LeBron James had one of the best seasons of his life this past year winning his third MVP, his first NBA title and second gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
LeBron is in his absolute prime right now at age 27 and coming off one of the most dominant individual playoff runs in NBA history. By all accounts, it is LeBron’s time.
It seems like there’s only one player who could eventually take that away from LeBron: Kevin Durant.
“I’ve heard a few times, in three or four years, this league is going to be yours. . . . I don’t like that. Because I think I’m established now. My time is now,” Durant told the Washington Post. “I feel as though I’ve proved myself these last five years that I can be one of the top players in the league. I’ve got a long way to go to being the ultimate best, but I think my time is now. And I’m starting to enter my prime.”
Durant was there with LeBron in London winning gold a few months ago and was also there watching LeBron celebrate in the NBA Finals after Durant’s Thunder lost to the Heat in five games.
It may not quite be Durant’s “time” yet but he is starting to enter his prime. Durant won his third straight scoring title last season and finished second in the MVP voting to LeBron.
How close is Durant to surpassing LeBron as the NBA’s best player? Will he ever?
While Durant is surely going to keep improving from a statistical standpoint over the next 4-5 years, LeBron is more likely on the decline. There is a pretty big gap at least in terms of PER between LeBron and Durant right now so Durant has his work cut out for him to truly catch LeBron. LeBron continues to easily lead the NBA in PER last year at 30.7 while Durant was fourth in the NBA at 26.2.
It works against Durant too that his assists and turnovers have never been very good and he would seemingly need a huge improvement in that area to become the more complete player necessary to catch LeBron. Durant has never had more assists than turnovers in a season so far in his career and last year, averaging 3.5 assists per game, was a career-high for him. It is very plausible though that Durant gets his assists number to around five per game as he has shown improvement in that area lately.
Team success can do Durant a lot of favors in the race to catch LeBron though and the Thunder are in good position to help Durant in that area. OKC should be able to compete for a title for the next four years at least. They are probably in better shape than any other team in the league in that regard. The more trips to the NBA Finals for Durant, the more people will start to put him on the same level as LeBron. Once Durant wins a title then he will be thrust past LeBron.
Four years from now seems to be the logical time when Durant will be the new king of the NBA. LeBron will be 31 and Durant will be 27. Let’s say LeBron is closer to averaging 26-6-7 then while Durant is at 30-5-8 and with better shooting percentages. Durant will be leading the U.S. to gold in the Olympics as the veteran member of the team just like LeBron did this summer and may also have a championship or two under his belt as well.
It’s hard to imagine Durant never catching and surpassing LeBron but you never know. Durant is right then that his time is now. He’s not playing for four years from now. He and the Thunder know they are good enough now to make a run at becoming the class of the NBA.