NBA AM: Upcoming NBA Milestones


With a new season approaching, it’s always fun to see which active players have a chance to climb up the all-time statistical ranks. The 2016-17 NBA season presents several of these opportunities for players. While few actual all-time records will be broken in the coming year, quite a few active players will rise up the all-time stat list before the end of the season. The following is a look at which players will move up the career statistics lists, though it’s certainly worth noting that should Kevin Garnett retire instead of playing one more season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, this list grows considerably less interesting.

However, assuming another season of Garnett is still in play, it would mean he’s in line for a whole lot of movement on some of the most important career statistical categories:

Seasons Played: Kevin Garnett

Even if Garnett walks away from basketball, his 21 seasons played in the NBA will leave him in a tie for the most seasons played all-time. Adding a 22nd season, which would only require a single game out of him at some point in 2016-17, would give him sole control of the record.

Career Games Played: Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Vince Carter

At the start of this season, Garnett currently sits fifth all-time in career games played, only 14 games behind Karl Malone for fourth place and 42 games behind John Stockton for third place. He can’t catch Kareem-Abdul Jabbar for second place unless Garnett goes two more full seasons, as Kareem is 98 games ahead of Garnett. And Robert Parish has 149 games on Garnett, leaving his record safe for now. Garnett played 38 games last season and 47 games the season before, so there is real drama as to whether he’ll catch Stockton this year.

Nowitzki, meanwhile, is currently 12th in games played with 1,340, only six games behind Kobe Bryant for 11th and 40 games behind Clifford Robinson for a spot in the top 10. If he plays 53 games or more, he’ll slide into seventh place, just ahead of Tim Duncan. He wouldn’t rise any higher than that without playing at least another full season after this one.

Pierce (15th) is 62 games away from a top-10 appearance. Jason Terry (23rd) could jump to as high as 11th with a perfectly healthy season, and Vince Carter (26th) is only four games away from cracking the top-25.

Career Minutes Played: Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Joe Johnson

While it doesn’t look like Garnett (rhird) will move much on the list of career minutes played as he sits almost 4,500 minutes behind Karl Malone, Nowitzki is only 119 minutes behind Tim Duncan for 10th place on the list. In fact, if he plays his usual 2,000 or so minutes this year, he’ll end up in sixth place, just a shade behind Elvin Hayes. Another full season after that could easily see him leapfrog Garnett for third.

Pierce, meanwhile, is only 101 minutes behind Parish for 15th place, and with another season of 1,200-1,500 minutes he could potentially jump a few more spots. Carter (23rd) and Johnson (24th) are only 150 minutes apart, but both guys could easily find themselves among the top-20 by the end of the season.

Career Three-Pointers: Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Jamal Crawford, Kyle Korver, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, J.R. Smith, Stephen Curry

So here’s a fun fact: Ten of the top 20 all-time career leaders in three-point field goals made are active NBA players, and as of last season it was 11 thanks to Kobe Bryant. Curry, who made a record 402 three-pointers last season, is going to make a ton of progress on this list in the upcoming year no matter what everybody else does. Even if he regresses next season, it’s almost impossible to imagine him failing to drop in somewhere around 300 triples, which could move him up as many as 10 spots on the list of career three-pointers made. He’s a little over halfway to breaking Ray Allen’s record 2,973 career three-pointers, but based on Curry’s current pace that would only take about four or five more seasons to shatter.

Terry, meanwhile, won’t be making 391 three-pointers, which is what he’d need to jump from third to second place all-time, but he may have to fend off Pierce to hold onto third place since he’s only 41 threes behind Terry. While Pierce made a career-low 75 last year, that still will be enough to put some pressure on Terry.

Everybody else on the list is chasing Jason Kidd, who retired with 1,988 threes made. Carter (1,937), Crawford (1,933), Korver (1,887) and Johnson (1,832) could all potentially surpass Kidd this season.

Career Assists: Chris Paul, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Tony Parker

Paul is fewer than 300 career assists behind Rod Strickland for 10th place, which based on Paul’s past work means he’ll surpass Strickland sometime around January. James, meanwhile, is currently 18th all-time but with his usual 500 or so assists he could easily jump up to about 12th place all-time.

Deron Williams is currently 24th all-time with 6,459 assists, but is only a few hundred dimes away from cracking the top 20. The same is true for Tony Parker, who sits 28th all-time with 6,349 assists.

Career Rebounds: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard

Garnett is the only active player with anything close to legendary status in terms of career rebounds, as he sits ninth right now with 14,662 all-time. Unfortunately, he’s probably only good for a couple hundred boards at best this year if he does play, which wouldn’t be enough to catapult him much up the rankings. He could catch Parish, as Garnett is only 53 rebounds behind him for eighth place, but he’s 306 behind Karl Malone for seventh. It doesn’t seem likely Garnett will catch Malone.

As for Howard (27th), he looks primed to crack the top-25 this season, as he’s only 314 rebounds behind Elgin Baylor for 25th place. He also could catch Patrick Ewing, who’s only got another 144 rebounds. Considering Howard typically hauls in around 600 boards when healthy, he could easily finish the season in 24th place all-time in total rebounds.

Career Steals: Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, LeBron James

With Kobe Bryant retired, Garnett is the new active leader in steals, but he’s only 66 ahead of Paul, who’s a single spot behind him on the list and last season swiped away about 125 more steals than Garnett did in limited minutes. Paul should easily surpass Garnett this season and also should move ahead of Isiah Thomas, Bryant and maybe even Derek Harper. That would put him at 13th all-time by season’s end, with enough good years left to make a real run at Jason Kidd, who finished second all-time with 2,684 steals. John Stockton (3,265) is going to be much harder to catch.

As for Paul Pierce, he’s only 11 steals behind Shawn Marion for 18th place, but probably won’t get much higher than that. James, meanwhile, usually averages between 100-130 steals a season, which would be enough to boost him from 24th on the career steals list to as high as 18th. He, too, could top Marion this year.

Career Blocks: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol

Garnett only swatted away 10 shots last year, a far cry from his career-high 178 blocks in 2003-04. That means he isn’t climbing the all-time list, even though he’s only 45 blocks behind George Johnson for 16th place and 49 blocks behind Manute Bol for 15th place.

Dwight Howard, however, could make some progress. Currently 21st all-time with 1,824 blocks, Howard almost certainly will pass Elton Brand (1,828) and could catch up to Theo Ratliff, who currently sits at 1,968. Either way, he’s cracking the top-20 this season.


Records are meant to be broken, and while none of the big career records look as though they’ll be topped this season, a lot of active players (including some legendary stars) may continue their climb up their respective stat leaderboards.


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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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