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Here’s an odd fact about a league with more young stars than it’s had in decades: Other than Boston, the NBA’s four common-sense title favorites double as the four oldest teams by average age, weighted by minutes played. In descending order of age, they are: Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, and Golden State.
On second thought, though, maybe that fact isn’t such a great surprise. The Cavaliers, Spurs, and Warriors have been entrenched as title favorites for several years now, their best players aging alongside one another, and their newest peer in Houston took a leap while completing the roster with a group of veteran additions: Luc Mbah a Moute (in his age-31 season) and Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Gerald Green (all age-32).
Then there’s Boston, currently the East’s top seed with a 33–10 record, as a gerontological outlier. The Celtics are one of the league’s youngest teams, as only the lottery-bound Lakers and Suns boast lower average ages than Boston’s 24.5; not a single Celtic is older than Cleveland’s average age.
The Celtics aren’t just an anomaly this season, though; as a team this young and competitive, they’re a historical aberration as well. Before this season, 142 teams since the advent of the shot clock played with a weighted average age younger than 25, and they were generally awful, finishing with an average .365 winning percentage, which translates to a 30–52 record.
Few were anywhere near as good as these Celtics, with only 21 of those 142 teams finishing with a winning record, and only four winning at least 50 games: Milwaukee with 56 in 1969–70, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie season; Portland with 54 in 2008–09, Brandon Roy’s peak; and Oklahoma City with 50 in 2009–10 and 55 in 2010–11, pre–James Harden trade. For comparison, as many teams in the sample earned 50-plus wins as 70-plus losses (or its winning-percentage equivalent, in the case of 7–59 Charlotte from the recent lockout year).
More than halfway through this season, the Celtics are on pace for 63 wins; even if they falter, they could lose more games than they win the rest of the year and still reach 50. Depending on how strongly one weighs regular-season versus playoff performance — those Abdul-Jabbar Bucks won a title, as did the equally young, 49–33 Trail Blazers in the 1976–77 season — it’s not a stretch to argue that these Celtics could finish as the best young team in league history ...
[Read more from Zach Kram]