Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Common Factor

Besides playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden don’t seem to have much in common. And that was the case when the Sonics/Thunder selected them in three consecutive drafts, except for one key factor.

All three players were exceptionally young for their class. At 18.74 years old on draft night, Durant was the youngest freshmen (and player) taken in the past five drafts combined. One year later, they landed the youngest sophomore from these five draft classes. Westbrook, at 19.62 years old, was actually younger than many freshmen in the 2008 draft. Then they took Harden in 2009. Only one other sophomore besides Westbrook was younger than Harden at 19.83.

As a result, the Thunder nabbed three players with far more college playing experience than prospects their same age. The Sports Resource Newsletter covered this topic last year. Westbrook, for example, had played 75 games for UCLA. Most of the draft selections close to his age had fewer than half that many.

Obviously, it wasn’t just about their age relative to their class. Durant and Harden also put up outstanding statistics, but so had many others in their draft class. Their numbers were made far more impressive by the fact that they were over one year younger (in some cases) than players that shared the same college class.

Maybe other teams valued this common factor, but went another direction on draft night. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Oklahoma City exploited this edge three straight years. Whatever happened, the Thunder may soon start the next NBA dynasty because of those selections.