The relationship between age and team success in the NBA

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

By looking at team age data, we can get hints on which teams face the end of their runs and which teams have bright futures.

The end of the NBA regular season allows us to look at all the data generated and dig in to find trends, potential future storylines, nuggets of joy and The Meaning Of Life Itself. There's some especially shiny gold in looking at age data, which is thankfully provided by Basketball-Reference.com.

By looking at team-level age data, you can determine which teams have most aggressively employed a youth movement, which teams are leaning most heavily on veterans, which teams are on the cusp on needing a youth infusion and which teams appear to be in great position going forward. On those latter two, the age data at least helps you identify which squads to analyze closer. It's a big hint, especially when combined with data on team performance.

For example, this chart plotting weighted team age against margin of victory for this season to date.

Agematrix-tz

There's a lot to unpack here, like the three teams -- the Nets, Knicks and Hawks -- who happen to be older than average, but have negative scoring margins. But as I said, this sort of data only provides hints. In this case, the Nets are the third-oldest team in the NBA, but played most of the season without their Great Young Hope, Brook Lopez. Had he played a reasonable complement of minutes, the Nets would likely both look a lot younger and a lot better. (It's always worth noting that the Nets' win-loss record is much better than their scoring margin indicates.)

Similarly, Atlanta has been without Al Horford (age 27) most of the season, which has led to more minutes than expected from Elton Brand (age 34) and Pero Antic (age 31). One expects that an Atlanta with 2,000 minutes of Horford and less Brand would change both numbers (age and scoring margin) for the better. (That's not a knock on Brand, but it's pretty obvious that the Hawks desperately miss Horford on both ends.)

So the one team in the old and bad quadrant we really lack a positive spin for is ... the Knickerbockers. The Knicks actually got a lot younger this season. Losing Jason Kidd and Kurt Thomas -- two of the oldest players in the league in 2012-13 -- helped. But New York is still older than the average NBA team, and older than a ton of much better squads.

Another takeaway from this chart: Miami and Dallas are quite old. The Heat's role players are ancient, and at least one (Shane Battier) if not more (Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem) could retire in the offseason. Dwyane Wade is also getting up there. But the team's two best, most important players -- LeBron James and Chris Bosh -- remain solidly in their age-based primes, so there won't be urgency to redefine the team's core in the next couple offseasons, supposing both stick around in free agency. There's just need to make the supporting cast younger. The addition of Michael Beasley and Greg Oden help along that path. (Cue the "how much younger are the Heat if you take Greg Oden off the roster?" jokes.)

Dallas, on the other hand, has one big age problem: its best player by far is Dirk Nowitzki, and Dirk's closing in on the end of his career. At some point. Probably. He's still playing at an elite level -- he's a plausible All-NBA candidate at age 35, like his brother in arms Tim Duncan -- but without him, Dallas is sunk. As it is, the Mavericks might not make the playoffs in the incredible West. Monta Ellis, Dirk's Robin, is much younger, but again, Dirk is the engine here. So it'll be interesting (for the fourth straight year) to see how the Mavericks attack the offseason with Dirk's end looming at some point in the future.

But the best thing to see in a chart like this is all the awesome teams who are still comparatively young. Oklahoma City has been left of the y axis for years, and thanks to the team's consistent youth movement, starring Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson, the Thunder stay young. Oklahoma City really is the New San Antonio: two or three superstars and a constant infusion of supporting talent. If only Scott Brooks were Gregg Popovich ...

OKC's not alone. The Rockets are borderline elite with really young roster led by James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons. The Warriors and Blazers, both of which will make the playoffs in the tough West, are rather young. The Suns aren't as young as you'd think -- Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker and Channing Frye have been around -- but still hit that sweet spot. The Timberwolves, cursed as they are, have a rather young rotation and a scoring margin that indicates a team much better than .500. And the Raptors and Wizards appear to have their best years ahead, which is great news for the East.

There's also data to be mined from year-over-year changes in team age. We'll look at those on Thursday.

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