Age—and perhaps even more importantly, experience—are vital to NBA success. Many of the league's better teams (the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago, San Antonio, Miami, New York) boast an average age of 28 or more, while a number of bottom feeders (Cleveland, New Orleans, Charlotte) have an average age of 25 years or less.
With age comes experience, and the veteran savvy that comes with a few extra miles on the odometer is an extremely valuable asset over the course of an 82-game season.
That's not to say that young teams can't be competitive, however: Golden State, Houston and Portland are all proof of that. And just as there's a gap between the haves and the have-nots in the Association as a whole, there's a noticeable difference between the league's better young teams and those inexperienced squads struggling to find an identity.
(Note: All statistics are accurate as of Jan. 18. Average ages per basketball-reference.com.)
There aren't a lot of nice things to say about the 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats. They do have a couple of nice pieces (Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) whom they can build around going forward, but the team is loaded with players who are, by and large, mediocre at best.
The majority of Charlotte's talent lies in those on the roster who are 24 and younger (Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, Byron Mullens, Jeff Taylor, Bismack Biyombo). Other than keeping tabs on the development of those players, there isn't much reason to watch the Bobcats this season.
Welcome back, John Wall.
The return of the 22-year-old point guard was a much-needed shot in the arm for a Washington Wizards team that hadn't managed to win consecutive games until the second week of January.
Washington was abysmal without Wall: The team has the only sub-100 offensive rating in the league, and two highly inefficient shooters—Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal—are the Wizards' top scorers. There are enough pieces on the roster for the team to be respectable in the near future, but they're a long way away from contending in the Eastern Conference.
While Kyrie Irving's ascent to superstar status continues, the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to be mired in the depths of the Central Division. The team's youth probably has something to do with its position in the NBA hierarchy: Luke Walton (32 years old), Anderson Varejao (30) and Shaun Livingston (27) are the only Cavs who are over the age of 26.
Varejao's knee injury has crippled the team this season (no pun intended), but Tristan Thompson has shined with the Brazilian center out of the lineup. Thompson has ripped off 10 double-doubles in the past month and is showing the form that led Cleveland to select him with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
Meanwhile, rookie Dion Waiters has shown flashes of brilliance, but his sub-40 percent mark from the floor simply isn't going to cut it.
Greg Monroe has been as solid as ever this season, and Andre Drummond has the potential to be one of the league's premier centers, but the majority of the Detroit Pistons roster won't leave NBA talent evaluators salivating at night.
Aside from Drummond and Monroe, if one of Detroit's recent picks—Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye, Kim English—can put it together in short order, there may be hope in the Motor City. But until that happens, the Pistons need to figure out the best way to complement their two intimidating big men.
Perhaps only the Manti Te'o situation makes less sense than the Orlando Magic.
Two days after snapping a 10-game losing streak by beating the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando got blown out by 29 points to the Washington Wizards. In perfect Magic form, they promptly came back in the next game and beat the Indiana Pacers by 11.
Now that Glen Davis is healthy, it'll be interesting to see how consistent the Magic can be with most of their rotation players in the fold. But in reality, the roster is filled with a lot of complementary pieces that can be No. 3 options on most teams (Davis, Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic) but shouldn't be called upon for much more than that.
The New Orleans Hornets are a totally different team with a (relatively) healthy Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, they're too far up the track in the Western Conference playoff race for it to matter all that much.
In the past two weeks alone, the Hornets knocked off all three Texas teams (Dallas, San Antonio, Houston) as well as the Boston Celtics. Forward Ryan Anderson is one of the best stretch 4's in all of basketball, and Greivis Vasquez has been stellar running the point for New Orleans.
With only one player on the roster over 30 (Roger Mason), the Hornets are poised to do big things in the coming years...as long as they can stay out of the trainer's room.
All of the hope that Philadelphia 76ers fans had in August has long been erased by both the team's play and the far-too-frequent updates on Andrew Bynum's medical condition.
At one point, it was thought that Bynum would fully recover from an offseason knee procedure by the time opening night rolled around. Nearly three months later, the seven-foot center is just now beginning low-impact workouts in an attempt to return by the All-Star break.
While the wait for Bynum continues, it's clear that most of the Sixers talent isn't ready for prime time just yet. Point guard Jrue Holiday has emerged as a star, but the rest of the roster is filled with perennial underachievers (Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Nick Young) or those who have yet to raise their game to another level (Evan Turner).
Damian Lillard's debut season has garnered most of the attention in the Pacific Northwest, but the play of the rest of his Portland Trail Blazers teammates shouldn't be dismissed.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has replicated his All-Star form from 2011-12, and the rest of the Portland starting lineup (Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Hickson) comprise one of the best supporting casts in the Association.
The Trail Blazers are still a couple of steps away from being Western Conference royalty, but the franchise should return to the playoffs after a hiatus last season.
It's becoming harder every day to make sense of the Houston Rockets—a team that has had two five-game winning streaks as well as a five-game losing streak over the past month.
James Harden has been very good as a No. 1 option, he and point guard Jeremy Lin are starting to develop some good chemistry and Omer Asik has been a stalwart force in the middle. But the Rockets live and die by the three-pointer, and when their outside shots aren't falling, they are vulnerable to get knocked off by anyone on any given night.
It'll be interesting to see how long Houston can ultimately ride this style of play. Teams who are largely reliant on their production from beyond the arc don't usually last long in the postseason.
The top 10 players in Golden State's rotation are all under the age of 30, but the Warriors are playing surprisingly well for such an inexperienced group. A Pacific Division crown is probably out of the question, but the Warriors could lock up home-court advantage in the first round with a strong push in the second half of the season.
Golden State's blend of skilled interior talents (David Lee, Carl Landry), deft outside shooters (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson) and versatile complementary players (Jarrett Jack, Harrison Barnes) has proven to be a winning mix. Even more amazing is the fact that they've enjoyed most of their success without the services of Andrew Bogut.