Jan 28 2012 5:28AM

Are Bulls & Thunder Old Enough To Become Champs?


Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

I get as excited as anyone when I see great young teams like the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder rise to the top of the NBA standings, with a cast of young characters leading the way.

But the inevitable question I always find myself asking, Are they experienced enough to win the NBA Finals come June?

After all, we know the old teams always seem to win the championships.

The Mavs, Lakers, Celtics and Spurs of recent seasons all fielded veteran teams that knocked off the young upstarts whenever they squared off in playoff competition.

In the post-Jordan era alone, the average age of the past 13 NBA championship teams is 29.27 when you place weights on playoff playing time.

Measure that against the average age (playing-time weighted) today of 27.28 and you see how important experience is. There hasn't been one NBA champion under that age range in the post-Jordan era--from the 1999 lockout champion Spurs to the 2011 NBA champion Mavs.

Which brings us to the 2011-12 Bulls and Thunder teams.

Both squads are talented and have great futures.

Both are leading their conferences in the regular season so far--the Thunder are 16-3 and leading the West, while the Bulls are 17-4 and leading the East.

But is there any recent precedent that shows these teams are old enough to win an NBA championship?

Well, in the case of Chicago, yes, there is.

The Bulls average age (playing-time weighted) is 27.78, which makes them strikingly similar to the 2009 Lakers (27.37), 2004 Pistons (27.65) and 2003 Spurs (27.73).

Granted, these were the three youngest teams in the post-Jordan era to win championships, but the fact remains that three teams hovering just above the league average still got the job done.

The experience Chicago picked up from last season will surely help them at playoff time. Last year's Bulls you'll recall had the NBA's best record (62-20), but came up short in the Eastern Conference Finals to the more-experienced Miami Heat squad.

The Bulls average age last season was 26.53; the Heat's was 28.00.

Add in a year of experience for everybody. Toss in a 33-year-old Rip Hamilton into the mix to play 30-plus minutes per game. And you see how this new Chicago team may now be old enough to go all the way now.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City's immediate future doesn't look as promising as Chicago's, if you go by the numbers.

The Thunder has an average age (playing-time weighted) this season of 25.12 ... and that is even after I remove 24-year-old Eric Maynor's age figures from the equation, since he was lost to a season-ending injury.

As fun as the Thunder's youth is, NBA champions simply have never been that young in league history. I mean, where else--besides college basketball--does a 23 year old, another 23 year old and a 22 year old lead a team to a title?

Can it be done? I guess it's possible ... Has it been done? No.

Using history as a guide--where NBA championship teams range from 27.37 to 32.03 years of age--you'd have to think the Thunder are at least two years away from growing into their role as champions.

Compare the Bulls' and Thunder's rosters to the playoff rosters of the past 13 NBA champions, found at the bottom of this page ... And if you want to see where your favorite team ranks on the 2011-12 NBA age list, Hoopism ran a cool graphic recently on that very subject at this link here.

