The NBA Playoffs are here. Growing up in Chicago, this has always been the most exciting time of the year for me. How could it not be? We knew that Jordan, Scottie, and the rest of the Bulls were going to win us a championship. It was the inevitable conclusion. I gloated in my childhood, spoiled from the immaculacy that was Air Jordan.
Those days eventually came to an end, like all things must. Jordan and Phil left, and within one off-season everything changed. That’s how fast things happen in the NBA. Players age, and then, well, then the magic stops. It’s like what my Dad says when we play 1-on1, “I know what to do. My mind tells my body what to do, to which my body replies, ‘Yeah, right’.”
That being said, there are still some Old-heads hanging on by a thread, clocking decent minutes with playoff teams. How vital are they to their team? Read on and find out.
(To make this list the NBA player has to be over 35 years old, have played in 42 games, and clock in between 11 to 23 minutes per game. A vital elder should have played in over half his team’s games (Udonis Haslem at 37 games played doesn’t make the cut). For the purpose of this list, he can’t be too vital though. So, he has to play nearly a quarter, but less than a half. Those who exceed two quarters like Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan don’t make the cut.)
Ranked in order of importance based off the needs of their team:
8. Jason Terry, Houston Rockets (72 games played, 17.5 minutes per game) – With the return of Patrick Beverly, Terry’s role with this year’s Houston Rockets has diminished. Terry played 72 games this year, but only offered 6 points and 1.4 assist per game. He doesn’t have much to offer but veteran leadership, and that’s too bad, because Houston is going to need all hands on deck to handle the hot Warriors. This first round series, pitting last year’s Western Conference Final’s teams against each other again, won’t be nearly as entertaining this time around.
7. Paul Pierce, Los Angeles Clippers (68 games played, 18.1 minutes per game) – The Truth’s minutes have decreased this year, and his production is down. He’s shooting the worst field goal percentage of his career this year. All that being said, there’s something magnetizing about the former NBA champion. He lifted the Washington Wizards in last year’s playoffs, and they certainly missed his leadership this year. The playoffs are when Paul Pierce shines bright. Let’s see if he has another “This is why I’m here” moment.
6. Steve Blake, Detroit Pistons (58 games played, 17 minutes per game) – Blake is definitely the elder statesman of the team, but he’s won on large stages before. With the departure of Brandon Jennings, who played 23 games for Detroit this year, Blake has shouldered more responsibilities. Blake will have to play well as the Pistons will take on the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers. While on the second unit, Blake will have to play against the scrappy Matthew Dellavedova. He’ll need to run the offense efficiently while under duress, as Dellavedova is a grinder.
5. David West, San Antonio Spurs (78 games played, 18 minutes per game) – West came to the Spurs for one reason, to win a championship. His ability to shoot from the elbow opens up the post for Aldridge and Duncan to operate without the double team. His numbers are down, as his role has diminished from his days as a Pacer, but he can still be effective. For the Spurs to win the championship, which means they’d likely have to beat the Warriors, they’ll need West to effectively stretch the floor with his jumper.
4. Richard Jefferson, Cleveland Cavaliers (74 games played, 17.9 minutes per game) – Jefferson isn’t the player he once was when he was a part of the trio of Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin who led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back championship games, but he can still be effective. Jefferson can be a decent catch-and-shooter when open, and his seasoned demeanor brings a calm to the second unit. They’ll need him to play well, because well, does anybody trust J.R. Smith in the playoffs?
3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (58 games played, 20 minutes per game) – Manu has diminished over the last few years. As a matter-of-fact, I thought he was completely washed up a couple years ago, but Popovich has a way of getting everything more out of his players. If the Spurs want to beat OKC and the Warriors, Ginobili will need to play well. Like Boris Diaw, Ginobili is an excellent passer. His creativity has always been top-notch.
2. Luis Scola, Toronto Raptors (76 games played, 21.5 minutes per game) – Scola is a grinder. He played and started 76 games this season. He shot 45% from the field, and 40% from three-point range. That opens up the post for Valancinuas, and driving lanes for Lowry and Derozan. Nuff’ said.
1.Vince Carter, Memphis Grizzlies (60 games played, 16.75 minutes per game) – There was an interesting factoid I saw earlier this NBA season. At 38 years old, Vince Carter still outjumps young studs like Andrew Wiggins. That’s incredible. He’s truly half-man, half-amazing. Unfortunately, for the depleted Grizzlies to get pass the first round, they’ll need Carter to be all-amazing against the Spurs. And even if he is all-amazing…the Grizzlies are probably getting swept.
These eight players have defied Father-Time, sort of. Even though they aren’t the players they used to be, they still have a lot to offer, and if their teams plan on winning a championship, no matter how bleak those chances may be (Memphis Grizzlies), they need these relics to play well. Thank you for the great memories OG’s and I look forward to watching you in the playoffs!
Keep Getting’ Them Checks Grandpa!