These 10 NBA Stars Over 30 Are Defying Father Time

Preston EllisContributor IAugust 25, 2019

These 10 NBA Stars Over 30 Are Defying Father Time

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Eighty-seven of the NBA's 351 players who played at least 40 games in 2018-19 were 30 or older.

    A report from the Guardian in 2015 noted the average career of an NBA athlete spans just 4.9 seasons, and an NBA roster survey found the average age was 26 last season.

    Still, some athletes possess that rare, generational level of skill that keeps them in the upper echelon of NBA talent well into their 30s. 

    Below are 10 players that continue to defy their age and instead put together seasons worthy of All-NBA-level consideration. 

    And we'd like to wish a very happy birthday to James Harden (8/26/1989)! He just missed the cut.

Chris Paul

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Age: 34

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 33,350

    Postseason Minutes Played: 3,800

    Father Time has not typically been kind to athletes of Chris Paul's size (6'0", 175 lbs) and waning athleticism. As an elite-level one-on-one scorer and creator, he relies on strength and IQ to create separation at this stage of his career. Mileage and wear and tear have taken their toll, as CP3 has missed at least 21 games the past three seasons.

    Paul's decline has been undeniable, at least in terms of efficiency. His effective field-goal percentage of 50.8 was his lowest since 2010-11, his last in New Orleans. His point total was the second-lowest of his career, as he played second fiddle to James Harden. His playoff totals were even murkier.

    But his effect on the floor keeps him in the upper echelon, as he ranked fourth in real plus-minus among point guards and 12th overall. Paul was also third in both steals per game and assists per game.

    While his shooting touch may continue to regress, his overall on-court impact remains the same. When he plays, his team succeeds, and that should remain true in 2019-20 with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LeBron James

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Age: 34 

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 46,235

    Postseason Minutes Played: 10,049

    We wouldn't question the King, right?

    A more surprising plot twist in Space Jam 2 would have LeBron serving as the leader of the alien invasion rather than earth's greatest hope. That’s because there is nothing human about racking up over 56,000 minutes in both regular and postseason play without suffering a noteworthy injury beyond last season’s strained left groin.

    It's possible that James could move into seventh all-time in regular-season minutes played in 2019-20, behind just Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd and Elvin Hayes.  

    Still, LeBron's record-breaking chain chugs right along after he put together season averages of 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists in 55 games. No other player reached each of those totals. 

    Many will point to LeBron's waning defensive effort as their largest point of contention, but LeBron still finished ninth in the NBA in real plus-minus. 

    LeBron's days as the unquestioned King may soon be over, but there is no question that he will be a top-10 player in 2019-20.

LaMarcus Aldridge

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 34

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 32,764

    Postseason Minutes Played: 2,668

    One of the more consistent and durable players in the NBA, LaMarcus Aldridge has played 55 games or more in each season since his career began in 2006-07 and has played 69 games or more every year since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. 

    He made his seventh All-Star team in 2019 after posting averages of 21.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and and 2.4 assists with a 52.2 eFG. Aldridge's defensive rating did slip from 103.3 in 2017-18 all the way to 111.0 in 2018-19, by far the lowest of his career (106.8). This significant dip could be tied to the losses of Danny Green and Dejounte Murray but requires monitoring, nonetheless. 

    His BBall-Index impact scores showed his worth on both ends. Aldridge finished in the 94th percentile or better in points over expectation, play impact plus-minus, real plus-minus and regularized plus-minus. 

    It would be foolhardy to expect a major Aldridge regression in the 2019-20 season.

Kyle Lowry

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 26,781

    Postseason Minutes Played: 2,984

    Kyle Lowry's numbers also dipped in 2018-19. His points per game (14.2) marked a seven-year low, and his eFG (51.8 percent) was its lowest since 2015-16.

    However, he was second overall in assists per game (8.7) and fifth in real plus-minus among point guards (15th overall). At an increased workload (37.5 minutes per game), he was more productive in the playoffs, helping the Raptors claim the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

    As Lowry approaches 30,000 minutes played, he'll inevitably begin to decline, but he has several miles left and should have one payday left in him next summer.

Al Horford

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 25,785

    Postseason Minutes Played: 4,159

    A large-bodied post player shouldn't age this gracefully, but Al Horford enjoyed his most efficient season in his 12-year career in 2018-19. Horford shot above league average from beyond the arc (36.0 percent) on three attempts per game and finished with a 58.6 eFG on 10.6 field-goal attempts per game. 

