I went out to play pick-up basketball today at an outdoor court in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The fun thing about pick-up basketball is the player roulette. To Quote the famous Forrest Gump: “You’ll never know what your going to get.”
If Forrest had played basketball instead of table tennis, he’d have been telling his story to a young little kid on the sidelines who was watching his brothers play. Every interval, he’d tell the kid “Wait, that’s my turn. Be right back” and then come back to tell his tale while trying to catch his breath. Tom Hanks trying to play basketball should be fun to watch. Someone make this movie.
Instead of his box of chocolates life analogy, he could have said “Life is like a pick up game of basketball, you never know who you’re going to get.”
First of all, because chocolate boxes are usually labelled with the kinds of chocolates they have inside that box, I can’t believe no one has ever called out Forrest for that bullshit.
A pick up game of basketball though, that’s the perfect analogy. You don’t know who you’ll get on your team and you never know who you’ll be playing on the other team. But you just have to play. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win. But it’s going to take effort to win. That’s life.
Today, I was matched up against a team of young High School seniors.
By now everyone who casually follows basketball has at least seen the Pepsi Commercial that disguised Kyrie Irving as an old fat guy trolling random ballers on random basketball courts who goes buy the name of Uncle Drew.
And if you haven’t, here it is. Don’t reach, Young blood.
If that wasn’t enough NBA players pretending to be old guys trolling random courts, here’s Kevin Love joining in on the fun.
If that still isn’t enough, here’s Nate Robinson and Maya Moore added into the mix. I really wonder though, with these clips going viral, are the people in the crowd legitimately surprised? You would have thought they’d have known about Uncle Drew by now. Three freakin’ episodes guys. Come on.
I, myself, know I am by no means “Old” at only 24. Nor am I in any way in the same level basketball-wise as Irving, Love, Robinson, and Moore. But I would have loved to be able to rip off my old man disguise and become a star player at that moment. Running pick-up with those High School kids today got me wondering about the effects of age in basketball.
CAS-Siam University @ Thai General Equipment (31/5/14) SCORE: 75-106
This game was a blow out. No exciting comebacks. No long runs that made the game closer. Thai General Equipment (TGE) led from their first offensive possession to their last. By the 10th possesion, TGE were up by 11 points and it ballooned to 36 at one point. TGE shot the ball extremely better (61% to 33%), they didn’t allow offensive rebounds (66% of available defensive rebounds), they got and made their free throws (68% of 25 FT attempts), and they kept the margin of turnovers in tact (20-20 Turnovers. Nothing spectacular at 22% of their possessions, but as long as CAS was turning the ball over as much as they were it was nothing to worry about). There’s nothing much to take from this game other than that TGE just beat CAS down.
But for those who were watching Live and those who actually understand Thai, you will have noticed a key sentence early in the game mentioned by the commentators.
Even before the jump ball, the announcers noted that these CAS players “looked really young”.
Because the phrase “Looked really young” is an unsupported statement, I turned to the internet to find out if we had any evidence to prove this point.
So, as you can see in CAS colors, the roster that played in this match consisted of 7 players that were 21 or younger. That’s over half a team that can’t drink in the United States of America legally. That’s like filling out an NBA roster with 7 draft picks. At an average of 23 years old, that is really, really, really, young. “How young?” you might ask. Here are some facts that might be familiar with anyone who watched the NBA last year and watched the Philadelphia 76ers:
- They were entertaining at times and they played at a super fun pace (1st in the NBA at 99.2).
- Bless your soul for having watched them play. They allowed the most points for any team and they were bottom 5 of scoring.
- They fielded 23 total players last season, 13 of which had one or zero NBA experience. They had 8 Rookies.
- If you are starting to feel some strange connection between CAS and the Sixers, here’s another one for you. The Sixers average age was 23.4 years old, not that far ahead of CAS (23).
Let’s check with TGE.
TGE has their 3 (or 4 if you are counting Number 04 at 25 years old) young guys, but the age gap between those young guns and the old guys is remarkable. Their age average is 30 years old. I must imagine that the three youngest players on this team must run a lot of errands for fellow teammates.
Right now, some of you are probably thinking, sarcastically, in your head “Well, old teams win games. I should call my grandfather and his friends to start up a basketball team that will dominate the world of basketball altogether!“. First of all, if you really feel the urge to do that, please do so. I’d love to see that in motion. Second of all, this is just one game (as always). You can take this info with a grain of salt, but I am using it as an example to further point out other findings.
