Which NBA Players Should Start Planning for Retirement?

With the New Year approaching, you’re likely going to make some half-assed attempts at a resolution. The most popular one is when someone swears they’ll “get back in shape,” buys a year-long gym membership, and only uses it twice. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would tell you that it was a terrible idea beforehand, instead of nodding and saying it’s a great goal?

I would like to think professional athletes face the same problems. There’s not enough people in their lives who will tell them that returning to play another year after their skills have diminished is a bad idea. Instead, you get guys playing increasingly bad ball until they’re 40 and teams finally refuse to stop offering contracts. It’s time someone identified the guys who need to start really reconsidering their next contracts.

This is not a list of who will likely retire: we’ve already done one of those. No, this is a collection of NBA players whose games have fallen off to the point where retirement could actually provide a sweet release.

NBA Players Who Should Consider Early Retirement

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

Not that long ago, Iggy won the 2015 Finals MVP for his outstanding efforts on the defensive side of the ball. Now, a year and a half later, the 33-year-old is trying to replicate that effort night in and night out and it’s catching up with him. He is visibly slowing down, particularly in the transition game. His plus/minus stats still look great as a member of the “lineup of death,” but Christmas Day against the Cavs showed that his game isn’t where it needs to be if Golden State is going to avenge last year’s championship loss.

Iguodala is a free agent after the season. After playing for the league’s best team for the past three years, it’s hard to imagine him coming down from the mountain to sign somewhere else. If he and the Warriors can’t work something out, maybe he should just go out on (or near) the top.

Odds of actually retiring after this season: 24/1

Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

The back of Noah’s trading card probably doesn’t even include his points per game stats, because offense is such a non-essential part of his game. So it’s awful worrisome for Knicks fans that the center is posting the worst defensive rating of his career; at this point, having a guy on the court that only averages 4.8 points per game becomes a very questionable move.

While New York’s staff still thinks Noah can turn it around, it’s also conceivable that at just 31, the center is done. He’s only played nine seasons in the pros, but five of them came with the physically taxing demands of one Tom Thibodeau. Coincidentally, Noah’s only great years came under Thibs as well. So not only is he more worn down than most big men, there’s also evidence to suggest his defensive prowess was largely a result of the system he played in.

The Knicks gave Noah a fully guaranteed contract, so no matter how terrible he is during his tenure, he’ll keep trotting out their. But he certainly should give retirement a thought if New York decides to release him.

Odds of actually retiring after this season: 33/1

Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls

Since getting traded out of Boston, Rondo has bounced from home to home looking to recapture his former glory. All that his new uniforms have revealed, however, is that the point guard no longer has it. Though the Bulls are in a playoff spot, the team has issues with spacing and shooting, and Rondo is the prime target for finger pointing. His true shooting percentage of .419 is second-worst in the league (for qualified shooters), and Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade are more effective when Rondo isn’t on the court.

If Chicago opts to move on from Rondo – perhaps as soon as the trade deadline – the 30-year-old guard may want to take that as a sign. He’s running out of places where he’d be welcomed for more than a backup role and, given some of his character issues, even that market may be small.

Odds of actually retiring after this season: 45/1

JR Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers

I was a little surprised JR Smith wanted to re-sign with the Cavaliers for a long-term deal this offseason, since he doesn’t seem that interested in playing basketball. But after his shirtless summer tour came to an end, I guess Smith got a little bored. Either way, his season was off to a very underwhelming start before he went out with a thumb injury. His field goal percentage was an atrocious .337 percent and his offensive rating was ahead of only Jordan McRae and DeAndre Liggins for worst on the team.

Be it the post-contract slump that so many NBA players are famous for, or a lack of motivation after winning a title, he’s currently a bad shooter with a bad thumb. The NBA doesn’t have a ton of space for guys like that.

Odds of actually retiring after this season: 80/1

Monta Ellis, Indiana Pacers

Like Noah, Ellis’ game only exists in one half of the court. For him, it’s the offensive end, which is why his struggles there are so problematic. His points per game dropped drastically since coming to Indiana, and that makes sense as he accepts a second-fiddle role to Paul George. But his shooting percentage, assist per game, and overall offensive rating are also down, showing that he’s definitely losing a step. Now bothered by a groin injury, this once potent scorer may be getting edged out of the Pacers starting lineup, the first step to getting forced to hang ’em up.

Odds of actually retiring after this season: 100/1


Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Flickr)[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]