Every season, NBA players do incredible things, but few are as impressive as the long-term achievements of those active hoops legends that somehow have dominated the league over long stretches of time. While players like Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter appear on some very prestigious all-time lists despite waning abilities, others like Chris Paul and LeBron James are in the twilights of their careers and still are moving their way up all-time stat lists, perhaps with eyes on the top spots in some categories.
The following is a look at which milestones are ahead for NBA stars this season. With some all-time greats moving into the back ends of their careers (or in some cases, the way-back ends of their careers), the all-time stat lists are bound to see some big movement in 2017-2018. The following are the career milestones we can expect to see this season:
Dirk Nowitzki is 1,159 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlin for 5th on the all-time NBA scoring list. Nowitzki would need to score 14.1 points per game for 82 games to surpass him, which doesn’t seem likely considering he only played just over 50 games last season, so while it isn’t impossible, it also doesn’t seem like Nowitzki will quite get there.
LeBron James, currently 9th all-time in total points, should easily surpass Moses Malone and Julius Erving this season, and it’s not impossible that he passes Nowitzki, too, depending on Dirk’s health. At worst, James should finish the season 7th on the all-time scoring list. At best, James could finish in 5th, ahead of Nowitzki and Chamberlin, if he scores 32 points per game for all 82 games.
Vince Carter, currently 27th on the all-time scoring list, is only 387 points away from moving into the top 25 scorers of all time. He scored 584 points last year in Memphis, so he could easily hop over Patrick Ewing and Artis Gilmore on the list this year.
While no one knows where Carmelo Anthony (30th on the all-time scoring list) will play next season, it seems likely he still will be asked to score quite a few points. Were he to score around 1,600 points in 2017-2018, a slight downtick from last season, he would jump nine spots on the scoring list to 21st, leapfrogging not only Ewing, Gilmore and Carter, but also Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Rick Barry and Alex English.
Dwight Howard (23rd all-time) is the active player with the most career rebounds, and he could make even more ground on those totals this year as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. In the past few seasons, Howard has hauled in somewhere between 800 and 950 rebounds, and if he repeats that in 2017-2018 it’s possible for him to finish the season as high 16th on the all-time rebounds list, passing Charles Oakley, Paul Silas, Dikembe Mutomobo, Charles Barkley, Bob Pettit, Jerry Lucas and Buck Williams. Next on the list, with 1,010 more career rebounds than Howard, is Shaquille O’Neal.
Nowtizki, meanwhile, is 31st on the all-time rebounds list. Assuming he hauls in another 300-400 boards this season, he should easily finish among the top 30 all-time, likely settling in at 29th ahead of Dan Issell and Bill Bridges.
Currently 10th all-time in career assists, Chris Paul looks primed to dole out a whole lot more of them this season in Houston. When healthy, Paul’s floor is usually around 600 dimes a season, while he’s only topped 900 assists in a season once in his career. Finishing the year with 750 would push him over 9,000 career dimes, which would jump him ahead of Andre Miller and Gary Payton on the all-time list. If Paul were to top 810 assists, he’d jump Isiah Thomas for 7th all-time as well, though he’d need another full elite season in 2018-2019 to have any sort of shot at Oscar Robertson, who currently is 6th all-time with 9,887 assists.
LeBron James is moving up the assists list, too. Currently 12th with 7.461, James could add another 500-600 assists this season, putting him over 8,000 for his career and likely moving him into the top ten on the all-time list by year’s end.
While Deron Williams could potentially retire, playing another season would potentially move him up a bit on the all-time assists list, too. Currently 19th with 6,819 assists, Williams is only 102 assists from moving up to 18th all-time. Another 38 and he’d be 17th all-time. This requires he not only land with a team but also be given enough minutes to tack on a few more, but Williams already has solidified himself among the top 20 all-time, regardless of what happens this season.
Chris Paul is currently 16th all-time in steals with 1,912. Only once has he failed to steal fewer than 115 balls in a season, and he has a couple of seasons early in his career over 200. Conservatively, Paul should be penciled in for around 150 steals this season, which would be enough to push him over 2,000 career steals and into 13th place all-time. With exactly 200 steals, Paul would finish the season tied for 10th all-time with Alvin Robertson.
LeBron James is currently 22nd all-time and usually ends up with around 100 steals per season. If he does that again, perhaps topping 115 steals this year, he could surpass Isaiah Thomas and settle in somewhere around 17th or 18th on the all-time list.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both are on the low end of the top 25 all-time for career blocks, and both should see some upward movement on that list this season. Howard (23rd all-time), has blocked between 90 and 130 shots when healthy over the last four seasons, and doing so again would get him to 2,000 blocks all-time and jump him a few spots on the all-time list. He could finish the season 20th all-time if he were to swat away 112 blocks this year.
Meanwhile Gasol, currently 25th on the list with 1,847 all-time blocks, only swatted away 70 last year in San Antonio after two seasons with 145+ as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Blocking another 100 would move him to 23rd all-time, into Howard’s old spot.
Career Games Played
Nowitzki and Carter are the only active players currently among the top 20 players all-time in terms of games played. Carter (14th all-time) could jump as high as 8th on the list this season, while Nowitzki (8th all-time) could tie Karl Malone for 4th all-time if he played all 82 games.
While watching Nowitzki and Carter this year might be as exciting as watching their athletic rookie teammates, the numbers they continue to accrue are incredible. Big milestones await for several future Hall-of-Famers this season. It’s just a matter of how much higher those numbers go.
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