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Aging Gracefully: Veterans Who Still Contribute

Eric Saar looks at some veterans in the NBA who have aged gracefully and are still significant contributors.

Eric Saar



Most NBA players can’t stick in the league. The average length of a player’s career was 4.8 years, according to our own Larry Coon in 2011. That fact makes the lengthy careers of some of the game’s greats that much more impressive. Some players are no longer effective when they lose their athleticism, but others age gracefully and continue to produce for their respective teams.

The following players may or may not still be a focal point, but they are still playing at a relatively high level compared to other players around the league (some of whom are more than a decade younger than them). The players on the list have been arranged from oldest to youngest.

Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)

Duncan will turn 40 years old during the playoffs and while the offensive load has been taken off of him, he is still impacting games for the Spurs. He’s been sidelined with a knee injury for the last five games and has rested against sub-par competition this season, but that’s to keep him fresh for the playoffs. The 41-8 Spurs are on track to make the playoffs for the 19th consecutive time, coinciding with head coach Gregg Popovich’s first full year coaching and the selection of Duncan first overall in the 1997 draft. With a postseason berth, San Antonio would tie the fourth-best playoff streak in NBA history.

While a lot of their success can be attributed to their All-Star Kawhi Leonard, the five-time NBA champion is still an impact player even at his advanced age (by NBA standards). His player efficiency rating (a somewhat comprehensive measurement of a player’s impact) is above average at 17.38. Duncan is still somehow averaging 7.5 rebounds per game (putting him in a tie for 32nd in the NBA) in a, by far, career-low 25.9 minutes per game. However, this year’s average is a far cry from his career average of 10.9 boards.

Most impressive is Duncan’s calming presence on the court, helping keep his team even keel and on course to meet the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. It’s not just his demeanor either; on the court, he covers up for miscues and prevents other mistakes from happening. According to the advanced metric defensive real plus-minus, Duncan is the number one player in the league with a valuation of 6.83. That is just incredible. Not only is he a lock for the Hall of Fame, he’ll go down as one of the best players ever.

Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)

Ginobili is certainly an interesting player. Fans of the Spurs like his tenacity, veteran smarts and ability to get under the skin of opponents. Meanwhile, opposing players and fans probably think he flops too much, occasionally plays dirty and gets lucky. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as it usually is. The Argentinian was drafted in 1999 with the 57th overall pick. He didn’t start playing in the NBA until 2002-03, but has been a productive player for nearly 14 years (all with the Spurs).

While he is out four to six weeks after a recent groin surgery, the four-time NBA champion has still been playing well even at 38 years old. In his reduced role, he is averaging 10 points, 3.3 assists and three rebounds this season. To be clear, Ginobili was never a superstar – as his best statistical year was in 2007-08 when he averaged 19.5 points per game. But keep in mind that San Antonio has never been a statistically-driven team and the crafty left-hander was an integral cog on the franchise’s championship teams. He fits their system perfectly, and he was talented enough to be named to two All-Star teams, receive two All-NBA Third Team nods and win Sixth Man of the Year in 2008.

When he decides to retire, he’ll likely be a Hall of Famer given his NBA accolades as well as his success as the focal point for the Argentinian national team.

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

One of the best foreign-born players in NBA history, Nowitzki has ruled Dallas with owner Mark Cuban for over a decade. The seven-foot sharpshooter was drafted in ninth overall in 1998 and now, nearly 18 years later, he is still significantly helping his team – as they currently sit as the sixth-best team in the Western Conference. Nowitzki is still averaging 17.7 points per game, which leads the Mavericks. That’s not as productive as his career-average (22.1 PPG) or his best year in 2005-06 (26.6 PPG), but it still puts him tied for 3oth in the NBA with Atlanta’s Paul Millsap. Even more incredible is his PER, which is 19.87.

Nowitzki has his signature one-legged, fadeaway jumper from about 15 feet out on the right side of the basket and he consistently gets left open at the top of the arc for his three in transition as the really-late trailer. The 2011 champion has popularized those moves, leaving his mark on the league. Like Duncan and Ginobili, he’s Hall-of-Fame bound and deserves some credit for the “stretch-four era” because of his unique combination of shooting skills and size.

Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)

Bryant has played more than half his life in the NBA. Not many people can say that. In 1996, he landed with the Lakers – via a draft-day trade with the Charlotte Hornets – when he was only 17 years old, so his parents had to co-sign his contract. Now, after a 20-year career that included five NBA championships and countless individual accolades, Bryant is still going strong in his final year. Bryant said he’d retire at the end of the 2015-16 season and that’s probably good timing since his body has been breaking down in recent years.

