5 Young NBA Teams with a Chance of Making the NBA Finals in 2013
The 2012 NBA playoffs are nearly over. So let’s look ahead to the 2013 playoffs. It’s never too early, right?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the youngest teams in NBA history to make it to the Finals. Their four best players are all under age 24, and they are all under contract for next season at least. Clearly, the Thunder will be around for awhile and will have a chance to make it to the Finals for the second year in a row.
But what other youthful squads will be able to make that jump from good to elite? It isn’t easy to do. Getting young, and at times, immature players to play like seasoned veterans is nearly impossible, but that’s what it takes to reach the pinnacle of NBA stardom.
Here are five young teams that could reach the 2013 NBA Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder
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Let’s just get this one out of the way early. The Oklahoma City Thunder is too young and too talented to have no chance to get back to the NBA Finals next season.
While it isn’t a given that this young squad will be back, especially in the ultra tough Western Conference, Kevin Durant’s team certainly can do it. The combination of Durant’s scoring prowess, Russell Westbrook’s explosive athleticism, James Harden’s all-around game off the bench and Serge Ibaka’s protection of the basket is too much for 90 percent of the NBA to handle even when the foursome is playing poorly.
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The Indiana Pacers proved that they could compete with the NBA’s big boys when they pushed the Miami Heat to six tough games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Their balanced mix of young talent definitely gives them a shot to contend for the Eastern Conference title next season.
The organization will have decisions to make though. Roy Hibbert will be a hot commodity in free agency, and the lack of a great scorer will be a need that could be addressed as well in the offseason. If the Pacers keep Hibbert, there’s no reason to think they won’t improve even more.
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Granted, the Philadelphia 76ers probably got a little lucky in their 2012 playoff run. When facing the best team record-wise in your conference, it always helps when the best opposing player suffers a catastrophic injury. However, being able to close out Chicago and then push a seasoned team like Boston to seven games is still impressive.
While there will be some changes for this team and should be (Andre Iguodala may be traded and Elton Brand is being ridiculously overpaid), this team is built around the young core of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lou Williams, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. None of them is over 25. If Philly can keep them together, they’ll have the potential to contend in ways they haven’t since the 1980s.
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The next youth-powered team that could make a 2013 Finals appearance is the Denver Nuggets. A team built on the spoils of the Carmelo Anthony trade of a few years ago, Denver is the most balanced offensive team in the NBA, but remain a terrible defensive team.
Hopefully, the defense will get better as the parts get a bit older. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee are the future of this team, and Afflalo is the oldest at age 26.
If this team can figure out how to play defense and score in clutch moments, it will be a nightmare to face and could be a dark horse to win the West.
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This might be the big shocker of the list, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are coming. Kevin Love was the best power forward in the NBA in 2012, and he might have had a chance to showcase that in the playoffs if Ricky Rubio hadn’t gotten hurt.
Minnesota has just two players in its main rotation that are over the age of 26. Depending on what is done transaction-wise in the offseason, the T-Wolves could be in the playoffs next year and have a shot to reach the Finals. Getting a shooting guard and another center might be all they need.