Three rounds, six weeks and 12 victories remain before this year's NBA champion is crowned, but the playoff series that starts at high noon Sunday inside Oklahoma City Arena will showcase the league's future.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies possess two of the youngest playoff rosters in history.
The 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers had the youngest roster ever to win the NBA crown with a weighted average age of 24.5 years old.
OKC's weighted average is 24.2, which means the Thunder potentially could become the youngest team in NBA history to ever win the title.
Again, this achievement is a long ways away, but either OKC or Memphis is roughly two weeks away from advancing to the Western Conference finals, where it will play the Los Angeles Lakers-Dallas Mavericks winner.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and assistant Johnny Davis comprised the starting backcourt of the champion Blazers, who also started Bill Walton at center, Maurice Lucas at power forward and Bobby Gross at small forward.
There are various ways to determine a team's average age.
Basketball-reference.com uses a "weighted mean" to calculate the average age, where instead of data points contributing equally to the final average, some data points contribute more than others.
In other words, The more minutes or games a player has, the more he influences the team's weighted mean. (B-R.com uses Feb. 1 as its age cutoff date.)
You also could calculate it by a team's starting lineup.
Portland's starters had an average age of 23.2 with Davis (21), Gross (23), Hollins (23), Walton (24) and Lucas (25).
OKC's starters have an average age of 23.4 with Serge Ibaka (21), Kevin Durant (22), Russell Westbrook (22), Kendrick Perkins (26) and Thabo Sefolosha (26). That average will increase to 23.6 when Sefolosha turns 27 on Monday.
If coach Scott Brooks were to replace Sefolosha with James Harden (21) — which won't happen — Thunder starters would have an infantile average age of 22.4.
Memphis starters have an average age of 26.4 with Mike Conley (23), Sam Young (25), Marc Gasol (26), Tony Allen (29) and Zach Randolph (29). That average would be 25.4 if usual starter Rudy Gay (24) were not injured.
Hollins is 57 years old, but still can't escape perpetual questions of youth. He started this season with the league's second-youngest roster, until the Feb. 24 trade for 32-year-old Shane Battier nixed that. Hollins still gets questioned about the Blazers' youth.
"People talk about youth, but it's about understanding how to play together," Hollins said. "It's defending, it's rebounding and it's executing an offense. Those are the things that come to mind. It's not the youth. Unfortunately today, most young players are so young they're not ready to consistently play on that type of level. They have talent, but not the cohesiveness that it takes.
"We (the Blazers) were all 21, 22 and 23 as opposed to being 19, 20 and 21. But I think some 21 and 22 year olds are not as mature now as they were then, so they have a lot of growing to do mentally, emotionally and physically. A lot of these guys come into the league so young they have to grow into those talents."
The 1976-77 Blazers lost their first six road games, but meshed by the end of the regular season, winning their last six games of the regular season and seven of their last eight.
Asked if he had a premonition his team possibly might win the championship, Hollins said, "I think the coaches knew before we knew. When we started out, we struggled to win on the road, so it was tough. We won 49 (regular-season) games, but we gave all the top teams trouble every time we played them."
Although the rigors of today's NBA pale in comparison to those four decades earlier, there are still challenges.
"The way travel and medical staffs are on board to take care of these players, there's nothing to do except go out and play," Hollins said. "But it seems like the young players are a lot more distracted today than they were then."
Above all else, talent still wins.
"You've got to be good enough," Hollins said. "That's the bottom line, really."
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.