He’s going out with a bang, and he’s certainly still getting up a bunch of shots. The 2008 MVP is still averaging 16.7 points per game, which is tied for 36th in the league with both Gasol brothers and Nikola Vucevic. He certainly isn’t scoring as much as his career average (25.1) or as much as he did during his prolific career-high season (35.4 in 2005-06), but he’s still been effective at times. He’s even had a “vintage Kobe” week lately – averaging 29.3 points per game in his last three contests, highlighted by 38 points in a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In that game, he hit seven of 11 shots from behind the arc and 11 of his 12 free throws. He also contributed five rebounds and five assists along with a couple steals (just to remind the league of his 12 All-Defensive team selections). Bryant is somewhat rejuvenated this year on his farewell tour as he heads off into the sunset as a sure-fire Hall of Famer and arguably a top-10 player all time.

Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers)

Of all these players, Crawford is the only one to play for multiple teams. The 35-year-old is a two-time winner of the Sixth Man of the Year award, joining Kevin McHale and Detlef Schrempf as the only players in NBA history to have at least two such awards.

Crawford is a solid scorer and the perfect sixth man, as he provides instant offense when the starters take a seat. Now with his sixth team, the Clippers, he is still close to his career average in scoring. He’s averaging 13.1 points per game on the year in only 25.7 minutes a night, compared to his career average of 15.5 points per game.

Crawford is also known for having some of the best handles in the game, making a name for himself with his killer crossover and ability to create his own shot. Crawford is also known for leading the league in four-point plays. He likely won’t be a Hall-of-Famer, but after nearly 16 years in the league, Crawford is still going strong and says that he wants to continue playing for several more seasons.

Dwyane Wade (Miami HEAT)

The 34-year-old is the youngest of these players and is still going strong, averaging 18.7 points per game. Even though injuries have slowed him down a bit in recent years, he is still a focal point for the HEAT. His best year was in 2008-09, when he averaged just above 30 points a game. While he isn’t as explosive as he used to be, he still has the craftiness to get to the hoop – scoring and creating for others.

Most impressive is his PER of 21.28, which ranks 27th in the league right behind his teammate Chris Bosh.

Wade likely still has several years in the league before he’ll retire, but when he does, he’ll have at least three NBA championships, 12 All-Star selections and many other accolades to his name. He’ll also have a pretty strong Hall of Fame argument, although he’s not a lock like some of the players on this list.

Which veterans continue to impress you? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Based in Arizona, Eric Saar is an analyst for Basketball Insiders. He has covered the league for several years. He loves to converse about the NBA on Twitter, so follow him at @Eric_Saar. Eric graduated with honors from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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New Orleans Pelicans and Cliff Alexander Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto



The New Orleans Pelicans and free agent forward Cliff Alexander have agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Alexander will give New Orleans 20 players heading into training camp.

Alexander spent last season playing 40 combined games with the Erie Bayhawks and Long Island Nets in the G-League, where he averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. Alexander also shot 52 percent from the field and blocked one shot per game.

The 21-year-old forward was a McDonald’s All-American and won MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2014 before attending Kansas University. Alexander played 28 games as a Jayhawk and averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game before declaring for the draft.

After going undrafted, Alexander played in eight games for Portland during the 2015-16 season and received a 10-day contract from the Brooklyn Nets in April.

For more information on the salary cap and roster situation for the New Orleans Pelicans, click here.

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Atlanta Hawks and John Jenkins Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto



The Atlanta Hawks and free agent guard John Jenkins have agreed to a training camp deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Jenkins will give Atlanta 20 players heading into training camp.

Jenkins drew interest from several other teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

The 26-year-old guard began his career in Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 23rd overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 draft. For his career, Jenkins has averaged 5.1 points in 12.8 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field overall and 36 percent from beyond the arc.

For more information on Atlanta’s salary cap and roster situation, click here.

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Golden State Warriors 2017-18 Season Preview

The Golden State Warriors remain the cream of the NBA crop, even after several franchises went all in this offseason. Can anyone really beat the Warriors in a seven-game series? We look at the Warriors in this final NBA season preview.

Basketball Insiders



After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were highly favored to win the 2016-17 championship with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant. In the Warriors’ third straight Finals match up with Cavaliers, Golden State, with plenty of help from Durant, over-matched Cleveland in last season’s NBA Finals. This year, with Durant taking a pay cut, the team did a masterful job of bringing back just about all of the key players from last year’s championship run. Now the team is primed to wreak havoc on the league once again.


It’s almost comical at this point how the best team in basketball keeps getting better.

After adding Kevin Durant last summer, and then completely decimating the entire NBA, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the Golden State Warriors did was go out and add two players in Omri Casspi and Nick Young who almost perfectly fit their brand of “you’re not out-shooting us” basketball.