After seeing the average age difference in these teams, you realize that you can be young on your wild, springy, powerful legs with all the athleticism in the world at your expense, but some times, age (or more directly, experience) will overcome.
You could see some instances where 43-year old player-coach, Apaipong Netsirisuwan (as seen in the picture above and the articles feature picture), casually brought up the ball using his body to block the young energetic defender, set up the offense, and looked for the optimal pass. You can feel his experience oozing out with every movement. At the end of the game, your normal stat sheet would not have shown much for him. Zero points, three rebounds, 6 assists, and two steals was his final line, which is pretty average for a second/third string backup point guard. Once you look deeper into his numbers, this is what you get:
- Assisted on 43% of the teams shot while he was on the floor (assisted 6 of 14 available shots). For reference, the second highest Assist Rate for TGE was at 23%.
- He led the team in Defensive Ratings (as explained in the previous entry), which is the indicator of how many points a team allowed while player X was on the court. His Defensive Rating was 45.45. To depict the number a bit more, this meant that on average that Apaipong was on the court, CAS scored 0.45 points per possesion which is half of a free throw. This also led to him leading TGE in Net Ratings (at 73.90) as well, which is his offensive ratings subtracted by his defensive rating.
Again, Apaipong is 43 years old. When I was half his age at 21, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t as strong as he is. Sure enough, for hardcore Thailand Basketball fans, you will know Apaipong as a veteran national team player who is always in shape and loaded with experience and if you look at his numbers, you might be able to say that that experience had quite an impact on his performance.
No Country for Old Men
I was looking for the average youngest team in the NBA and I found something a bit more interesting.
That is the list of the top 10 oldest teams in the NBA. When you hear the word “old”, it comes off a bit negative. As we can see from this list though, it is far from being negetive. Facts we can take from this list:
- The NBA finals runner-up, The Miami Heat, were the Oldest Team in the NBA. If you go back one year when they won their back-to-back championship, they were second oldest team in the league.
- The champs, The San Antonio Spurs, were the Fourth Oldest Team in the League. But we already knew they were old with Duncan and Manu on that team.
- The team that gave the eventual champs the most problem during the whole playoffs, The Dallas Mavericks, were the second oldest team in the league.
- All of these teams made the playoffs, with the New York Knicks being the exception. Because the Knicks suck.
- 3 out of 4 teams of the Conference Finals were in the Top 10 oldies (Heat, Spurs, Indiana Pacers).
For the Youngest teams:
- The Sixers were pretty atrocious, as aforementioned.
- None of these teams made the playoffs.
- The Sixers had the third overall draft pick. The Jazz had the 5th overall draft pick. The Magic had the 4th overall draft pick. The Bucks had the second overall draft pick. The Cavs, who had the first pick, lies as the 7th youngest team in the league.
- One thing about these teams are that they seem to have a bright future ahead of them, which of course, always come with teams of youth.
What if we decided to look at the TBL in this matter?
- CFM are the Chiangmai Flying Mammoths
- KKR are the Khonkean Raptors
- PEA are Provincial Electric Authority
- MNV are the Mono Vampires
- CHT are Chonburi Hi-Tech
- NMG are the Nakhon Pathom Mad Goats
- TCA are Thew Charoen Aksorn
- TSW are the Taksin Warriors
Unknowingly, this match was between the oldest and the youngest team in the TBL. The StdDev of age basically indicates the gaps between age ranges of the players. You can see for TGE where they have 4 really young players and 8 quite well seasoned veterans, the Standard Deviation (StdDev) is at 7.27. CAS doesn’t have much of a swing and they are at 4.21.
Now let’s take a look at the current ranking (at the date of writing this, the TBL was 9 games in):
- The three youngest teams (CAS, CFM, KKR) clocked in at the bottom 4 ranks with little chance of changing any of that during the 11 games left in the season.
- The 3 oldest teams didn’t fare so well either, though Relatively better. TCW is in 9th, TCA in 6th and TGE in 5th. TGE are still in the running as they are only two games behind the top position.
- One thing to point out is that the two teams with the lowest Standard Deviation (CHT at 3.68 and NMG at 2.83, with a significant margin) are doing pretty well (CHT at 1, NMG at 4).
What we can assume is that young teams or lack of experience can really hurt a team.
We can also assume that while age and experience might help you win games, it is not reliable in the long term to win championships.
Finally, we can assume that the low standard deviation in age could mean that these strong teams are founded on the fact that their players are in the same age range, hence meaning they will be able to communicate between each other more efficiently and have a better understanding of each of their own basketball culture.
