As the excitement of the NBA Draft approaches, it is time to look closely at what really matters—and remember that the NBA Playoffs are not a place where young teams do well.
A young group of star athletes may look good in Round One, but it is the veteran teams that most often survive Round Two and thrive in the conference finals.
No team in this year’s conference finals has more than one young player in the starting lineup. And every team is relying on veterans to come off the bench and contribute.
Apparently, experience still counts.
The team with the youngest starting lineup in the conference finals is the Orlando Magic. And they have not proven to be experienced enough to take out the revitalized, veteran Celtics.
The Magic starting lineup averages 29 years old. Not exactly a bunch of rookies.
The youngest starter on Orlando is All-Star Dwight Howard, at 24. Matt Barnes and Rashard Lewis are 30, Vince Carter is 33, and Jameer Nelson is a youngish 28.
The Boston Celtics starters feature three players over 30 years old and two “young” guys, but their starting five average almost a full year older than the Magic.
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are 34. Paul Pierce is 32 and the oldish looking seven-year veteran Kendrick Perkins is just 25. And like the Magic, the youngest starter is also an All-Star, in 24-year-old Rajon Rondo.
In the Western Conference, it is the slightly younger LA Lakers who are favored.
The Lakers starting lineup's average age is only slightly older than the Magic.
But the Lakers have the second oldest starter left in the playoffs with the 35-year-old Derek Fisher. Kobe Bryant is 31, Ron Artest is 30, and Pau Gasol is 29 years old. At just 22 years old, Andrew Bynum is the Lakers' young representative in the starting lineup.
Phoenix is giving nothing up in terms of experience to the Lakers in their starting five. Perhaps that’s why they look posed to make a series out of the conference finals.
The Suns feature the oldest starter of the four remaining teams. Grant Hill is still going strong at 37 and the 36-year-old Steve Nash looks little different from his two MVP seasons. Jason Richardson is 29 and Amar'e Stoudemire is 27. The Suns' young gun is the surprising Robin Lopez at 22.
But veteran experience in the playoffs doesn’t end in the starting rotation for successful teams.
- The Magic rely on three bench players averaging 26 years old and a 34-year-old backup point guard.
- The Suns rely upon three 27-year-olds and two 24-year-old players.
- The Lakers mostly rely on three guys averaging 26 years old and count mostly on the 30-year-old Lamar Odom.
- The Celtics typically go just three deep into their bench, using players averaging 29 years old, just like in their starting lineup.
While veteran players do not come with a "best before" date, one thing should be perfectly clear to GMs looking to rebuild through this year’s draft. No team made it through to the conference finals with more than one young player in their starting lineup.
Remember, only the 22-year-old Lopez has less than four seasons of experience out of the players under the age of 25.
Veteran teams win in the playoffs.
Young teams with exciting players usually get to watch.