2011-12 CHICAGO BULLS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 27.78

Luol Deng, 26+ … 689 minutes, 18 games, 38.3 mpg

Carlos Boozer, 30 … 603 minutes, 20 games, 30.2 mpg

Derrick Rose, 23… 555 minutes, 15 games, 37.0 mpg

Joakim Noah, 26+… 522 minutes, 19 games, 27.5 mpg

Ronnie Brewer, 26+… 499 minutes, 20 games, 25.0 mpg

Kyle Korver, 30+ … 397 minutes, 20 games, 19.9 mpg

Omer Asik, 25 … 353 minutes, 20 games, 17.7 mpg

Taj Gibson, 26+ … 329 minutes, 17 games, 19.4 mpg

Richard Hamilton, 33+ … 305 minutes, 10 games, 30.5 mpg

C.J. Watson, 27+ … 216 minutes, 11 games, 19.6 mpg

John Lucas, 29… 192 minutes, 13 games, 14.8 mpg

Brian Scalabrine, 33+ … 73 minutes, 12 games, 6.1 mpg

Jimmy Butler, 22 … 41 minutes, 12 games, 4.1 mpg

Mike James, 36+ … 25 minutes, 3 games, 8.3 mpg

2011-12 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 25.12

Kevin Durant, 23 … 655 minutes, 18 games, 36.4 mpg

Russell Westbrook, 23 … 600 minutes, 18 games, 33.3 mpg

James Harden, 22 … 527 minutes, 18 games, 29.3 mpg

Kendrick Perkins, 27 … 487 minutes, 18 games, 27.1 mpg

Serge Ibaka, 22 … 452 minutes, 18 games, 25.1 mpg

Thabo Sefolosha, 27+ … 365 minutes, 17 games, 21.5 mpg

Nick Collison, 31 … 356 minutes, 18 games, 19.8 mpg

Daequan Cook, 24+ … 253 minutes, 17 games, 14.9 mpg

Nazr Mohammed, 34 … 237 minutes, 18 games, 13.2 mpg

Reggie Jackson, 21+ … 141 minutes, 12 games, 11.8 mpg

Eric Maynor*, 24+ … 137 minutes, 9 games, 15.2 mpg

Lazar Hayward, 25 … 50 minutes, 8 games, 6.3 mpg

Cole Aldrich, 23 … 41 minutes, 7 games, 6.3 mpg

Royal Ivey, 30 … 20 minutes, 3 games, 6.7 mpg

Key ... + indicates that player will have a birthday between now and June 26--the last possible date of the 2012 NBA Finals; * numbers were removed from all tabulations since Maynor was lost to a season-ending injury.


Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

2011 DALLAS MAVERICKS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 32.03

Dirk Nowitzki, 32 … 826 minutes, 21 games, 39.3 mpg

Jason Kidd, 38 … 744 minutes, 21 games, 35.4 mpg

Shawn Marion, 33 … 690 minutes, 21 games, 32.9 mpg

Jason Terry, 33 … 684 minutes, 21 games, 32.6 mpg

Tyson Chandler, 28 … 680 minutes, 21 games, 32.4 mpg

Jose Barea, 26 … 390 minutes, 21 games, 18.6 mpg

Peja Stojakovic, 34 … 350 minutes, 19 games, 18.4 mpg

DeShawn Stevenson, 30 … 332 minutes, 21 games, 15.8 mpg

Brendan Haywood, 31 … 275 minutes, 18 games, 15.3 mpg

Brian Cardinal, 34 … 37 minutes, 9 games, 4.1 mpg

Ian Mahinmi, 24 … 33 minutes, 6 games, 5.5 mpg

Corey Brewer, 24 … 23 minutes, 6 games, 3.8 mpg

2010 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 29.05

Kobe Bryant, 31 … 923 minutes, 23 games, 40.1 mpg

Pau Gasol, 29 … 913 minutes, 23 games, 39.7 mpg

Metta World Peace, 30 … 839 minutes, 23 games, 36.5 mpg

Derek Fisher, 35 … 754 minutes, 23 games, 32.8 mpg

Lamar Odom, 30 … 667 minutes, 23 games, 29.0 mpg

Andrew Bynum, 22 … 561 minutes, 23 games, 24.4 mpg

Shannon Brown, 24 … 324 minutes, 23 games, 14.1 mpg

Jordan Farmar, 23 … 301 minutes, 23 games, 13.1 mpg

Luke Walton, 30 … 96 minutes, 16 games, 6.0 mpg

Sasha Vujacic, 26 … 76 minutes, 10 games, 7.6 mpg

Josh Powell, 27 … 40 minutes, 13 games, 3.1 mpg

Adam Morrison, 25 … 13 minutes, 2 games, 6.5 mpg

D.J. Mbenga, 29 … 12 minutes, 3 games, 4.0 mpg

2009 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 27.37

Kobe Bryant, 30 … 940 minutes, 23 games, 40.9 mpg

Pau Gasol, 28 … 931 minutes, 23 games, 40.5 mpg

Lamar Odom, 29 … 735 minutes, 23 games, 32.0 mpg

Trevor Ariza, 23 … 722 minutes, 23 games, 31.4 mpg

Derek Fisher, 34 … 635 minutes, 22 games, 28.9 mpg

Andrew Bynum, 21 … 400 minutes, 23 games, 17.4 mpg

Luke Walton, 29 … 332 minutes, 21 games, 15.8 mpg

Shannon Brown, 23 … 276 minutes, 21 games, 13.1 mpg

Jordan Farmar, 22… 260 minutes, 20 games, 13.0 mpg

Sasha Vujacic, 25 … 250 minutes, 23 games, 10.9 mpg

Josh Powell, 26 … 73 minutes, 14 games, 5.2 mpg

D.J. Mbenga, 28 … 16 minutes, 7 games, 2.3 mpg

2008 BOSTON CELTICS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 29.25

Paul Pierce, 30 … 990 minutes, 26 games, 38.1 mpg

Kevin Garnett, 32 … 987 minutes, 26 games, 38.0 mpg

Ray Allen, 32 … 987 minutes, 26 games, 38.0 mpg

Rajon Rondo, 22 … 831 minutes, 26 games, 32.0 mpg

Kendrick Perkins, 23 … 631 minutes, 25 games, 25.2 mpg

James Posey, 31 … 573 minutes, 26 games, 22.0 mpg

P.J. Brown, 38 … 341 minutes, 25 games, 13.6 mpg

Leon Powe, 24 … 270 minutes, 23 games, 11.7 mpg

Sam Cassell, 38 … 264 minutes, 21 games, 12.6 mpg

Eddie House, 30 … 165 minutes, 21 games, 7.9 mpg

Glen Davis, 22 … 137 minutes, 17 games, 8.1 mpg

Tony Allen, 26 … 65 minutes, 15 games, 4.3 mpg

2007 SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 31.40

Tony Parker, 25 … 751 minutes, 20 games, 37.6 mpg

Tim Duncan, 31 … 736 minutes, 20 games, 36.8 mpg

Bruce Bowen, 36 … 689 minutes, 20 games, 34.5 mpg

Manu Ginobili, 29 … 602 minutes, 20 games, 30.1 mpg

Michael Finley, 33 … 538 minutes, 20 games, 26.9 mpg

Fabricio Oberto, 32 … 415 minutes, 20 games, 20.8 mpg

Robert Horry, 36 … 361 minutes, 18 games, 20.1 mpg

Francisco Elson, 31 … 230 minutes, 20 games, 11.5 mpg

Brent Barry, 35 … 225 minutes, 19 games, 11.8 mpg

Jacque Vaughn, 32 … 208 minutes, 20 games, 10.4 mpg

Matt Bonner, 27 … 25 minutes, 9 games, 2.8 mpg

Beno Udrih, 24 … 20 minutes, 8 games, 2.5 mpg

2006 MIAMI HEAT

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 29.75

Dwyane Wade, 24 … 959 minutes, 23 games, 41.7 mpg

Antoine Walker, 29 … 862 minutes, 23 games, 37.5 mpg

Shaquille O’Neal, 34 … 759 minutes, 23 games, 33.0 mpg

Jason Williams, 30 … 686 minutes, 23 games, 29.8 mpg

Udonis Haslem, 26 … 650 minutes, 22 games, 29.5 mpg

James Posey, 29 … 607 minutes, 22 games, 27.6 mpg

Gary Payton, 37 … 560 minutes, 23 games, 24.3 mpg

Alonzo Mourning, 36 … 226 minutes, 21 games, 10.8 mpg

Shandon Anderson, 32 … 90 minutes, 13 games, 6.9 mpg

Michael Doleac, 29 … 72 minutes, 8 games, 9.0 mpg

Derek Anderson, 31 … 66 minutes, 8 games, 8.3 mpg

Wayne Simien, 23 … 7 minutes, 2 games, 3.5 mpg

Jason Kapono, 25 … 2 minutes, 1 games, 2.0 mpg

2005 SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 29.06

Tim Duncan, 29 … 869 minutes, 23 games, 37.8 mpg

Tony Parker, 23 … 858 minutes, 23 games, 37.3 mpg

Bruce Bowen, 34 … 814 minutes, 23 games, 35.4 mpg

Manu Ginobili, 27 … 772 minutes, 23 games, 33.6 mpg