    But his effectiveness goes beyond his modest 13.6 scoring average. Horford's 4.43 real plus-minus ranked him seventh in the NBA among 4 and 5s as well as 18th overall. 

    And when the lights shone brightest, Horford stepped up to the plate, recording a plus-19.4 net-rating swing in last year's playoffs. The Philadelphia 76ers opted to sign Horford to a four-year, $109 million contract rather than let him sign somewhere else and continue to be a thorn in Joel Embiid's side. 

    A durable veteran, Horford has played 67 or more games in all but two of his 12 seasons. His workload should decrease in Philly, which should lengthen his impressive career.

Stephen Curry

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Age: 31

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 23,859

    Postseason Minutes Played: 4,235

    Not only is Curry far from slowing down, but 2019-20 may also present him the opportunity to earn his third MVP. 

    Finishing third in the NBA in ESPN's real-plus minus (and first in's plus/minus stat), Curry was a downright tidal wave last season from three-point range, converting 43.7 percent of his shots (fourth) on 11.7 attempts (second). The only player with more attempts (Harden) shot 6.9 percent worse, and each player with a better percentage took fewer than half as many shots per game. 

    On a team featuring Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Curry still finished fifth in the NBA in points per game and had the second-highest average of his 10-year career.

    Flame on, Steph.

DeMar DeRozan

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 25,674

    Postseason Minutes Played: 2,165

    DeMar DeRozan lit up the stat sheet last year despite taking his fewest number of three-point shots since his rookie season. He was one of just four players to average at least 21.2 points, 6.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds (Westbrook, James, Harden).

    DeRozan’s overall effect is a concern heading into his 11th season after he finished 46th in real plus-minus among backcourt players. 

    But in terms of raw numbers, DeRozan will continue to pile them up. The reintroduction of Dejounte Murray coupled with the progression of Derrick White should only further alleviate pressure on DeRozan and help him perform better in 2019-20.

Russell Westbrook

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 28,330

    Postseason Minutes Played: 3,720

    Russell Westbrook has played in an eye-popping 314 of 328 games in the past four seasons, showing no long-term issues from tearing his meniscus in April 2013. 

    Westbrook completed his third consecutive season with a triple-double average in April and also finished with his lowest scoring average since 2013-14. Could this be an indication that he is ready to assume a secondary scoring role next to James Harden? 

    Westbrook’s 46.8 eFG looms as a concern for last season’s second-highest-rated offense. Though he’s never topped 48.9 eFG, he should make a higher percentage of his shots this season because defenses will be less focused on him. 

    Westbrook’s scoring and assist numbers may dip in the Space City, but he’ll still get plenty of opportunities to grab the rock, as evidenced by Chris Paul’s 12.4 shots and 8.2 assists (third in NBA) in 2018-19. Expect Westbrook and Harden to be All-Stars in 2019-20.

Mike Conley

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Age: 31

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 25,700

    Postseason Minutes Played: 2,093

    Mike Conley missed 70 games in 2017-18 with a heel injury that required season-ending surgery in January 2018. 

    But before you call him injury-prone, note that the former Buckeye has played in 81.4 percent of a possible 968 games in his 12-year career. 

    And he doesn’t appear to be slowing down after returning to form with the 33-win Memphis Grizzlies last season. Conley earned four All-NBA votes by averaging a career-high 21.1 points as well as 6.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds. He also finished ninth in real plus-minus among point guards. 

    With Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert by his side, Conley’s progression should only continue in his first season in Utah.

Blake Griffin

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Age: 30

    Regular-Season Minutes Played: 21,159

    Postseason Minutes Played: 1,870

    Blake Griffin has played fewer regular-season minutes than Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic, Jrue Holiday and Devin Harris, among others. 

    Which leads us right into his biggest red flag: his injury history. 

    A broken hand, torn quad and broken kneecap are his most severe injuries, but Griffin has lost games to additional injuries, such as big toe plantar plate, loose bodies in his other knee, a strained hamstring, back spasms and a staph infection—and these were before the arthroscopic procedure performed on his left knee last season.

    But when it comes to his on-court performance, Griffin is far from done (at least for now). He averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game over 75 games last season. One of just four players in the NBA with averages of 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists (LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo), Griffin showed his scoring touch beyond the three-point line by shooting above league average on the 13th-most attempts in the NBA. 

    Griffin's injuries may ultimately slow what should be a surefire Hall of Fame career, but they won't in 2019-20.