The NBA is often called a young man’s game. Every year 60 more players get drafted and teams scramble to lock up the best of the rest. With only 450 jobs to go around, that makes for a lot of turnover every summer. However, if one looks closer at the best teams in the NBA, year-after-year, there will be more than a few long term veterans making a difference, which begs the question, just how good could a team of all 35(+)-year-olds be and could they actually win an NBA Championship?
The NBA actually has an “Over-36” rule where certain contracts that extend past a player’s 36th birthday are deemed likely to continue after the player retires. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and others should thank the NBA for the vote of confidence? It causes contracts that start before a player turns 36 and run after that age to be considered a kind of loophole that needs to be closed, but just maybe its time to rethink things?
There are a lot of players who will be 35-years-old or older in the upcoming season and if one starts to think about the players in that “aging” group, it might be possible to create two contending teams.
A 15-man roster made up of these all-too-familiar names would be pretty impressive:
PG: Kirk Hinrich (35 in January), Manu Ginobili (37), Steve Blake (35)
SG: Kobe Bryant (36), Joe Johnson (35 in June), Jamal Crawford (35)
SF: Paul Pierce (37), Kyle Korver (35 in March), Vince Carter (38)
PF: Dirk Nowitzki (37), David West (35), Luis Scola (35)
C: Tim Duncan (39), Pau Gasol (35), Kevin Garnett (39)
I’d be careful about calling these guys the all-washed-up team.
Some of the other guys in the over 35 and over club include: Mike Dunleavy (35 in September), James Jones (35 in October), Nick Collison (35 in October), Matt Barnes (35), Udonis Haslem (35), Tayshaun Prince (35), Mike Miller (35) and the list goes on, plus there will be some big names joining the group next year.
While some of these players have seen their stats tail off in recent years, there is more than enough defense and firepower in a roster of all 35-year-olds to quite literally intimidate most of the teams in the NBA today.
Bryant playing with a bunch guys he respects could be one of the league’s most potent offensive players and as this may be his last NBA season, there are a lot of people hoping he comes back from injury, stays healthy and doesn’t retire. Johnson can still beat up most shooting guards in the post and Crawford remains instant offense. What team could control this group of scorers?
At small forward, Pierce remains Mr. Clutch as long as you don’t over play him. Korver can soak up big minutes and with this group a 50/50/90 season of shooting would seem inevitable. Vince Carter isn’t as good as he once was, but he can be as good once (or twice) per game as he ever was and he’s third string here.
At power forward, Nowitzki is still playing starter’s minutes and producing. West still provides that intimidating force inside and Scola is just itching to getting back to starter’s minutes in Toronto this year.
Having both Duncan and Gasol at center on the same team just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the league. Garnett probably finds his mean streak and passion for one more season with a group like this.
The only real problem with creating a team of 35 (and older)-year-olds would be a lack of minutes to go around. The NBA is really a veterans’ league and the young guys coming in had better respect their elders.
Win a championship? Perhaps the better questions would be who could stop them? And who would you rather watch play?