If the Nets began the 2008-09 season with the 15 players they currently have either under contract or about to be signed (Chris Douglas-Roberts), they would no doubt be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, team in the NBA…also one of the youngest ever.
Nets brass keep cautioning the roster is a work in progress but it’s unlikely that the next round of changes is going to change the rebuilding dynamic.
Here are the players and their ages, in alphabetical order, with NBA experience in parentheses:
Maurice Ager, 24 (two years)
Ryan Anderson, 20 (rookie)
Josh Boone, 23 (two years)
Vince Carter, 31 (ten years)
Chris Douglas-Roberts, 21 (rookie)
Devin Harris, 25 (four years)
Trenton Hassell, 29 (seven years)
Nenad Krstic, 24 (four years)
Brook Lopez, 20 (rookie)
Bostjan Nachbar, 27 (six years)
Bobby Simmons, 28 (six years)
Stromile Swift, 28 (eight years)
Marcus Williams, 22 (two years)
Sean Williams, 21 (one year)
Yi Jianlian, 20 (one year)
We’re not counting Keith Van Horn (32, 10 years). KVH has a team option exercisable just before the season begins. His contract may be used in a trade, but there is no way he shows up for warm-ups in London or Paris.
There are other indicators of just how young this team is.
* Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers were the NBA’s youngest team, with an average age just below 24. They were the third youngest team in league history. The Nets are one trade away from that territory, as long as they don’t ditch one of the younger players for a veteran.
* At barely 20 years old, Ryan Anderson is the youngest Net in nearly 30 years, since 1979. Brook Lopez, five weeks older than Anderson, is the second youngest during that time. Yi Jianlian is the fourth. (Marcus Williams had been the youngest, but he turned 21 in December of his rookie year. Anderson won’t turn 21 til next May, Lopez til next April. Yi turns 21 in October.)
* The 15 average three and a half years' NBA experience.
* Nine of the 15 are 25 or under; only one, Vince Carter, is over 30, although Trenton Hassell is close.
Beyond those under contract, the most likely player to get a chance as one of Kiki Vandeweghe’s "fallen angels" is Julius Hodge, who is all of 24.
It’s not that a young team can’t succeed. The 2001-02 Nets were the fourth youngest team in the league that year and the youngest team to make the Finals in 25 years, since the all-time youngest Portland Trail Blazers of 1977. Still, as we’ve noted before, nothing says rebuilding like a lack of razors in the locker room.
And the Nets have twice had four rookies on their roster, compared to the three on this year’s roster. Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, Brandon Armstrong and Brian Scalabrine were on the team in 2001-02, and Marcus Williams, Josh Boone, Hassan Adams and Mile Ilic in 2006-07.