For the better part of the last decade, LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been considered the two top dogs in the NBA hierarchy. Others have won MVP awards and had their moments of glory, but LBJ and KD were lead bosses on squads that were title contenders each season.
After LeBron’s Lakers failed to make the playoffs and Durant’s Nets got swept out of the first round by the Celtics, everyone is ready to anoint the next Leaders of The New School. Because these superstars failed to advance far in the playoffs, the narrative has now flipped and even the great Isiah Thomas is down with the notion that there are new sheriffs in NBA town.
For the first time in 15 years, we have an NBA playoff without LBJ or KD in the second round. The former Indiana Hoosiers and Detroit Pistons icon believes it’s time to look for that next group of top players.
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t make the playoffs, and Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets were swept in round one. Are we seeing a changing of the guard in the NBA? https://t.co/pfdxElJiw5
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) April 26, 2022
On NBA TV, Thomas had this to say this week about the current development:
“After these playoffs, we’re gonna have to do some rethinking of who the top players are. We’ve had LeBron and James & Kevin Durant in the top. One got swept & one didn’t even make the play-in so. So we’re going to have to do some rethinking about who is at the top.”
"After these playoffs, we're gonna have to do some rethinking of who the top players are. We've had LeBron James & Kevin Durant in the top. One got swept & one didn't even make the play-in so."
Agree with @isiahthomas?
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 26, 2022
Despite Isiah’s enthusiasm, if we’re being technical here, one could argue neither has been the best player in the league for the past three seasons. So they were hearing footsteps a few seasons ago. Now a large portion of hoops fans would probably place both LeBron and KD out of their top three players list.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Passed Both In 2019-20
Although many won’t agree because Giannis doesn’t do his business as smoothly as KD or while showing as much skill as Bron, but he gets busy on both ends with a crazy motor and at a high level. Winning back-to-back MVPs, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP in that time frame speaks volumes.
When you think about where he was as a skinny rookie in 2013, to his evolution into an all-time great, his career has been nothing short of sensational. He also led the Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 seasons.
— ContentNBA (@ContentNBA) April 26, 2022
LBJ, KD and Kawhi Leonard were widely considered the game’s three best players. But that’s not the case anymore. Bron and KD have regressed mightily as it pertains to playing both sides of the floor, and Leonard rarely plays.
A changing of the guard is happening, and while the expectation is that Bron and KD will come back with a vengeance next season, they’re no longer the two top dogs. Guys like the aforementioned Giannis, Mavericks star Luka Doncic, Sixers star Joel Embiid, and reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic are the future. A popular choice is the 6-foot-8 two-way stud in Boston named Jayson Tatum, who thoroughly outplayed Durant in Boston’s series sweep.
And there are others who should be garnering much more attention.
As for Isiah, it’s funny that he says this when he’s gone on record calling LeBron the greatest player ever as recently as a few months ago. Zeke always pushes the LeBron narrative, in large part due to the fact that he despises Michael Jordan. Once Jordan became the NBA’s No. 1 brand, there were never questions as to who the best player in the league was.
Fans have short memories, so let’s see where Bron and KD rank at this time next season. They both have some juice left in the tank.