5 NBA Teams in Dire Need of a Youth Infusion

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2013

5 NBA Teams in Dire Need of a Youth Infusion

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    Experience is key to any NBA team's success, but it should not become its mantra.

    Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers. They are a talented team on paper, but each of their key players minus center Dwight Howard is over the age of 30.

    Likewise, the New York Knicks' collective age has been an issue all season. While the team has performed excellently, some of the older guys have gotten banged up.

    The point of all this is that as good as experienced teams are, it wouldn't hurt them to have a small group of young players. Youth injects life into the lineup, and allows coaches to create a fast-paced game that other elite teams may have a problem slowing down.

    As a result, the older dogs get a rest and are fresher in crunch time. If just a few teams took to this approach, the positive results could come as a surprise to team management.

Honorable Mention: Miami Heat

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    The Miami Heat are the defending NBA champions and currently hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference, so they are not necessarily in dire need of some youth. Still, it cannot be ignored that some of the team's key players are getting up there in years.

    Dwyane Wade is only 30, and both Chris Bosh and LeBron James have been in the NBA long enough that their bodies will probably start breaking down soon. The fact that 37-year-old sixth man Ray Allen is still able to produce on such a level is borderline miraculous.

    As deep and talented as Miami is, it's time to bring some youth into the lineup. This means giving more minutes to guys like Norris Cole and Terrel Harris, and relying less on big-money guys as opposed to players acquired via the draft.

    If GM Pat Riley can move away from his current commitment to the Big Three and let the Heat start incorporating some youth, then they will be great from years to come.

    However, given their current status, it is not absolutely critical for him to embrace such a philosophy just yet.

No. 5: Chicago Bulls

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    Like the Heat, the Bulls are not a team completely dependent on youth. Despite Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich all being on the older side, star point guard Derrick Rose has led the team to the best record in the NBA each of the past two seasons.

    However, Rose has missed all of this season thus far as he recovers from a torn ACL, and the Bulls' age has started to show. The team is playing good defense, but looks much slower without Rose.

    This is because Rose is 24 years old, and the youth he brings to the table is borderline irreplaceable. The fact that the Bulls are still in the playoff race without him is a miracle.

    What GM Gar Forman needs to do is find a reliable 2-guard who can serve as a go-to guy both in Rose's absence and when Rose is on the floor. Nothing against Hamilton, but he is old and injury prone, and his best years are behind him.

    Chicago needs to get help there, and 27-year-old power forward Taj Gibson could be a great help. They will become only greater at that point, and may finally move out of Michael Jordan's shadow.

No. 4: New York Knicks

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    As good as the Knicks have been this season, the age on their roster is eye-popping. In fact, New York is the oldest team in the league, with an average age of 31.3 years.

    The Knicks are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division, and getting some youth back in the lineup is not a top priority by any means. In fact, they'll be getting just that in the near future, when 22-year-old Iman Shumpert returns from ACL surgery.

    Just the same, the team's top defensive players in Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby are both over 30. Both could easily get tired and/or injured down the stretch, so having a younger big man would definitely be beneficial to New York.

    It's thus time for GM Glen Grunwald to make some calls and see who's available to fill that role.

No. 3: Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Lakers are so old, even star guard Kobe Bryant has mentioned it as a reason for the team's struggles. Despite acquiring both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard during the offseason, Los Angeles has stumbled to a 15-16 record amid high expectations for the season.

    The team has eight players on the roster under the age of 30, but only three play a significant role. Everyone else is either older than 30 or a non-factor.

    Just where the Lakers need a youth infusion is unclear. Help at power forward is definitely a concern due to Pau Gasol's off year, and Jordan Hill can definitely provide some momentum as a starter.

    Elsewhere, GM Mitch Kupchak must seek to use both free agency and the draft to find players who can actually contribute on the professional level and not just come off the end of the bench. Once the Lakers can get that kind of depth back and work together as a unit, then their hopes of earning another championship can become realistic.

No. 2: Dallas Mavericks

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    The Mavericks are not even two seasons removed from an NBA championship, but they are already nearing a rebuilding phase. This is because their best player is 34-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, who did not debut until December 23 due to knee surgery.

    The odd part is that the Mavericks have plenty of youth on their roster right now. Nine of the team's players are under 30, but do not have the fire nor the type of experience necessary to compete in the tough Western Conference.

    Nothing against Darren Collison or O.J. Mayo, but they need a little more help in terms of fellow youth if Dallas is to get back into contention sooner rather than later. Ideally, a good slashing forward could do wonders for the team, one who can score points just as well as he can play defense. Think of current Maverick Shawn Marion, but in his days with the Phoenix Suns.

    Dallas fans may say to bring aboard more youth is jumping the gun just a bit and not giving the current crew time to develop, but just look at Dallas' performance thus far. To fall so far in such a short time after a championship season is beyond shocking, and changes need to be made soon if the Mavericks want to avoid becoming a perennial lottery team for an extended period of time.

No. 1: Boston Celtics

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    After coming within a win of the NBA Finals last season, age has hit the Boston Celtics like a ton of bricks. Most of the team is under 30, but head coach Doc Rivers relies heavily on his experienced veterans for most of the production.

    Paul Pierce can still run with the best at age 35, but is nowhere near as explosive as he was in the prime of his career. At age 36, Kevin Garnett can no longer be the dominant defensive force he was in years past.

    Thirty-five-year-old Jason Terry can do little more than shoot the ball, and his 11.5 points per game are his lowest since his rookie season, back in 1999-2000.

    The worst of it is that Boston has fine young players in Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, but Rondo is the only one who really gets any significant playing time. Bradley was a force towards the end of last season, but he is only just about to return from shoulder surgery. Green can definitely be great, but his heart condition has forced him into a reserve role.

    GM Danny Ainge thus needs to bring in some youth at any position. Whether this means further developing rookies Kris Joseph and Jared Sullinger or starting from scratch via free agency or the draft, something has to be done.

    The fact of the matter is that the Celtics should not be fighting for a playoff spot after getting so close to the big dance last season, and just a little bit of youth can be the difference maker down the stretch.