Veteran NBA Teams Built for the Playoffs
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Defense and experience wins games in the postseason. The veteran NBA teams who are built for the playoffs have just the right balance of both.
These veteran groups use their NBA experience to their advantage by defending collectively. They feature leaders on the defensive end of the floor as well as superstars who can take games over on a moment's notice.
If the regular season ended today, each of the veteran teams on this list would open the playoffs as at least a No. 4 seed in their respective conference.
Three of these teams also rank in the top five for defensive efficiency. The other two rank among the top 16 while employing a defensive standout who will be critical in the playoffs.
All five of these veteran teams built for playoff success are also among the league's 10 oldest, with average roster ages of at least 27 years old.
Despite their run to the NBA Finals last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were not considered for this veteran list due to their average age of 24.8. That number still ranks the Thunder as the fifth-youngest team in the NBA for the 2012-13 season.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers, while also excelling on the defensive end, are each among the youngest half of teams in the NBA this season as well.
The sub-.500 Boston Celtics—though they are a veteran team, and they rank eighth in defensive efficiency—were left off this list primarily due to a rebounding rate that is the second-worst mark in the NBA.
Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng.
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The Chicago Bulls are a team that nobody wants to see in the postseason, even with Derrick Rose not having played a game yet.
Nick Friedell from ESPN.com reported that Rose was approaching full contact in practice earlier this week, and that is tremendous news for Chicago fans.
But even if Rose is only 75 percent of his superstar self by playoff time, the Bulls are more than capable of defending their way to the next round.
Tom Thibodeau's group currently ranks third in defensive efficiency through Wednesday and is the benchmark for "flooding the ball-side box" in the NBA these days.
That ability to defend collectively will allow Chicago to scheme and match up with anyone in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls' veteran group boasts an average age of 27.9 years and includes veterans like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, who have had All-Star-caliber seasons in Rose's absence.
New York Knicks
New York Knicks' Tyson Chandler.
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Tyson Chandler is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite an overall ranking of only 16 in terms of defensive efficiency through Wednesday, Chandler will make the Knicks especially potent on the defensive end come playoff time.
In the postseason, the pace becomes slowed to a half-court game. This pace will particularly benefit the NBA's oldest team.
Assuming the Knicks can continue to work Amar'e Stoudemire into their defensive rotation effectively by that time, they have the pieces to excel in this environment.
While perimeter defense is paramount in the half court, the anchor that Chandler provides inside is rare.
The Knicks will have the opportunity to build from the inside out defensively, and that is a luxury that most teams do not have.
They also have Carmelo Anthony on the offensive end, and he is almost unguardable in the half court offensively.
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford.
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The Los Angeles Clippers are led by an All-NBA guard in Chris Paul.
Besides the offensive accolades, Paul is also an NBA first-team player on defense who is leading the league in steals.
Paul headlines a defensive attack for Los Angeles which currently ranks fifth overall in defensive efficiency.
He does this, in part, by firing off the meanest facial expressions in the NBA if his teammates choose not to defend on any given possession.
Besides that, though, the NBA's third-oldest team is also bringing veteran firepower off their bench.
Jamal Crawford, at 32 years old, is leading a second unit which ranks first in overall efficiency, according to Hoopsstats.com through Wednesday.
This veteran group is deeper than any team in the NBA and will provide problems for whoever they match up with come playoff time.
Miami Heat's Ray Allen, LeBron James.
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The Miami Heat rank only 12th in defensive efficiency. Even if they topped the charts in that category right now, though, they will be ultimately judged on the postseason.
In anticipation of that run, the Heat have recently acquired veteran big man Chris Anderson. Despite the fact that he wasn't on an NBA roster previously this season, Anderson will make an impact in a defensive and rebounding role for this Heat team.
What will ultimately allow the Heat to excel in the playoffs, however, is LeBron James' ability to guard 1's though 4's.
At an average age of 29.9 years old, the Heat realize their season begins in the playoffs. They will have themselves ready to defend when that time comes.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan.
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The San Antonio Spurs are synonymous with playoff success, and this season is no different.
At 36 years old, Tim Duncan, specifically, has found the fountain of youth on the defensive end of the floor. Duncan is averaging 2.7 blocks per game this season—his highest total since 2003-04.
The Spurs will be prepared and hungry come playoff time after falling short in the Western Conference finals last season. Their younger role players are even a year more experienced because of that run last season.
Balancing out an average roster age of 28 is Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, who add needed depth for this Spurs squad.
If they're all healthy, the veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili could combine to beat any team in the league, even after all these years.