With Steph Curry dominating, Paul George returning from injury stronger than ever, and the aging Kobe Bryant on his way out, it is clear that the NBA is a young man’s league.
With all the youthful talent on display, it is still important to remember the former all-stars who have adopted bench positions or career role players logging meaningful minutes for contending teams.
On the heels of our impact youngsters edition, this week we focus on each team’s biggest ‘senior’ contributor in the latest instalment of the Power Rankings.
Leandro Barbosa: He might not be referred to as the ‘Brazilian Blur’ anymore, but Barbosa remains a capable three-point shooter and still has the ability to put the ball on the floor at age 33.
Tim Duncan: Honourable mentions to Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker, but Duncan remains the heart and soul of the Spurs even as he approaches 40.
Richard Jefferson: Once a star and now a journeyman, Jefferson has been a nice piece for Cleveland, logging over 20 minutes per game and providing some floor spacing to help LeBron do his thing.
Jamal Crawford: Seemingly always in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, Crawford’s 2015-16 scoring numbers aren’t what we’re typically used to seeing. However, he’s still capable of dropping 20-plus points off the bench on any given night.
Nick Collison: The only Thunder player over age 30 who actually sees playing time regularly, Collison’s numbers have dropped as Father Time catches up with him. He still chips in on the glass and provides solid defence when called upon, though.
Luis Scola: Scola has been everything the Raptors have wanted him to be in his first year north of the border. The 35-year-old has started every game so far, averaging around 10 points and six rebounds per night. He’s also a good locker-room presence for a team that does not have another player older than 29.
Kyle Korver: After years of being the most proficient three-point shooter in the NBA, Korver has proven to be mortal as he is shooting an un-Korver-like 35 per cent from beyond the arc this season. That’s the lowest percentage of his career. Despite the cold stretch, he’s still a key cog in the Hawks’ team-oriented offence.
Pau Gasol: The Bulls are undoubtedly Jimmy Butler’s team now, but at age 35, Gasol is still averaging a double-double thanks to his smooth jumper and impressive post moves.
Dwyane Wade: An 11-time all-star, Wade is still producing at a high level while staying surprisingly healthy. ‘The Flash’ is probably a nickname he’s grown out of as he nears his 34th birthday later this month.
Dirk Nowitzki: Dirk may not have the hops at age 37, as evidenced by his embarrassing rim stuff last week, but he can still pile up the points in his 18th season thanks to his silky shooting.
Monta Ellis: Ellis’s first year in Indiana hasn’t gone so well as his scoring output is the worst since his rookie season. He’s the only Pacers player in his 30s, so there was no other choice here.
Steve Blake: His playing time has taken a hit since Brandon Jennings’ return, but Blake did an admirable job as the backup point guard for the surprising Pistons.
Matt Barnes: Another defence-first player on the wing, Barnes has been fine but underwhelming in his debut season with the Grizzlies. He’s shooting 40 per cent from the floor, but 50 per cent from two-point range. Simple math says his three-point shot is failing him.
Channing Frye: The Magic’s strength lies in the hands of their youth, with their best players all 25 or younger. That being said, Frye is the team’s starting power forward, helping open things up down low for Nik Vucevic with his strong three-point shooting.
Amir Johnson: Johnson is only 28 years old, but is already in his 11th NBA season after being drafted out of high school. Transitioning to a new team, the forward’s per-36-minute numbers are pretty much right in line with his career norms.
Jason Terry: The 38-year-old Terry is taking less shots per game than ever before, but his 46 per cent mark from the floor is his best since the 2008-09 season. He remains a deadly long-distance shooter as well.
Jose Calderon: The definition of steady, Calderon has started every game for the Knicks so far this season. He’s entering the tail end of his career, but he is still a smart decision maker and effective shooter from any range.
N/A: Utah’s elder statesman is the 28-year-old Trevor Booker, but all its impact players (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum) are 25 or younger.
Nene: Nene is still being eased into action after returning from a calf issue that kept him out for 19 games. The reserve big man should provide a boost to an underachieving Wizards team.
Al Jefferson: The oldest player on the Hornets, Jefferson’s best days are clearly in the rear-view mirror, but he remains productive. Big Al’s knee injury is a big blow to a skidding Hornets squad still looking to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Chris Kaman: The fourth-youngest roster in the NBA, Portland’s plan is clear after losing pretty much all of their key players in the off-season. Kaman does not fit into those plans, and has played a grand total of 53 minutes this year. Maybe the Blazers can fetch something in a trade involving the 33-year-old.
Nobody: Caron Butler is the only guy on the roster over the age of 29, but he really has no impact on the outcomes of games at this stage of his career.
Kendrick Perkins: Perkins is far removed from the player who helped the Celtics contend for championships years ago, but at least he has playoff experience to bring to the table, right?
Jason Kidd: With no logical choice on the roster, we’ll go with coach Kidd. Would it really shock anyone all that much if the ex-point guard laced up the kicks for a game?
Jameer Nelson: Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay is finally back after being on the shelf for 14 games, but Nelson filled in admirably in his absence. The veteran point guard is averaging eight points and five assists per game this season.
Tyson Chandler: The trainwreck Suns probably aren’t the team Chandler thought he was joining when he signed a four-year deal back in July. The defensive anchor is putting up some of the worst numbers of his career across the board and isn’t getting the minutes he’s used to.
Joe Johnson: Johnson’s albatross of a contract is finally coming off the books after this season, which is the best thing for the Nets moving forward. Reports are also surfacing that Brooklyn may buy out the former all-star after the trade deadline.
Kevin Garnett: Minnesota didn’t bring Garnett back for his on-court production, they did it to provide a mentor for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and to inject a dose of nostalgia for the fan base. Mission accomplished.
Kobe Bryant: One of the greatest players of all time is on his farewell tour. This choice is the most obvious of all.
Elton Brand: Brand came out of retirement at age 36 to rejoin a young 76ers squad in need of a strong locker-room presence. Brand may not help out on the court, but his work mentoring Jahlil Okafor could be invaluable.