Monday, October 6, 2014

Average Age Out West

When I wrote my article picking the Thunder to win it all this year, one of the common responses was - don't people say that every year? That is true and that is exactly the point. Everyone thinks OKC is old news because they have been around for so long, but they are crazy young. Even once they started winning, they remained committed to building through the draft, which very few teams do. The result is a team that is basically draft porn.

Here's a rough look at their Top 8 next season:

Westbrook, 26
Lamb, 22
KD, 26
Ibaka, 25
Perkins, 30

Jackson, 24
PJ3, 23
Adams, 21

Average age - 24.6

(The reason I didn't have Collison in their top 8 is I think Adams eats up a lot more minutes at the 5 this year and they will probably have KD playing some small-ball 4, so there's less time for Collison and more time for someone on the wings like PJ3 who can swing between the 2-4. He's older (34) but even adding his age to the mix doesn't change things that much. We'll get back to that.)

Let's take a look at the rest of the teams in contention for playoff spots out West. I don't want to let benchwarmers affect the averages, so I'll keep it at the Top 8. This is only a rough estimate - some of the back spots in the rotation are guesswork.

San Antonio - 30.6

Parker (32), Green (27), Kawhi (23), Splitter (30), Duncan (38), Mills (26), Manu (37), Diaw (32)

Houston - 25.5

Beverley (26), Harden (25), Ariza (29), Jones (23), Howard (29), Canaan (22), Papanikolaou (24), Donatas (24)

Memphis - 31

Conley (27), Lee (29), Tayshaun (34), Z-Bo (33), Gasol (30), Allen (33), Vince (37), Koufos (25)

Dallas - 29.75

Nelson (32), Monta (29), Parsons (26), Dirk (36), Chandler (32), Harris (31), Crowder (24), Wright (27)

New Orleans - 25.9

Holiday (24), Gordon (26), Evans (25), Davis (21), Asik (28), Rivers (22), Salmons (35), Anderson (26)

Portland - 29.1

Lillard (24), Matthews (28), Batum (26), LMA (29), Lopez (26), Blake (34), Wright (29), Kaman (32)

Denver - 27.5

Lawson (27), Afflalo (29), Gallinari (26), Faried (25), McGee (27), Foye (31), Chandler (27), Mozgov (28)

LAC - 29

Paul (29), Redick (30), Barnes (34), Blake (25), DeAndre (26), Farmar (28), Crawford (34), Hawes (26)

Golden State - 27.5

Curry (26), Klay (24), Iguodala (31), Lee (31), Bogut (30), Livingston (29), Barnes (22), Green (24)

Phoenix - 26.5

Bledsoe (25), Dragic (28), Tucker (29), Morris I (25), Plumdog (26), Isaiah (25), Green (29), Morris II (25)

If you rank them from top to bottom, here's how the averages look:

31 - Memphis
30.6 - SA
29.8 - Dallas
29. 1 - Portland
29 - LAC
27.5 - Denver, Golden State
26.5 - Phoenix
25.9 - New Orleans
25.5 - Houston
24.6 - Oklahoma City

That's right, Oklahoma City is the youngest team in the Western Conference playoff picture! They are younger than the Suns and the Pellies! Think about that for a second - even if PHX and NO miss the playoffs this season, there will still be a narrative around them that they are young teams paying their dues in a stacked conference. The Thunder are a championship or bust team and they have an average age of less than 25.

Also - Houston is young as fuck. Their depth still needs to be tested, but that's one of the reasons why I'm not on the Rockets window is closing bandwagon. 

If you switch out PJ3 with Collison, it moves OKC's average age to 26, 3rd youngest and just in front of New Orleans. The point still stands, though. They are probably going to win 60 games with a bunch of super young players - their window isn't starting to close, it's barely started to open! 

Basketball Twitter spends so much time analyzing every branch of every tree, we forget the forest even exists, much less that we should be looking for it. When you take a step back and look at what OKC has accomplished in the last five years, it's awfully impressive for any team, much less one as young as they are. I think people have the narrative exactly backwards with them.

This could be the start of something really, really special. It's all on the table for them - Chicago in 1991, LA or Boston in 1981, San Antonio in 2003, Miami in 2011. If there's a spectrum for Thunder optimism, I'm probably 2+ standard deviations away from the average observer. 

Always in motion is the future, but knowing what we know now, it's hard to see KD trying to leave in 2016. All the pieces are in place for him to make a run at every name on Mt. Rushmore. Obviously you got to take it one championship at a time, but if KD gave a press conference talking about not four, not five, not six, not seven ... I'd listen.

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