores in the league, but old or not, Nash remains one of the game's best floor generals, and it should be a whole lot of fun watching him run what looks to be a loaded offense.

    The only drawback with Nash is his defense. He was never known for being a good defender, and the older he gets, the more his skills on that end of the floor are going to decline.

2. Tim Duncan (36), San Antonio Spurs

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    That brings us to the Big Fundamental.

    Yes, he is 36, but Duncan is still one of the most valuable players in the league. He is one of the few players in the game who still possesses a great low-post game, and although he is not what he once was defensively, Duncan can still alter a game on that end of the floor.

    He also remains a double-double threat each time he steps on the court, as he averaged 15.4 points and nine rebounds per game this past season. It's also important to note that those numbers came in 28.2 minutes per game.

    Duncan might not be able to go 35 minutes a night anymore, but he still is one of the better big men in the NBA. His value extends beyond his on-court production, as he is one of the best leaders in the league as well.

    Duncan will go down as one of the top 10-20 players of all time, and when he does, he will be remembered as a model of consistency.

1. Kevin Garnett (36), Boston Celtics

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    And then there was K.G.

    Garnett demonstrated in the playoffs just how much he has left in the tank, averaging a double-double and abusing just about anyone who dared to challenge him inside.

    When Doc Rivers moved Garnett to center following the All-Star break, it clearly rejuvenated him, as his level of play began to trend upward after that decision. He went on to put together arguably his most impressive postseason run as a Celtic, perhaps even more impressive than in 2008 when Boston won the title. Not only that, but you can make a legitimate argument that, at 36 years of age, K.G. is the best defensive player in the league.

    As much as Garnett loathes being called old, the fact is that—by NBA standards—he is, but that is all the more reason to appreciate what he is doing. K.G. may hate the "old" moniker, but if anything, it just makes us marvel at him even more. Who could forget this now-legendary interview he conducted with Doris Burke after Boston's Game 5 victory over the Heat this past year?

    Now, with the Celtics fully reloaded and prepped for another championship run, I expect more of the same types of performances from Garnett this coming season.

    Boo Boo, go to bed.

Not Yet 36: Chauncey Billups (35), Los Angeles Clippers

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    For those of you wondering where Billups is on this list, he does not turn 36 until September, but what the heck? Let's include him in the discussion anyway, because he certainly deserves it.

    Billups tore his Achilles about midway through the 2012 season, a season in which he was averaging 14.9 points per game. He was only shooting 36.4 percent from the floor, though, but it's not like Billups was ever a high-percentage shooter. (His career field goal percentage is 41.6.)

    You really have to wonder how much better the Clippers could have been this past season had Billups remained healthy.

    Well, depending on how Mr. Big Shot recovers from the Achilles injury, we might get a chance to witness just how much better he can make Los Angeles this coming season. Of course, Achilles injuries are no joke, and I can't imagine Billups will be able to be as effective.

    Hopefully he can overcome what is normally a debilitating injury.


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