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NBA / Feb 17, 2012 / 11:00 am

The Top 10 NBA Players Who Will Be Most Effective Into Their 30s

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry (Photo. Nicky Woo)

Just do yourself a favor and save the retirement home jokes for the NBA’s elite older players.

Before 35-year-old Chauncey Billups tore his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 6, he was one of a handful of guys proving NBA effectiveness isn’t tied to an age range. Even calling Phoenix’s Steve Nash (38) and Grant Hill (39) “effective” misses out that the pair are the lifeblood of an otherwise nondescript Suns season. You already know about the Celtics’ Big Three, highlighted by Ray Allen (36), who’d be my No. 1 pick to be voted most likely to play past 45.

Elsewhere in the West, Marcus Camby (37) and Kurt Thomas (39) have helped hold together the Trail Blazers with their play on the frontline. The list goes on of course, but the fact an aging Billups still leaves such a void for the contending Clippers got us thinking toward the future. We wanted to forecast: Who will be the players best suited for success in their 30s?

Here are 10…

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Kemba Walker, 21 years old: He’s only a rookie, but his toughness makes looking into the crystal ball easier. He might be a shoot-first point at heart who’s able to control with the ball in his hand, but so was Billups as a Celtic rookie. He can learn to become a more complete passer with every year; What’s not up to debate is Walker’s conditioning and aforementioned grittiness. His month-long marathon last March at UConn from Big East tourney to NCAA title showed he can push his body to the limits and never let his production slip.

Stephen Curry, 23: Touch like his from three isn’t likely to fade, and neither will he physically fall apart, thanks to his father’s precedent. Dell Curry played 1,083 games over 15 NBA seasons and will no doubt be the road map for the younger Curry’s style in the next decade or longer. His usage rating is low for a green-light scorer, averaging 23.1 in his career according to Basketball-Reference. That’s on par with Charlie Villanueva, C.J. Miles and Rudy Gay, not Kobe. It also means he’ll still get his without the ball in his hands all the time.

Kevin Love, 23: Currently making his living with the best rebounding and three-shooting combo in the league — though both would be excellent enough to stand on their own — Love’s skillset is a shoe-in for long-range success. Some might see this as a knock on his athleticism, but it’s actually a compliment to his hoops IQ. Let’s call him what he is then: an extremely intelligent player whose youth belies his ability to find just-as-effective veteran shortcuts.

Nicolas Batum, 23: In his fourth season I’m still unsure how to classify Batum’s ever-expanding game, which leads me to believe he’s got one of the highest, hidden ceilings in the league. He can dunk on you (looking at you, Wizards) or drop nine three-pointers (looking at you, Nuggets). His defense is rapidly improving and is aided by his tremendous length, and yet he’s never shot less than 45 percent in a season from the field, and averages 37 percent from three. At 23 with almost four years of experience, he’s learned the ropes of the league while still saving his legs — he averages 25 minutes per game — in the process.

Rajon Rondo, 25: Going for 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds on Sunday against Chicago foreshadows Rondo’s career going forward as Jason Kidd‘s do-it-all successor. Don’t forget, he’s learning from three of the best right now in KG, Allen and Paul Pierce. One red flag is undeniably his history of injuries, but they come from the Celtic’s bloodthirsty competitiveness and not a chronic problem. The will to win reminds me of another Boston great, Larry Bird. He played through injuries to the point where he couldn’t walk, and something tells me Rondo will be no different going forward. Plus, in measurable attriubutes, Rondo owns the sixth-best assist percentage over the past five years, and that’s a stat line that can stay consistent with age.

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  • http://www.livingcheapla.com hakasan

    amazing how many of these mentioned players have an injury history already… let’s revisit this article in 10 years and see what’s up…

  • north

    Curry is going to be bionic by the time he’s 27. For JJ to be effective “into his 30’s” he’ll have to play one more year at this level. Consider it done.

  • Phatty

    Normally I dig your articles but this seems pretty ridiculous. You’re just mentioning a bunch of young talented players. I’d also argue that small, gritty players like Kemba and Curry would have the least chance of being productive into their 30s.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    Agree with Phatty…. this was a bid idea.
    Oh well. U win some, u lose some.

  • David

    I think JJ could be effective on another team into his mid-30s easily

  • douglalr

    don’t all the player that last into their 30’s avoid contact (Nash like) or are very big (J. Kidd like)

  • http://www.bettlejuiceXs3.com Chicagorilla

    @Jay and Phatty

    I think you guys are missing the point.

    Take Curry for example. Sure he has been injury prone so far, but he still has come back and balled his a$$ off. So that means he’s killing dudes at less than 100%. Once a player gets past their prime and are well into their 30’s (34-35 or 38 like Nash) they have to learn how to play minus the athletic ability they had before.
    A guy like Russell Westbrook may never learn to play the game without his athletic ability and therefor he beceoms useless is his later years. But a guy like Steph Curry may actually pull a Steve Nash and get BETTER as he heads into his mid 30’s.

    I like the idea of this article, although i don’t agree with some of the guys (Kris Humphries is all athleticism right now, dude will suck balls when he can’t jump anymore).

  • johnsacrimoni

    As Chicagorilla mentioned, Kris Humpries is all athleticism. Rondo relies heavily on speed and can’t shoot. Curry is frail. Guys that play well at a later age are usually either very fundamentally sound or built to last physically. Deron Williams comes to mind. Love for sure. Durant, because he’ll never lose that stroke. Al Jefferson because he has so many post moves. Bosh I can definitely see. Kawhani Leonard.

  • johnsacrimoni

    Chicagorilla, I see your point about Curry having/developing a Nash-like bball IQ.