March 15, 2011 3 Comments
I constructed this graph to find out how long eras last in the NBA; and to find out the general state of the league, is it young or old. I’m counting an era as a period of time when a certain group of stars dominated the league. The 30-year sample size is somewhat small, but it still gives good insight. The chart works like this: if the average age is increasing from year to year, then a lot the same guys are probably in the top ten in scoring, and at the very least the leading scorers in the league are getting older. That means that the players coming into the league are not closing the talent gap with the older players as they age and/or the older players are aging well. Take a look the period from 1987-88 to1996-97 where the drafts were not as strong as the late 90s and early 2000s, and the older guys were all-time greats like Jordan, Barkley, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson, Drexler, Malone, Stockton, among others.
The period from 2002-05 was one where the stars were getting younger; that is remarkable considering people don’t get younger. That means during that time period new, younger guys were finishing in the top ten in scoring for 4 seasons straight. That was a time when young guys like Carmelo, Lebron, Wade, and Bosh came into the league and old guys like Karl Malone were fading. That “era” lasted three seasons before players like Kevin Durant joined the leader scorer ranks.
The bottom line is that when the average age of the top ten scorers is increasing, the league’s stars are getting older and not being replaced fast enough by the incoming young players. When the average age is decreasing, the older guys are retiring and declining while the stars coming in are younger than past years and making almost immediate impact when they get to the league. The league’s best players, with the exception of Kobe Bryant, are at the beginning or middle of their prime. Rose, James, Wade, Durant, D. Howard, Carmelo and I know I’m forgetting someone. I think another era like the late 80s to the mid 90s is starting to shape up, with the best players being so young and the draft pool for the next couple of years being as weak as I’ve ever seen it.