As we’ve covered in this space many times over the years, Father Time is undefeated with all wins by vicious knockout for those chosen few who dare throw in the towel. But there are players around the league who are able to still produce at (or near) an All-Star levels despite aging.
As we head into training camp for the 2016-17 campaign, there are more than a few guys who fit this bill.
Let’s take a look at some players around the association who should be able to fight off the unfavorable impact of Father Time for at least one more season in order to play at a high level.
Jamal Crawford, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
Age: 36, turns 37 in March
Crawford is coming off of a strong season in which he won his third Sixth Man of the Year award and he isn’t showing many signs of slowing down anytime soon. Crawford doesn’t get into the lane and cause havoc as much as he did earlier in his career, but his elite ball-handling ability has been more than enough to create outside shot opportunities at will. At times, Crawford is a one-man offensive attack and a late in the shot clock fail safe.
The Clippers enter the season looking to get into the title contention picture and Crawford will be an integral piece off the bench if Los Angeles truly has any shot to break into the league’s elite.
Dwyane Wade, Guard, Chicago Bulls
Age: 34, turns 35 in January
It is going to be a bit strange seeing Wade play in another uniform outside of Miami, but this isn’t a case of an old veteran who can no longer produce looking to be an end-of-the-bench mentor. Yes, Wade has slowed down, but he is still producing at a very high level. Last season, the veteran guard averaged 19 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor. Think about this: What are considered to be Wade’s declining years would be good enough to be a career-year for most players in the league.
As Wade has gotten older, the veteran has been in much better condition physically and has adjusted his game. He’s no longer a high-flyer who plays with reckless abandon. Now, he plays with a more mature style, knocking down mid-range jumpers and slashing when necessary. It still remains to be seen what his role will be in Chicago next to All-Star guard Jimmy Butler in the lineup, but Wade is still a guy more who is than capable of putting up 20-plus points per night if needed.
Pau Gasol, Forward, San Antonio Spurs
Just a couple seasons ago, Gasol heard his name in the trade rumors on a daily basis while finishing up his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers. It seemed as if Gasol’s days as one of the league’s better big men were numbered. But in the two seasons since leaving the Lakers, Gasol has played at an All-Star level and has re-established himself as a key contributor who can really help a team.
This season, Gasol heads to San Antonio where the Spurs need his presence even more due to the retirement of future Hall of Fame forward Tim Duncan. Gasol will be paired next to All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the lineup, which will take some pressure off of the veteran on most nights. But don’t get it twisted, Gasol is still more than capable of putting up double-doubles on a nightly basis.
Dirk Nowitzki, Forward, Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki continues to get it done, even though his supporting cast hasn’t been the strongest in recent seasons. It seems as though the Mavericks have been searching for years to put another elite-level talent next to Nowitzki in the lineup, but those efforts have largely come up empty.
No matter, because Nowitzki continues to lead Dallas to the playoffs and is still putting together better statistical campaigns then players who are much younger than him (and have much more hype around them, at this point).
While Father Time will ultimately claim the players listed above, it is important that we step back and appreciate what we’re seeing from these guys who have managed to still be among the best at their craft even as they approach their mid-to-late 30s.
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