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Youth is wasted on the young – the inexperience of the Oklahoma City Thunder

Following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s consecutive losses in Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals, there has predictably been talk in the media about the Thunder’s youth and inexperience. Perhaps just as predictably, there was the backlash from twitter and the blogosphere about the mainstream media’s tired use of old clichés which supposedly have no bearing on reality. That is, the practice of substituting ‘narratives’ in place of objective analysis. One such opinion came from the great Eric Freeman from Ball Don’t Lie, who linked to his piece in The Classical from a week ago on twitter.

Usually I too am bored by the lazy use of narratives to explain NBA phenomena, as well as the selective cherry-picking of information and facts to fit these narratives. In this particular situation however, traditional wisdom has some merit. To win in the NBA, you do need experience, and history backs this up. The average age of Finals teams over the last 20 years is 28.1. When adjusted for playing time, it’s actually a little higher at 28.6. The average age of Finals MVPs since 1981 is 29.5 years old. Put simply, the NBA playoffs are an old man’s game. Meanwhile, this precocious young Thunder team have an average age of 25.8, and their weighted average age is 25.4 (Miami on the other hand have an average age of 28.6, with a weighted average age of 28.5). They are the youngest Finals participant of the last 20 years, and if they go on to win, they would be the youngest Championship team by almost a full year.

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