The Memphis Grizzlies are the youngest team in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder is the second youngest team. When they square off tonight at FedEx Forum both organizations not only are building for the future but also are in the playoff race.
Will one of the two upstarts make the playoffs? Both? Neither? Most NBA analysts predict neither will play in the postseason, that it will be difficult to finish ahead of at least two of five veteran teams: Portland, Phoenix, New Orleans, Utah and Houston. "The West is still so difficult,” said The Sporting News’ Sean Deveney. "There are more experienced teams battling for those final spots. It’s hard for a young team to overcome more experienced teams in a playoff race.” Ian Thomsen, Sports Illustrated’s NBA writer, also predicts neither will make it. "I don’t see Chris Paul allowing the Hornets to miss the postseason,” Thomsen said. "And the Jazz have so much more experience than either the Thunder or Grizzlies. "The Thunder has the better shot of the two because they have the best player in Kevin Durant. If they (get in) it will be because Durant has carried them there much sooner than anyone guessed he could.” But there are some who believe the Thunder’s solid play the first half of the season is a sign they’re simply better than a few teams with playoff pedigrees. ESPN’s John Hollinger, whose computer program has the Thunder currently finishing as the No. 6 seed, two wins shy of the No. 2 seed, said the Grizzlies don’t have the bench to compensate if the injury bug hits. "I think Oklahoma City has a great shot,” Hollinger said. "There’s a good chance Utah makes a deal with (Carlos) Boozer which would knock them down a peg or two. And I think Houston will hit a wall.” Dallas Mavericks radio play-by-play broadcaster Chuck Cooperstein has followed the NBA for more than 30 years dating back to his radio talk show days in Philadelphia. "It will be tough because young teams generally don’t finish ahead of experienced teams,” Cooperstein said.