Robert Horry, 34 … 618 minutes, 23 games, 26.9 mpg

Brent Barry, 33 … 555 minutes, 23 games, 24.1 mpg

Nazr Mohammed, 27 … 528 minutes, 23 games, 23.0 mpg

Beno Udrih, 22 … 241 minutes, 21 games, 11.5 mpg

Rasho Nesterovic, 29 … 114 minutes, 15 games, 7.6 mpg

Glenn Robinson, 32 … 113 minutes, 13 games, 8.7 mpg

Devin Brown, 26 … 60 minutes, 12 games, 5.0 mpg

Tony Massenburg, 37 … 28 minutes, 9 games, 3.1 mpg

2004 DETROIT PISTONS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 27.65

Richard Hamilton, 26 … 924 minutes, 23 games, 40.2 mpg

Ben Wallace, 29 … 924 minutes, 23 games, 40.2 mpg

Chauncey Billups, 27 … 881 minutes, 23 games, 38.3 mpg

Rasheed Wallace, 29 … 804 minutes, 23 games, 35.0 mpg

Tayshaun Prince, 24 … 795 minutes, 23 games, 34.6 mpg

Corliss Williamson, 30 … 327 minutes, 22 games, 14.9 mpg

Lindsey Hunter, 33 … 273 minutes, 23 games, 11.9 mpg

Mehmet Okur, 25 … 252 minutes, 22 games, 11.5 mpg

Mike James, 28 … 195 minutes, 22 games, 8.9 mpg

Elden Campbell, 35 … 124 minutes, 14 games, 8.9 mpg

Darvin Ham, 30 … 107 minutes, 21 games, 5.1 mpg

Darko Milicic, 18 … 14 minutes, 8 games, 1.8 mpg

2003 SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 27.73

Tim Duncan, 27 … 1021 minutes, 24 games, 42.5 mpg

Tony Parker, 21 … 814 minutes, 24 games, 33.9 mpg

Stephen Jackson, 25 … 811 minutes, 24 games, 33.8 mpg

Bruce Bowen, 32 … 750 minutes, 24 games, 31.3 mpg

Manu Ginobili, 25 … 660 minutes, 24 games, 27.5 mpg

Malik Rose, 28 … 560 minutes, 24 games, 23.3 mpg

David Robinson, 37 … 539 minutes, 23 games, 23.4 mpg

Speedy Claxton, 25 … 326 minutes, 24 games, 13.6 mpg

Danny Ferry, 36 … 101 minutes, 16 games, 6.3 mpg

Kevin Willis, 40 … 91 minutes, 18 games, 5.1 mpg

Steve Smith, 34 … 66 minutes, 9 games, 7.3 mpg

Steve Kerr, 37 … 46 minutes, 10 games, 4.6 mpg

2002 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 28.41

Kobe Bryant, 23 … 833 minutes, 19 games, 43.8 mpg

Shaquille O’Neal, 30 … 776 minutes, 19 games, 40.8 mpg

Robert Horry, 31 … 703 minutes, 19 games, 37.0 mpg

Rick Fox, 32 … 652 minutes, 19 games, 34.3 mpg

Derek Fisher, 27 … 649 minutes, 19 games, 34.2 mpg

Devean George, 24 … 327 minutes, 19 games, 17.2 mpg

Samaki Walker, 26 … 240 minutes, 19 games, 12.6 mpg

Brian Shaw, 36 … 238 minutes, 19 games, 12.5 mpg

Lindsey Hunter, 31 … 132 minutes, 18 games, 7.3 mpg

Slava Medvedenko, 23 … 21 minutes, 7 games, 3.0 mpg

Mark Madsen, 26 … 10 minutes, 7 games, 1.4 mpg

Mitch Richmond, 36 … 4 minutes, 2 games, 2.0 mpg

2001 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 28.63

Kobe Bryant, 22 … 694 minutes, 16 games, 43.4 mpg

Shaquille O’Neal, 29 … 676 minutes, 16 games, 42.3 mpg

Derek Fisher, 26 … 576 minutes, 16 games, 36.0 mpg

Rick Fox, 31 … 573 minutes, 16 games, 35.8 mpg

Horace Grant, 35 … 423 minutes, 16 games, 26.4 mpg

Robert Horry, 30 … 382 minutes, 16 games, 23.9 mpg

Brian Shaw, 35 … 290 minutes, 16 games, 18.1 mpg

Tyronn Lue, 24 … 131 minutes, 15 games, 8.7 mpg

Mark Madsen, 25 … 48 minutes, 13 games, 3.7 mpg

Ron Harper, 37 … 42 minutes, 6 games, 7.0 mpg

Devean George, 23 … 27 minutes, 7 games, 3.9 mpg

Greg Foster, 32 … 3 minutes, 1 games, 3.0 mpg

2000 LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 29.69

Shaquille O’Neal, 28 … 1000 minutes, 23 games, 43.5 mpg

Kobe Bryant, 21 … 857 minutes, 22 games, 39.0 mpg

Glen Rice, 33 … 766 minutes, 23 games, 33.3 mpg

Ron Harper, 36 … 643 minutes, 23 games, 28.0 mpg

Robert Horry, 29 … 618 minutes, 23 games, 26.9 mpg

A.C. Green, 36 … 429 minutes, 23 games, 18.7 mpg

Brian Shaw, 34 … 408 minutes, 22 games, 18.5 mpg

Rick Fox, 30 … 331 minutes, 23 games, 14.4 mpg

Derek Fisher, 25 … 322 minutes, 21 games, 15.3 mpg

John Salley, 36 … 78 minutes, 18 games, 4.3 mpg

Travis Knight, 25 … 48 minutes, 14 games, 3.4 mpg

Devean George, 22 … 45 minutes, 9 games, 5.0 mpg

1999 SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Average Age (Playing-Time Weighted): 30.60

Tim Duncan, 23 … 733 minutes, 17 games, 43.1 mpg

Avery Johnson, 34 … 653 minutes, 17 games, 38.4 mpg

David Robinson, 33 … 600 minutes, 17 games, 35.3 mpg

Sean Elliott, 31 … 574 minutes, 17 games, 33.8 mpg

Mario Elie, 35 … 526 minutes, 17 games, 30.9 mpg

Jaren Jackson, 31 … 345 minutes, 17 games, 20.3 mpg

Malik Rose, 24 … 194 minutes, 17 games, 11.4 mpg

Jerome Kersey, 36 … 152 minutes, 14 games, 10.9 mpg

Antonio Daniels, 24 … 106 minutes, 15 games, 7.1 mpg

Steve Kerr, 33 … 97 minutes, 11 games, 8.8 mpg

Will Perdue, 33 … 86 minutes, 12 games, 7.2 mpg

Gerard King, 26 … 14 minutes, 8 games, 1.8 mpg