Updated: February 8, 2013, 1:18 AM ET

Daily Dime Live

Rookie Watch: Best Of 19

By David Thorpe | Scouts Inc.

When evaluating players, there are dozens of variables to consider. But the one that tends to be forgotten the most by fans -- yet treasured by NBA executives -- is the player's age.

Teams consider age for two main reasons: 1) It helps explain the player's success in college, and 2) it shows how long the player has to make big jumps in production.

The top targets are always young players who are big producers. After that, teams value young players who are solid but have the physical/skill trajectory of a much better player; their youth provides them more time to develop.

As has been discussed in these reports numerous times, a player's trajectory -- his upside -- is best realized when he is in his best environment for growth. The team may or may not be good, but the opportunity for development must be there. Many times, of course, it is not. So when we project how a player is going to perform over time, that has to be taken into account.

  • To read the entire column, click here Insider

    David Thorpe

    ESPN Staff Writer
  • Simulating The West Playoff Race

    By Kevin Pelton | ESPN Insider

    As we approach the NBA All-Star break, the playoff picture should be clearing up. Instead, after the top two teams, the Western Conference race is as muddled as ever. With the help of simulating the remainder of the season a thousand times, let's take a look at what the numbers say about who will end up where when the music stops in April.

    First-Second seeds
    Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs

    With the Los Angeles Clippers slumping, it has become a familiar two-team race for home-court advantage throughout the West playoffs, with San Antonio once again claiming the role of favorite. Oklahoma City has the slightly better point differential (plus-8.8 points per game versus plus-8.5), but when we account for schedule, the Spurs move just ahead of the Thunder. Add in the Spurs' 1.5-game lead in the standings and they land the No. 1 seed in 63 percent of simulations.

  • To read the entire column, click here Insider

    Kevin Pelton

    ESPN Staff Writer