The powers of the NBA all shuffled around their rosters this season in hopes of trying to assemble some type of “anti-Warriors” remedy, and when it’s all said and done, those moves will be all for naught. Expect Golden State to ride their legendary roster to another NBA title.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

What do you need me to say about the Warriors that you don’t already know? Two of the best five players in the league are on the roster, as well as arguably the top defensive player in the league and a cast of reserves that fit perfectly with the superstars running the show. Even JaVale McGee is shooting three pointers now. The Warriors are unstoppable and in some ways even better than the team that won a championship a few months ago. It’s going to be a long season for every other team in the league. They’re all playing for second place.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

The road to the NBA Finals obviously goes through Oakland, especially after the club managed to re-sign JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Nick Young will give the team some additional firepower, but they probably don’t even need it.

So long as these guys stay healthy, they’ll probably find their way to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and with the Clippers having lost Chris Paul, the Warriors should have a relatively easy time winning the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year.

I’m usually longer-winded than that, but I’m not sure much else needs to be said about the Warriors.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

At this point, what’s really left to say? The Warriors had arguably the best basketball team ever assembled last season, and that was while dealing with minor role concerns and dealing with Kevin Durant’s midseason injury. Then they went out and improved this offseason, adding the likes of Omri Casspi and Nick Young as perfect end-of-roster pieces. Combine that with what most would expect will be even better fit and chemistry across the roster this season, and the Warriors stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league even with several squads making big power moves to try and bridge the gap. Anything but a third title in four years will fail to do justice to the incredible, historical talent on this roster.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The best team in the NBA went out and retained key players and signed Omri Casspi and Nick Young to round out the roster. As has been the case for several years now, the Warriors enter the upcoming season with the most overall talent, improved chemistry, good health and every ingredient necessary to win an NBA championship. Several other contenders pulled off some impressive moves to try and bridge the gap between themselves and the Warriors, but Golden State still holds the advantage against every other team in the league. So long as the Warriors are playing up to their potential, or anywhere near it, the other contenders are out of luck. Unless the Warriors face some serious injuries this upcoming season or some internal discord, we should expect them to win their third championship in four seasons.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte


Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant

Don’t knock me for not clearly choosing a single player here. The individual excellence of both Stephen Curry and Durant cannot be stated enough. While Curry’s statistics did take a bit of a step back from the year prior, he still led the way for the Warriors last season. Last year, Curry led the team in points per game (by a slim margin), three-pointers made, assists and usage percentage. Keep in mind, Durant was excellent but Curry still commanded the offense for the most part. However, Durant was right on Curry’s heels and in the playoffs actually slightly surpassed Curry in points per game. In addition, Durant remains as tough to cover one-on-one as anyone in the league. Regardless, both players are unbelievable individual talents and would easily be the top offensive player on just about any other team.

Top Defensive Player: Draymond Green

For the foreseeable future, Draymond Green has this category on lockdown for the Warriors. Green uses a combination of length, strength, timing and sneaky athleticism to smother his opponents. Green’s versatility allows him to guard a range of positions in the post and switch to guard guards and forwards on the wing effectively as well. His versatility is the lynchpin of the Warrior’s vaunted death line up that uses Green at center and brings Iguodala off the bench to close games. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race came down to Green and Utah center Rudy Gobert. In the end, Green’s versatility as well as his ability to guard the rim effectively made him the top choice in voters’ minds. Expect Green to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year this upcoming season as well.

Top Playmaker: Stephen Curry

When the Warriors added Durant to the roster, many wondered, even for a team as unselfish as the Warriors, how would Stephen Curry and Durant manage to share the ball? That question was answered when Curry took a step back and allowed Durant’s individual offensive brilliance to shine. Curry’s points per game dropped (30.1 to 25.3) as did his usage percentage (32.0 to 29.2). Curry’s individual excellence continued regardless as he remained the Warriors’ top distributor (followed closely by Draymond Green). In addition, Curry garners so much attention that his simple presence on the court creates more room for teammates to operate. Curry’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and willingness to make the extra pass to teammates makes him a nightmare to cover and the Warriors’ top playmaker.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry

Once again, you could give this award to either of the Warrior’s two best offensive players. Curry dominates most of the advanced statistics when breaking down clutch play, defined as the last minutes of a game within 5 point or less, per However, based on Durant’s size, length and ability to get off a shot in isolation, he makes for an excellent clutch player in just about any situation. Either is an extraordinary option and their play in crunch time continues to be critical to their championship fortunes.

