The unbeatable, undeniable nascent-dynasty Golden State Warriors might just be the best thing to happen to the NBA.
After one year of hand-wringing over the Warriors signing Kevin Durant and the inevitability of the them winning every championship, the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics have each acquired All-NBA level players over the past couple weeks with the hope of beating the NBA champions. Or at least not being swept by them in the playoffs.
The Rockets (55-27) — who had the 10th-best offense all of time last season, thanks to James Harden and a record 1,181 3-pointers — traded many players to the Clippers for Chris Paul. If coach Mike D’Antoni’s dream backcourt plays well together, the Rockets will be even better.
“It’s a weapons race in the NBA,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “You’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines.”
The Timberwolves, Thunder and Celtics are in. Minnesota coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau acquired Jimmy Butler — one of his former player with the Bulls — and Jeff Teague in separate deals. Butler, Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns (see below) make the Timberwolves one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Thunder traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis — the same players they received in exchange for Serge Ibaka one year ago — to the Pacers for Paul George. League MVP Russell Westbrook and George should lead the Thunder to 50 wins.
All the best players — including Paul Millsap, who signed with the Denver Nuggets — were headed to the Western Conference. Until last night, when Gordon Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Boston Celtics, who were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season.
The Warriors signed Stephen Curry to the richest deal in league history — five years, $201 million — and signed Kevin Durant for less than the max, which allowed them to sign Andre Iguodala for three more years.
The Warriors are clearly the best team. But others are joining the weapons race.
Here are this year’s player rankings, based only on last season.
A player’s age is his age on Feb. 1, 2017, per Basketball-Reference.
Players who have changed teams this offseason are in bold.
Age 19 | Nine players
Age 20 | 1. Myles Turner, Pacers.
Among the top 20 20-year-olds in history. He will probably make an All-Star team.
The following are the top 40 players in the league sorted by age:
Age 21 | 1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. 2. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets.
Best Age 21 seasons
1. LeBron James, 2005-06
2. Anthony Davis, 2014-15
3. Shaquille O’Neal, 1993-94
4. Kevin Durant, 2009-10
5. Michael Jordan, 1984-85
6. Karl-Anthony Towns, 2016-17
7. Tracy McGrady, 2000-01
8. Tim Duncan, 1997-98
9. Kobe Bryant, 1999-2000
10. Chris Bosh, 2005-06
Age 22 | 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks.
Age 23 | 1. Anthony Davis, Pelicans. 2. Bradley Beal, Wizards. 3. Otto Porter, Wizards.
Age 24 | 1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz. 2. Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers.
Age 25 | 1. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. 2. C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers.
Age 26 | 1. John Wall, Wizards. 2. Draymond Green, Warriors. 3. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers. 4. DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans. 5. Gordon Hayward, Celtics. 6. Paul George, Thunder. 7. Kemba Walker, Hornets. 8. Klay Thompson, Warriors.
Age 27 | 1. James Harden, Rockets. 2. Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves. 3. Isaiah Thomas, Celtics. 4. Demar DeRozan, Raptors. 5. Blake Griffin, Clippers (61 games). 6. Hassan Whiteside, Heat. 7. Eric Bledsoe, Suns.
Age 28 | 1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder. 2. Stephen Curry, Warriors. 3. Kevin Durant, Warriors (62 games). 4. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers. 5. Kevin Love, Cavaliers (60 games). 6. Jeff Teague, Timberwolves. 7. Danilo Gallinari, Clippers.
Age 29 | 1. Mike Conley, Grizzlies.
Age 30 | 1. Kyle Lowry, Raptors (60 games). 2. Goran Dragic, Heat.
Age 31 | 1. Chris Paul, Rockets (61 games). 2. Paul Millsap, Nuggets.
Age 32 | 1. LeBron James, Cavaliers. 2. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies. 16 other players.
Age 33 | 1. Andre Iguodala, Warriors. Eight other players.
Age 34 | 11 players
A complete list of the league’s old players:
Age 35 | 1. Dwyane Wade, Bulls. 2. Zach Randolph, Kings. 3. Tony Allen, Grizzlies. 4. Joe Johnson, Jazz. 5. Kyle Korver, Cavaliers. 6. Jose Calderon, Cavaliers (41 games).
Age 36 | 1. Pau Gasol, Spurs. 2. David West and Matt Barnes, Warriors. 4. Jamal Crawford, Clippers. 5. Richard Jefferson, Cavaliers. 6. Mike Dunleavy, Cavaliers-Hawks (53 games). 7. Luis Scola, Nets (36 games). 8. James Jones, Cavaliers (48 games). 9. Nick Collison, Thunder (20 games). 10. Udonis Haslem, Heat (16 games). 11. Dahntay Jones, Cavaliers (1 game).
Age 37 | None
Age 38 | 1. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (54 games). 2. Chris Andersen, Cavaliers (12 games).
Age 39 | 1. Manu Ginobili, Spurs. 2. Jason Terry, Bucks. 3. Paul Pierce, Clippers (25 games).
Age 40 | 1. Vince Carter, Grizzles.
Age 40 All-Star team
John Stockton, 2002-03
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1987-88
Robert Parish, 1993-94
Karl Malone, 2003-04
Vince Carter, 2016-17