- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2007

It’s time to stop grouping players by their draft class and start grouping them according to their age.

This antiquated thinking has been especially egregious in relation to the three-pronged marketing ploy that is LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.

The leading indicator of where a player is and where he is going is his age, not when he entered the NBA.

James, who turned 22 on Saturday, was born the same year as Anthony. But Wade is two years older than James and Anthony, which is a significant difference in the development and decline of players.

It makes more sense to group James and Anthony with Chris Bosh, who also was born in 1984. Anthony, although serving a suspension for fight, has passed James as the best of this group this season.

As for Wade, he’s in the same age class as Gilbert Arenas and Amare Stoudemire. Wade and Arenas are similar players, players who can be measured against each other season after season.

Among players 21 and younger, Dwight Howard is the best. The Orlando Magic center is averaging 16.9 points and a league-leading 12.5 rebounds, which puts him among the top 20 players in the league and the top 21-year-olds of all time.

Hornets guard Chris Paul, who is out for a month with a severely sprained ankle, and Bulls forward Luol Deng are the other emerging All-Stars in Howard’s age class.

North Carolina sophomore Tyler Hansbrough, who is picking on college players younger than him, is also in this group.

Warriors center Andris Biedrins (10.8 points, 9.2 rebounds) has emerged as the best 20-year-old this season, but much of his competition is in college.

Those are the players Biedrins should be compared to — not Howard or Deng from the 2004 draft.

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