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Hot Takes We Might Actually Believe: The NBA’s old guard is cooked, save for Stephen Curry

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The 2022-2023 NBA season is just around the corner, but Hot Take SZN is here, and at the end of another eventful off-season, we’ll see just how close to the sun we can fly and still endure the heat of these lookouts.

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No one in NBA history has given Father Time the competitive game that LeBron James has.

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Due to James’ longevity and success in the sport over his 20-year career, we tend to think that other superstars will similarly prolong their heyday into their 30s. In the last two decades alone, there are thousands of examples of players who have enjoyed the same kind of access to practice and have never scored 40,000 regular season and playoff minutes combined, let alone reached James’s 63,174 minutes.

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Only 66 of over 4,500 players in NBA history (1.5%) have reached the 40,000 mark, including James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook and James Harden should join them this season. In the 2010s, no one created more All-NBA teams than them. All of them are closer to the end of their career than to its beginning.

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At some point, we must consider whether their baton is being passed on to a new generation before our very eyes. What could be better than last season’s All-NBA First Team lineup – Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jason Tatum and Devin Booker – were all 27 or younger for the first time since the 1955 lineup. Larry Faust of the Fort Wayne Pistons as one of four centers.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar spoke to Chris Haynes on NBA TV about his two decade long run in the association.\n


LeBron James breaking precedents

James is expected to eclipse Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 33-year record of 38,387 points this season, but Abdul-Jabbar’s 66,297 combined regular season and playoff minutes remained the NBA standard for the same amount of time and James could hit that Mark is also in good health in his 20th campaign.

What James is doing as he approaches his 38th birthday is unprecedented. In his review of 62,579 minutes, which took Karl Malone to retire as a fourth player due to injuries in the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. James played as many minutes in the NBA as Abdul-Jabbar did in late March 1988, when he was 41 years old and about to enter the Lakers’ championship playoffs. Abdul-Jabbar played 30 minutes per game in the 1988 playoffs, averaging 14.1 points as a fourth option. He returned for another season, his 20th in the NBA, averaging 10.1 points and retiring in 1989.

It’s reasonable to believe that James could make a significant contribution to another championship. Last season, he nearly led the league in scoring. But to think that he could be the No. 1 option on the title team – or even Anthony Davis’ wingman – belies everything we’ve ever known in league history. The only reason we’re even allowing that possibility is because it’s James and he’s made a career out of crushing precedents.

James is nearly 10,000 minutes more than Kobe Bryant when he tore his Achilles in 2013 and 20,000 minutes more than Michael Jordan when he won his sixth ring for the Chicago Bulls in 1998. 20,749 total minutes over his 13-year career.)

James missed at least 26 games in three of his last four seasons and had a four-month hiatus in his fourth pre-playoff season. He moved from the NBA First Team in 2020 to the Second Team in 2021 and (courtesy) to the Third Team last season. During this time, his Lakers went from winning the title to losing the playoffs.

Given Davis’ unreliability, the responsibility still lies with James, whose 32.3% usage rate hit a 12-year high last season and whose defense suffered as a result. The Lakers are asking James to still be MVP, only he’s been gone for two years so their ceiling has collapsed, especially since the talent around him isn’t as deep as around Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Doncic, Tatum, Booker or their young NBA brethren Joel Embiid and Ja Morant have all taken teams deeper into the playoffs over the past two seasons.

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Chris Paul, continuing the theme

Paul’s advantage is that he shares his workload with Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, among others at the Phoenix Suns. Unfortunately, the franchise is falling apart, and the Suns’ loss to the Australian team on Sunday will not allay our fears about how they might react to a hell of a summer.

Paul is at the bottom of a list of issues that include firing the owner, frustrating Ayton and requesting a trade for Jay Crowder, but the 12-time All-Star enters the minute stratosphere occupied by four other traditional point guards in NBA history. Paul will start this season with more minutes played (45,088, 35th all-time, right between 40-year-old Charles Oakley and 38-year-old Horace Grant) than:

  • Tony Parker in the 2017-18 season, his final season with the San Antonio Spurs, four years after his last All-Star or NBA appearance.

  • Jason Kidd in 2008-09, his first full season since his return to the Dallas Mavericks, when he failed to play in the All-Star Game, NBA Game or Defensive Game for the first time in a decade.

  • Gary Payton in 2003–2004, his only season with the Lakers, when he also failed to play in the All-Star Game, NBA Game, or Defensive Game for the first time in a decade.

  • John Stockton in 1999–2000, when he made his last All-Star appearance and failed to appear on an NBA team for the first time in 12 years.

Their averages for those seasons were 11.1 points and 6.8 assists in 30.7 minutes per game. Three of them played at least 81 games. Two have won titles – Kidd was the No. 4 scorer at the 2011 Mavericks and Payton as a reserve at the 2006 Miami Heat. That’s encouraging news for Paul’s prospects at the Suns, but no one else has been on a quarter of the salary cap or under such a heavy workload.

We saw Paul make it to the 2021 NBA Finals playing with a shoulder injury and running out of gas against Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks. Last season hamstring injury reportedly slowed down Paul in five horrendous games to close the Western Conference semi-final debacle against Doncic’s Mavericks.

Paul’s usage rate in both the regular season and playoffs dropped to a career low (around 20%) last season at about 34 minutes per game. When Kidd won his ring with Dallas at the age of 37, he played 35 minutes a night with much less usage (14.3%). This team belonged to the late Dirk Nowitzki. When Payton won with Miami, also at the age of 37, he used 12.3% of the Heat’s possession in 24 minutes per game when he came on the field from the bench. This team belonged to 24-year-old Dwyane Wade and 33-year-old Shaquille O’Neal.

Paul turned 37 in May. Each of the last two years, he was selected to the second team of the All-Star Game and the NBA All-Star Game. To repeat it with so many minutes on his increasingly injured legs would be a feat unmatched by his point guard’s stature. Phoenix needs to lighten its burden as well as I hope Booker, Ayton and Bridges can make up for the growing slack or the Suns risk falling below the competition again.

KD talks about his versatility and who he compared his game to on the court in this throwback clip from an early career media day interview.","thumbnailUrl":"","uploadDate":"2022-10-05T15:52:07Z","duration":"PT22S","contentUrl":"","embedUrl":"","identifier":"46086742-d400-3dec-be2f-8ae7cb5c23ef"}

Kevin Durant, highly active unicorn

Durant turned 34 at the end of September. His total of 40,768 minutes ranks 59th in league history, between Magic Johnson in his 32-game comeback from a four-year absence in 1996 and…


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