The Unheralded Player: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a phenomenal talent who does a number of things well. He’s an unbelievable three-point shooter and defends elite point guards to alleviate the pressure on Curry. For a team with two elite offensive players, having Thompson as your third option on offense is just unfair to the rest of the league. Thompson lights up the league with his ability to hit outside shots without needing to dominate the ball. Don’t just count on Thompson to score as he takes pride in his defense and his ability to lockdown on defense.

Best New Addition: Omri Casspi

Overall, the Warriors have had an unbelievable stretch of luck when it comes to injuries, which will hopefully rub off on Omri Casspi this season. With his length, versatility and the ability to stretch the floor, he can slide into either forward spot. His addition strengthens the team’s ability to survive the grind of the regular season and lessen the minutes of the starters. Casspi fills a lot of needs for several teams that are looking to challenge the Warriors, so simply keeping him away from those teams is an added benefit to his signing.

– James Blancarte


1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr continues to be the perfect coach for this team. He helps to keep the players focused on their individual roles within the larger team structure and has so far prevented major dissension and discord. Kerr took the team that Mark Jackson previously coached and helped to transform the team into champions. Credit is deserved for his part in successfully orchestrating the move of former All-Star Iguodala to a bench role and meshing Durant’s individual brilliance with the Warriors’ pre-existing, pass-happy offense. Kerr has missed significant time due to his botched spinal surgery, but if he can manage his health, count on Kerr to keep the Warriors a well-oiled machine.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young is a player that has had an up-and-down career. Credit Young for carving out a relatively successful career as a journeyman three-point shooting wing. Keeping Young focused and unlocking his full range of talents has been difficult for many organizations. The Warriors are up next and will give the 11th year pro an opportunity to do what he does best — knocking down three-pointers. As a career 37.6 percentage three-point shooter, Young will have a chance to get more open looks from distance than he has previously in his career. Like JaVale McGee, Young will also have a chance to transform his reputation if he proves to be a disciplined, effective contributor to a championship team.

3. Jordan Bell

What’s the perfect piece for a rebuilding team in need of young talent to build around? Jordan Bell, selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft), is just that sort of player. The Warriors acquired the pick from the Chicago Bulls for cash consideration. The Bulls loss is the Warriors gain as hopes are high for the young talent from the University of Oregon. The Warriors will take their time with the 6-foot-9 forward and hope that he will build on and develop his defensive talents and one day be a reliable contributor for Golden State.

4. Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston is many years removed from the knee injury that nearly ended his professional career. While Livingston has played for nine teams in his career, he continues to be loyal to the Warriors, the team with which he has experienced the most success post-injury. Livingston continues to do whatever the team requires as he slides into either guard slot when needed and provides reliable production from the bench. Opposing backup point guards often get caught being posted up by the lengthy 6-foot-7 guard. Count Livingston as another essential cog who will do whatever it takes to help the Warriors win at all costs.

– James Blancarte


The Warriors are a major spender at $135.4 million in guaranteed salary, resulting in at least $32 million in luxury taxes. Golden State used its Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to sign Nick Young at $5.2 million for a season. Having re-signed on one-year deals, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee can block any trades.

Before November, the Warriors need to decide on 2018-19 team options for Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. Next summer, Kevin Durant can opt out again but now the team has his Early Bird Rights and the ability to give him a raise in the $35 million range. The Warriors seem willing to pay for a winner but for how long as luxury taxes grow progressively as the team gradually becomes a repeat offender?

– Eric Pincus


This team continues to have everything you could want in a modern NBA team. An electric point guard who is nearly unstoppable, a 3-and-D wing with a killer three-point shot, an unstoppable one-on-one player who can score from anywhere, a dominant and flexible defensive forward who can play center and a defensive wing who is a great glue guy. That’s just the five players that are normally used to close out games. The rest of the roster has a number of key contributors ready to do whatever the team needs. Oh, and they also have a great coach to keep everyone on the same page. With all the pieces a team could want, expect the Warriors to again push a possible record-breaking pace in the regular season on their way to the playoffs and likely the Finals.

– James Blancarte


The easiest answer here is none. Eventually the injury bug might hit the Warriors but for now they have everything they could want to continue their excellent play. Perhaps some players may lose a sense of urgency in the regular season after breaking records and dominating the last few seasons, though that seems unlikely. On paper, this team is not afflicted by any major weaknesses.

– James Blancarte


Can anyone stop the Warriors?

Other teams continue to make moves to get better. On September 23, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded agreed to terms on a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. With that move, count the Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers as the biggest potential obstacles in the Warriors’ path to repeat. One of these teams may beat them, but the Warriors are the heavy favorites and the team most likely to win the championship next year.

– James Blancarte

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