Brian Windhorst and a team of ESPN Insiders bring life and news from in and around the NBA world.

For a long time, the greatest compliment you could possibly pay to LeBron James or Kevin Durant was that they were… inevitable.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets stars may not always win, but they always intimidate their opponents and always give their teams a chance no matter the circumstances, which is the highest level one can climb to in basketball.

However, evidence over the past year or so suggests that this may simply no longer be true.

This is part of a star player’s career path, of course, but it’s also important when considering the balance of power in the league.

Let’s be clear: James and Durant remain undoubtedly among the elite players. Durant started his fifth week of scoring, and at this early stage he averaged his points per game in eight years. James is two months into his 38th birthday and is averaging 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

But their ability to tirelessly lift their teams, regardless of their make-up, into endless title contention may be gone. This is a dangerous position to take, which is why “burrows” and “meibes” are littered with them. The greats of all time have a way of getting people to eat such sentiments.

Their teams, even with younger prospective Hall of Famers playing alongside them, are a combined 3-10.

In March, with the Lakers in a losing streak that helped drench their post-season hopes, James declared, “Til you stomp on me, chop off my head, bury me 12 feet deep, and then I had the chance.”

Honestly, this was accurate. In James’ ten career trips to the NBA Finals, he was on the top-ranked team in the conference only twice, and nine different times in the run-up to the Finals, he led teams to a winning streak without a home court advantage. The records just weren’t important; James was just very good.

You can point out that James’s current Lakers team is poorly built and ill-equipped to compete at the highest level and should not be compared to the past. That’s fair, but consider the case of James’ 2017-18 campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs ranked 29th in defense, saw coach Ty Lue need a mid-season vacation for medical reasons, had a group of unsuitable former All-Stars (Derek Rose, Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas) sent off during the season, 18 different players and had His co-star Kevin Love misses 23 matches due to injury.

The Cavaliers made the finals.

James was, well, inevitable. He played 82 matches and gave his exemplary wild numbers. In the playoffs, he averaged 34 points and a league high of 42 minutes while ripping two hits and winning two Game 7 games – during which he averaged 40 points, 11.5 rebounds and eight assists on 57% on shot while sitting on the bench . Total 4 minutes and 35 seconds in it.

He became the first player in league history to average a triple-double in the Finals, the eighth in a row he’s played and ninth in an 11-year period.

From 2011-12 to 2018-19, Durant’s teams won 72% of their games — excluding the 2014-15 season, which he missed largely due to a broken Jones foot — and made it to the finals four times. Those teams had some other excellent players, but it was Durant who won the MVP award in the Finals during both championship campaigns with the Golden State Warriors.

In the 2021 playoffs, with Kyrie Irving sidelined and James Harden faltering, Durant averaged 34.3 points (most in his playoff career—and he led the postseason in scoring a five-time average). In the famous seven-game series with the Milwaukee Bucks, he averaged 35 points and 11 rebounds in 43 minutes per game. Had he famously been an inch further back to drain a 3 instead of the 2 that forced overtime in Game 7, there would have been an unmistakably different champion that year.

But by the end of the 2021-22 regular season, both James and Durant were on vacation, something that had never happened since they were in the league together. Watching their teams early this season, would it be wise to leave their schedules open again in June?

The Nets and Lakers’ miserable beginnings don’t define their seasons. Naturally, both teams are expected to find their level at some point. But what is this level?

It’s a fair question, and even asking it makes the point (maybe).

NBA front office insider Bobby Marks He receives a text message and then goes to the board:

Stimulating drafting and retention? do not say that!

The text arrived from the team CEO in the middle of a Warriors game.

“Does the NBA really suggest a rule like that?”

The question was a reference to a hypothetical luxury tax change posted on my dashboard that would give teams a tax cut on salaries paid to NBA players who drafted and then kept them.

“I really like it,” the exec wrote.

It was a surprising reaction, because this particular team is one of those in line to receive more than $17 million as part of the post-season tax handout. In August, $10.5 million from the 2021-22 season arrived in his bank account.

The Warriors’ expected $500 million ($270 million in luxury tax) payroll next season is in the center of attention after Jordan Paul and Andrew Wiggins signed extensions recently. It is a topic of discussion between the teams in the context of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

But that’s the difference between the Golden State and teams like Brooklyn and the L.A. Clippers, who also pay a hefty luxury tax penalty: The Warriors built their roster through the draft; Nets and Clippers built their agency and free trade company.

Outside of the 2020 deal to acquire Wiggins and sign free agent this season from JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo and Andre Iguodala (they account for a combined 6.6% of the salary cap), every player is drafted to the Warriors roster. Next season, 10 of the 12 players will be from previous recruiting selections.

That leads us to this question: Why should Paul and Stephen Curry be taxed at the same rate as Kohei Leonard, Paul George, Kevin Durantor, and Kyrie Irving?

Instead of punishing a team like the Warriors, why not Stimulate Drafting and developing by creating a tiered scale that reduces taxable salary if players are drafted by this team?

For example, let’s say there is a 25% tax break for these players. So next season Curry’s $51.9 million salary will only count towards $38.9 million in tax. On the other hand, Wiggins counts as the full amount because it was acquired in a transaction.

Using this accounting, your veterans tax bill will be reduced from $270 million to $47 million.

This ignites? Yes, when considering that the goal of any team is to craft a sustainable roster, if not a championship, then develop it.

If you want additional proof, just ask the non-taxpayer team that texted on Friday night.

Brian Windhurst He has something to say about it…

Warriors love this concept, but it can be hard to sell to the majority of their competitors. Golden State has won four titles in the past eight years, overtaking the Lakers and New York Knicks as the highest-earning team in the league now that it is based in San Francisco.

Speaking of flying high, the ESPN reporter in Dallas Tim McMahonreports on Luka Doncic’s prolific recording start:

Doncic: I don’t think I need to score 30 every night

Luka Doncic joined in a historically exclusive when he danced through the Orlando Magic’s defense in the last minute of the first half of Sunday night, dribbling between his legs and then behind his back to create a path to the paint, as he made a pass in a reverse pass. and 1 over 7-foot-1 and 2 bull-eyes.

That bucket gave Doncic already 30 game points, a record-breaking Dallas Mavericks star in each of the first six games of the season. It hasn’t been achieved in the NBA since Michael Jordan did during the 1986-87 season, according to ESPN statistics. & Research Information.

Can Doncic, who leads the league with 36.7 points per game and a 40.9% utilization rate, maintain such an extraordinary pace?

“I don’t think I need to,” Doncic said after finishing the season at his highest level with 44 points in the win over the Magic. “Some nights, I’ll double each time and someone else will be open throughout the match. There are different teams, different coverages. I don’t think I need to score 30 every night.”

Dallas 3-3 despite Doncic’s singles brilliance. The Mavs were able to excel in the last quarter by double-digits in two of their three defeats, including a Saturday night overtime loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, where the Mavs faded after leading by 16 with 3:57 in regulation.

There is a school of thought about the league and opponents should be prepared to live with Doncic’s dominance early in the games. The logic is that if Doncic expends his energy constantly creating dribbling, he will likely be tired by the fourth quarter.

Competitors sometimes choose to force the ball out of Doncic’s hand along the length of the court and other Dallas players dare to beat them. In many cases, Doncic’s teammates were unable to establish a rhythm because he was too in control of the ball.

“When someone goes like that and has 30 in the first half, you just have to wait,” said Muvs coach Jason Kidd. “Then it gets difficult, because when you have opportunities, you have to make them … When you have a star like this who can control the game, you just have to be patient, but you have to be prepared.”

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