With Steve Nash soon turning 39-years old and heading to the Los Angeles Lakers this week, it got us thinking about free agents in the twilight of their careers. Here’s a list of some of the oldest and most memorable free agents. We’ll also take a look at how these players are able to remain relevant for so long in a league starving for youth, speed, and even more youth.
First off, we have Nash. Nash went for 12.5 points per game and 10.7 assists per game last season. He reportedly went for the price tag of $27 million for 3 years — not bad for a 39-year-old. Nash is a fierce competitor with multiple league MVP awards. He appears to still have his quickness and outside shot and the Lakers believe he’s got at least three more years in his tank. His downside is mediocre defense.
One of the oldest free agents of all-time was Kevin Willis, who was 44-years old going into his final year that brought him to the Mavs. His production was low that year with only 2.4 points per game, but he was still in amazing shape. Willis’ longevity can be attributed to the incredible shape he maintained throughout all of his years in the NBA. He was truly one of the best-conditioned players ever.
Next up is current free agent Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics. He’s 37-years old, but still managed to go for 14 points per game on 45 percent shooting from downtown. At this point in his career he is seen as a role player with high integrity and a deadly outside shot. He could be a great fit for teams that have a strong inside presence, either with the drive or post-up game. Allen and the Heat make sense both because Allen would like another ring and the Heat’s offense could benefit from a reliable deep threat to spread the floor. With Allen’s current style of ball being largely relegated to the perimeter, he could be in the league another five years.
Let’s not forget Dikembe Mutombo, one of the best defensive players and shot-blockers of all-time This ageless wonder was a 41-year old free agent picked up by the Houston Rockets and still managed 1.2 blocks per game in his last season in the NBA. He again was a high integrity guy that was viewed as a solid role player that was capable of fitting into the Rockets defensive scheme.
The last free agent on our list is Jason Kidd. He’s 39-years old and put up six points per game, four rebounds per game, and five assists per game last season for the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd stands 6’4” and 210 pounds. His size has helped him go deep into his career and he can still have an impact, but he is more and more becoming a liability on defense just like Ray Allen. He might have another year or two, but his time is coming to an end soon.
The dominant characteristic of all these players and most NBA ballers that have long careers is the ability to transition from being the go-to-guy on the court to role players.
Some players can’t make that transition — like Allen Iverson, who ended up sitting at home wondering why the league passed him by. It’s because a guy like Iverson can’t comprehend being a role player.
We see guys like Derek Fisher fitting in well with the Thunder because they are so young and thirst for senior leadership. Just as the NBA continues to get younger and faster, there will always be a place for veteran leadership.
Photo Credit: AP