Who’s the Oldest Team in the NBA?

THIS GRAPHIC HAS BEEN UPDATED, NEW VERSION HERE

Who is the oldest team in the NBA? What if you take minutes played into consideration? The results for the first 3 weeks of the 2010 – 2011 season are below. The left column is the average player ages using standard averages, the right column is the average player ages after adjusting for minutes played.

NBA Average Player Age Based on Minutes
Who is the oldest team in the NBA? How about the youngest? Apparently it depends on how you choose to measure. Most people use a simple average, add up the age of all the players and divide by the number of total players. Not good enough for the nerds at Hoopism. What really matters is not the age of your players, but instead the age of the players you have on the court.

We weighted the average age for each NBA team based on how many minutes they have played in the 2010-2011 season and things look very different. The numbers on the left side of the graph represent average age of a teams players without accounting for minutes of playing time, the numbers on the right side are adjusted for playing time. The red lines are teams who became older on average when accounting for minutes, the blue lines are teams which decreased in age. The thickness of the lines is relative to the discrepancy between the to methods for getting average age.

So if we look at the traditional average, the Miami Heat are the oldest team in the league with an average of 30.46. This makes sense given their bench, which includes Juwan Howard (age 37), recent acquisition of Jerry Stackhouse (age 36), and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (age 35). Combined, these 3 players make up just 8.8% of the playing time. When you look at the average age of the Miami heat players adjusting for minutes played, they drop 3 spots down to the 4th oldest team with an average age of 29.18.

So who is the oldest team in the NBA if you adjust for playing time? Dallas Mavericks with an average age of 31.33. Dallas is ranked second oldest by the traditional average at 29.54. Makes a lot of sense when you consider that Jason Kidd (age 37), Jason Terry (age 33), Shawn Marion (age 32), and Dirk Nowitski (age 32) combine for more than 50% of the minutes played by Dallas this year. The other starters and the Dallas bench does not make the Mavericks any younger, Brian Cardinal (age 33) Brendan Haywood (age 31), and Caron Butler (age 30) help to make the Mavs the oldest team in on the court. I suspect this will drop a little if Roddy Beaubois (age 22) gets healthy and starts playing more minutes.

Injured players like Beaubois were not included in either of the averages. So the Bulls who dropped from 12th (avg age 27) to 20th (avg age 25.60) when accounting for minutes played, are not effected by Carlos Boozer (age 28) being injured. More likely the Bulls rank drops when adjusted for minutes played because they have Kurt Thomas, who is tied with Shaquille O’Neal for being the oldest player in the league at age 38, but has played just 7 minutes this season.

While adjusting for minutes is a more relevant measure of a teams age, it does not take into consideration what month a player was born. I imagine that including that level of accuracy would again change the outcome. Perhaps Hoopism’s resident programmer will automate this graph to include months in average age?

Stats are taken from Basketball Reference.com on 11/14/10, thanks to Justin Kubatko for making his data public. The data visualization is inspired by Ben Fry’s MLB, Salary vs. Performance visualization.