Best NBA player at each age heading into 2019-20 season: Plenty of veterans still making massive impact
We often group players by their draft class, but sorting by age provides a unique look at the NBA landscape
The NBA is diverse in terms of the backgrounds of its players, but it's also diverse when it comes to age. You'd think basketball would be a young person's sport considering the level of athleticism required and the toll it takes on the body, but entering the 2019-20 season there are plenty of relatively older players still making a huge impact.
We often think of players in terms of their draft class -- who's the best player from such-and-such a draft? -- but age gives us a better indication of which players are truly the peers of another player. With that in mind, we used ourto figure out who the best player is at each age. For consistency's sake, we used the age that the player will be on Oct. 22, opening night of the regular season.
Also keep in mind that we're talking about the 2019-20 season, so any players expected to miss the entire year weren't included (in case you're wondering why we left out Kevin Durant). Got it? Here we go.
Top 100 rank: 67
With the caveat that no 19-year-olds have played in a regular-season NBA game yet, it felt safe to give the honor to Williamson, who was the top pick in June's draft and is viewed as a potential franchise-changing talent. He's the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, and enters the season as the league's top 19-year-old.
Runner-up: RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Top 100 rank: 22
The reigning Rookie of the Year is poised to take another step forward this season, this time with unicorn Kristaps Porzingis as his running mate. Doncic exceeded even the highest expectations attached to him last season as a teenager, and has the potential to be a future MVP.
Top 100 rank: 37
Tatum didn't progress quite as quickly as many thought he would last season, but the dynamics in the Boston locker room couldn't have helped matters. With another year of experience under his belt, plus some valuable time with Team USA this summer, Tatum is in position to become the Celtics' best player this season. And, as Boston fans will constantly remind you, HE'S ONLY 21 YEARS OLD!
Top 100 rank: 32
Last season Booker put up scoring, assist, rebounding and 3-point averages that have only been equaled by James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Damian Lillard -- not bad company. The Suns have finally put a capable point guard next to him in Ricky Rubio, so Booker's numbers could be even better this season.
Top 100 rank: 11
Towns is in the process of re-writing the book on what a center is capable of offensively. He shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season while putting up huge numbers in scoring, rebounding and blocks. The sky is the limit for Towns, who is ready to take on even more of a leadership role this season.
Top 100 rank: 4
Yes, the reigning NBA MVP is only 24 years old. The scariest part is that most agree that Giannis is still far away from his apex, and he's already a top-five player in the league. The bitter taste left in his mouth after the Bucks' exit from last postseason will only fuel him to get better. Barring injury, Antetokounmpo will dominate the league for years to come.
Runner-up: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Top 100 rank: 7
Embiid has been relatively healthy for the past two seasons, which has given us a glimpse of his potential on both sides of the ball. Last year he became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal in 1999-00 to average over 27 points and 13 rebounds per game, and he was sixth in the NBA in blocks per game. The case is clear for Embiid as the best 25-year-old in the league.
Top 100 rank: 5
Davis is finally in the situation he wants, and playing with LeBron James should bring the absolute best out of him -- this to say, Davis is likely due for a huge year. He's an MVP candidate and arguably the best big man in the game, so it's no surprise that he takes the prize for 26-year-olds.
Top 100 rank: 15
Say what you will about the way he handled himself in Boston last season, but Irving's talent is undeniable. One of the best ball-handlers and finishers the NBA has seen, Irving hopes to start his career anew with the Nets this season, and he'll have plenty of control of the offense with Kevin Durant expected to miss the entire season.
Top 100 rank: 2
After leading the Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi was the No. 2 player on our Top 100 list, narrowly missing out on No. 1 to LeBron. The way he's able to take over a game on both ends of the floor is unlike anyone else in the league, and he's clearly the top 28-year-old in the NBA.
Top 100 rank: 8
George took a leap from a very good player to a great player last season, finishing third in MVP voting. He's dealing with injuries to start 2019-20, but once healthy he'll be one of the most impactful two-way players in the league. He edged out fellow 29-year-old Damian Lillard by a single spot in our Top 100.
Runner-up: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Top 100 rank: 6
A perennial MVP contender, Harden is doing things in his isolation-heavy offensive attack that we've simply never seen before. His scoring outbursts last season were jaw-dropping, and he's shown no signs of slowing as a 30-year-old.
Top 100 rank: 3
Curry will have added offensive responsibility with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson out until at least the All-Star break. Luckily for the Warriors, Curry is one of the best offensive players in the history of the NBA. He's now the oldest player on Golden State's roster at 31 years old, but he's still in the heart of his prime.
Top 100 rank: 24
Conley will turn 32 during training camp, which makes him our top-ranked player at that age heading into the season. A bit lost on a floundering Memphis team last season, Conley joins a Utah squad that could make some serious noise in the Western Conference. He averaged a career-high 21.1 points per game last season.
Runner-up: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Top 100 rank: 29
Horford has aged gracefully, evolving into one of the best defensive players in the NBA while excelling from the 3-point line. He'll now become a vital piece for the revamped 76ers, who could represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals come playoff time.
Runner-up: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Top 100 rank: 1
No offense to Chris Paul and the other 34-year-olds in the league, but this one wasn't close. James was the No. 1 player in our Top 100, a remarkable feat for a player entering his 17th NBA season. The only debate left about James' career is if he will pass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time -- if he hasn't already.
Runner-up: Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
Top 100 rank: 84
Talk about aging like a fine wine. Redick averaged a career-high in points last season as a 34-year-old, and is still among the league leaders in distance run per game (nearly 2.5 miles per game last season). His shooting ability was invaluable for the 76ers and Clippers over the past several seasons, and he'll hope to do the same in his first year in New Orleans.
Runner-up: Andre Iguodala, Memphis Grizzlies
Age 36 - No 36-year-olds in NBA this season
Top 100 rank: Unranked
Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker both retired, so that leaves Chandler as the last -- and best -- 37-year-old in the league. Once one of the best lob-catchers and rim-runners in the game, Chandler is still an imposing shot-blocker and rebounder in limited minutes off the bench.
Top 100 rank: Unranked
Particularly in today's NBA, shooting is a skill that ages well -- and not many shoot it as well as Korver. He made over 38 percent of his 3-pointers last season, and should space the floor nicely for the Bucks in Mike Budenholzer's spread offensive attack.
Top 100 rank: Unranked
A surefire Hall of Famer, Gasol signed on with the Blazers to provide some depth in the middle. Still incredibly skilled, Gasol hopes to make an impact for a playoff team after an injury-riddled 2018-19 campaign.
Runner-up: Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat
Top 100 rank: Unranked
The ageless wonder rounds out the list, and this season he'll set a record when he enters his first game as the only player in NBA history to play in 22 seasons. Carter is the blueprint for a superstar adapting his game to not only survive, but thrive as he ages. He says this season will be his last, but we'll believe it when we see it.
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