Professional sports are typically a young man’s game. Many athletes reach the height of their careers around their mid-twenties as their bodies and minds reach their physical and mental peak. A few players, like Kobe, manage to excel well into their 30s. However, stars in their 20s, like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis, tend to steal the spotlight away from the giants of basketball. Even LeBron appears to be slowing down a step or two as he turns thirty later on this year.
However, as we see from the youngest teams in the NBA, being too young in the game can have a negative impact. That’s especially true when an entire roster is in their early twenties. Mixing solid veterans with talented newcomers appears to be the best team-building solution. Consider the Philadelphia 76ers, who started the 2014-2015 NBA regular season with 17 straight losses, nearly winning the record for most losses to begin a season.
On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs, defending NBA champions, are the oldest team in the league, challenging the idea of sports as a young man’s game. Realistically, the only teams on this list with the potential to knock off Gregg Popovich’s juggernaut are the Houston Rockets and to a lesser extent the Oklahoma City Thunder, if they can make the playoffs.
10. Charlotte Hornets – 25.7
The Hornets became younger last year when they signed Lance Stephenson away from the Indiana Pacers during the 2014 free agent frenzy. He joins Charlotte’s trend towards youth along with number one draft picks Noah Vonleh, Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker. After making the playoffs last year as seventh seed with a record of 43-39, the Hornets have gotten off to a rough start this season. Despite adding two-way talent in their backcourt, Charlotte is exhibiting the growing pains that some young teams go through before they rise to their potential, although an early-season injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t help their cause.
9. Houston Rockets – 25.7
One of the hottest teams early in the season is among the youngest. They’re also lining up as favorites to make it deep in the playoffs, especially considering Houston’s ability to keep winning even when interior defender and post-up beast Dwight Howard is hurt. The Rockets became older during free agency last year when they jettisoned Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik in an attempt to lure big names like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony to the Lone Star State. Instead they added Trevor Ariza, an oldster at the age of 29, as well as the ageless Jason Terry, who is 37 years old.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder – 25.2
As one of the youngest perennial contenders in the western conference, the Thunder have relied on the talents of MVP and unstoppable scoring machine Kevin Durant for years, in addition to the explosive point guard play of the ultimate human, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma looks to make another deep playoff run after making it to the finals in 2012 and the conference finals in 2013, losing to eventual NBA champs Miami and San Antonio. Injuries to Durant and Westbrook this year have put a serious dent in their plans, causing them to fall behind early in the standings, requiring them to win the vast majority of the remaining games in order to squeak into the post season.
7. Phoenix Suns – 25.1
The young Phoenix Suns crew play an impressive brand of offense that causes their fans to reminisce of the run and gun Suns lead by Steve Nash. About a quarter way into the season, they rank fifth in points per game and are working on improving their defense, which is 25th in points per game allowed. One of their best young talents is Eric Bledsoe, traded from the Clippers to the Suns during the 2013 season. Out from the behind the considerable shadow created by point god Chris Paul, he recorded his best year with 17.7 ppg during the 2013-2014 campaign, more than doubling his best output as a Clipper. Despite his status as the NBA’s biggest contributor to posters and highlight reels, Gerald Green is actually fourth oldest on this team at the age of 28.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – 24.9
The Pelicans picked up Omer Asik (28) and John Salmons (34) before the start of the 2014/2015 season and are still one of the youngest teams in the league. They’re lead by superstar Anthony Davis, who, at the age of 21, is quickly establishing himself as a top three player in the NBA. Other young contributors include Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, all 25 years and younger.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – 24.9
The Timberwolves shaved half a year off their age due to their blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending star Kevin Love to play with LeBron in exchange for Canadian first round draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. They also added another first rounder to their roster, Zach LaVine, creating one of the most exciting young groups in the league.
4. Boston Celtics – 24.9
The Celtics committed to the rebuilding process when they let Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen go to other teams, significantly lowering the average age of Boston’s legendary franchise. Lead by old man Rajon Rondo (28), the team’s performance so far this year is similar to the Suns, in the sense that they’re sixth in point per game and 28th in points allowed per game.
4. Orlando Magic – 24.9
Two-thirds of the Orlando Magic roster consists of players 24 years of age and younger, including Victor Oladipo, who finished second to Michael Carter-Williams for rookie of the year honors for the 2013/2014 season. The Magic also carry three rookies on their roster, pushing their average age under the 25 year mark.
3. Utah Jazz – 23.9
The Utah Jazz are another team with loads of young talent, with over 66% of their team aged 24 and under. Steve Novak, acquired from the Toronto Raptors, and Joe Ingles, who was waived by the Clippers after a strong outing with the Australian team during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, raise the average age of this team. First round draft pick Dante Exum, a teammate of Ingles, joins the Jazz as the youngest player at the age of 19.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – 23.7
Despite expectations that they’ll be among the worst in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks have managed to roar out of the gate for the 2014-2015 NBA season, posting a .500 record just past the quarter mark. More than half the squad have two years experience or less in the NBA, requiring the full attention of new head coach Jason Kidd. One of their brightest youngsters is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has earned admirers from around the league due to his incredible athleticism and skills despite being nearly seven feet tall with a wingspan that resembles a 747. His trademark move looks to be a two-step layup from the three point line.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – 23.4
Perhaps the most controversial team is the youngest in the NBA. General Manager Sam Hinkie has built a team where only a pair of players have more than a couple of years of experience in the NBA. The method behind this madness focuses on stockpiling young talent by tanking for several years in a row, landing top prospects such as Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Michael Carter-Williams, the latter being the reigning rookie of the year in the NBA. Predictably, the 76ers have been awful this year, barely avoiding setting a new record for consecutive losses to start the year.