Professional athletes age up much more quickly than the general public. Thirty years isn’t old for the general public, but for an athlete it typically means they’re on the tail-end of their career. That’s why franchises want younger players. However, there are drawbacks to that too.
The following sections cover both the pros and cons of more inexperienced teams by looking at the youngest franchises across the NBA. Each one has a solid base, and plenty of reasons to be hopeful about the future. I’ll explain why below.
The Pros (and Cons) of Youth
For the most part, sports are a young man’s game. That’s because the human body tends to be at its peak between the ages of twenty and thirty. It is at that time when players are able to run, jump, or hustle to the best of their abilities. It’s when they can play the most games too.
Having a young team also allows coaches to better shape a team. While there’s something to be said about experience, it’s easier to teach a scheme to players who are fresh and haven’t already learned a lot of plays or bought into another playbook.
That being said, going young isn’t all great either. Young teams are great, but they also tend to be inexperienced. That means they can crumble under the pressure or shrink in big moments. Even young teams with a lot of talent need a few years to get going.
That’s why it’s extremely unlikely for franchises built on rookie or second year players to win a championship. They may have a lot of regular season success, but they often come up short once the lights get too bright. It takes time to get used to the postseason atmosphere.
Money can be an issue too. The more rising stars on a team, the more that franchise needs to pay out. They might be able to coast on early contacts for a while, but eventually they’re going to have to pay everyone. That can cause them to get into cap trouble as time goes on.
Those various reasons are why most franchises avoid going too young. However, there are a few current organizations who have no problem slipping down the ladder. That’s even more true in the modern NBA.
As Youthful as it Gets
Looking at today’s league, no team has a younger roster than the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their average player age is 23.14, which puts them far below the league average team age of 26.01. They have a lot of rookies, and a lot of growing talent.
That combination creates a lack of leadership at the top, but they’re taking a chance by going hard into young players. That can pay off, especially if the team has a solid base and decides to bring in some strong free agents, but it could take some time to get off the ground.
The Thunder’s average age isn’t just below the league average, they actually fall a whole six years below the Bucks, who have the highest average age of any franchise (twenty nine years).
Still, the Thunder are from the only franchise down at the bottom of the age spectrum. The NBA has preferred youth as of late, and it shows across several other up-and-coming teams.
Young and Hungry
The Thunder are extremely young as NBA teams go, but they aren’t as big of an outlier as it first might seem. There are three other teams who have an average age below 24. They are the Magic (23.5 years), Spurs (23.8 years), and Rockets (23.9 years).
From there, the Pistons have an average age of 24, the Grizzlies are 24.3, the Blazers are 24.5, Hornets 24.6, while the Timberwolves and Knicks round out the top ten with 24.9.
Looking at that list, it’s plain that most of those franchises are actively struggling. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of having a young team on display. Even so, management believes their gamble will pay off down the line.
In that same line, most of the top teams in the league have a higher average age. It’s not just about having more experience, but rather about having a team that’s played together before and knows how to run a certain offense or playbook well.
Youth is one of the most important aspects of sports, but being too young comes with certain drawbacks as well. Organizations want to have a young team that they can build on, but they typically need some older players to use and mentors as well.
There’s a lot of pressure in the NBA, especially in the playoffs. While some young teams can make runs, they almost never get it done. A good base is critical to building a strong team, but it takes time. It’s all about losing a few games now to better invest in the future.