Potential is fun
Watching this CAS team was a bit disheartening with the lead continuously bloating and the players might have felt so themselves. Just take a look at this comparison of how both teams organized their timeouts.
First picture here is the CAS team
Second picture is the TGE team
The score difference had gone to 23 points and you could see on the CAS bench that they were worn out. Guys didn’t get up to huddle on the timeout plan. Whereas TGE had most of their guys in on the play huddle. This could be a fatigue factor, but it could also be that youth/age kicking in.
However, it is not fair to continuously bash CAS down. Today could have been an offday. When you are team that thrives off youth, you are going to be inconsistent. Those of us who are now a bit aged can remember the days of our youth when it would seem like we changed our minds and decisions at every second. Basketball players these are but they are still human.
For CAS, hope was glimmered in short instances, here and there, whether it was:
Number 91, Narathip Boonserm. Age 19. Has a quick first step and has a knack for drawing in defender and penetrating the defense all the way to the hoop.
Number 11, Peeranat Semmeesuk. Age 19. Showed a couple of nice glimpse of his court vision which in part is because of his height of 1.96M. Here he shows a nice backdoor pass to a nice cut from 19-year-old, Ditpong Ekjit, Number 66.
Here Peeranat displays his great court vision again, passing a pass over the zone to a zone loading, Udomsak Rattanapunsri (Number 12, Age 21). Peeranat made 3 assists this game with an assist rate of 38%. Udomsak hit 2 of 4 three-pointers.
My personal play of the game, in aesthetic sense, was this Pick & Roll fake, strong drive, needle pass from Number 9, Anekchai Jaiwat, who is also 19 years old.
From these instances, CAS has plenty of potential to look forward to exploiting. Each prospect has their own ability which is ready to be utilized as a whole. As of now they are a bunch of green kids who have just started to flap their wings, in a few years with all the experience they groomed together, it should turn out to be an interesting team.
*Note: Thai General Equipment have their own well-known trio of young up and coming stars. Dubbed by their fanbase as D2B after the famous Thai Boy Band of a decade back. These kids are no less exciting prospects as the CAS group, but with limited space and a plan to feature them in the future, I shall not go into detail about them for now.
This match was fun for me personally, as it featured 4 players from my alma mater, Chulalongkorn University. During my short and uneventful basketball career there we were quite a bit shorthanded, indicated by the fact that I actually started as the team’s Power Forward. However in the recent years, we have gotten much more success in recruiting. especially with these 4 headlining prospects:
TGE, Suppawich “James” Khukhandhin, age 20: James is a smooth point guard who looks like he has absorbed a lot of cool and calmness from his fellow experienced teammates, which is probably the plan of putting him on this team in the first place. James is a steady point guard who makes the right passes and will sometimes make the spectacular ones. One knock on him is that he might be a bit too unselfish and should look to take and make those open shots. This trait doesn’t really surprise me as Ricky Rubio is his idol. He shooting is probably a lot better than Ricky’s though.
TGE, Anaswee “Fair” Klaewnarong, age 19: Fair is long. Above of that, he is really mobile and capable of some ball-handling to take the ball to the hoop. He displayed quite a bit of athleticism, hanging in the air to get that foul for the extra free throw quite a few times in this game. He sometimes looks uncomfortable in the post, however, and will tend to drift away from the paint where he should operate more. Comparing anyone to Kevin Durant is pretty dangerous, but the potential for a relative Kevin Durant in the TBL is a pretty fair comparison to me.
CAS, Udomsak “Boss” Rattanapunsri, age 21: Boss is a sharp-shooting off guard, as mentioned earlier. He will make those open shots you give him and he can create shots off the dribble a bit as well. However, he might need to improve his ball handling a bit as he tends to lose the ball at times while penetrating to the hoop.
CAS, Akechai “Top” Jaiwat, age 19: Top seems like a prototypical off-guard. He can drive into the paint and he can hit threes. In terms of scoring, I feel that he has the most potential out of the four. However, I might be biased because the last time I went to run some pickup with my alma matter, I was assigned to cover Top and he completely burned me. However, Top needs to keep his head into the game at times. As can be seen, he will make minor errors such as stepping on the line behind the corner three.
It’s good to have young legs on a team. You will always need that athleticism. However, you should always try to pair it with seasoned experience so they can feed off each other.
As for the pick-up game today, I got complete ran off the court by those young high school kids. I had some of my moments play old guy ball, hitting some jumpers and making some bounce passes until I eventually ran out of breath.