Who’s the Heir to LeBron’s Throne?
The 2015 NBA Finals may have ended in disappointment for LeBron James, but his performances against Golden State reaffirmed his status as the world’s best.
Without key All Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, James singlehandedly put the Cavs within touching distance of an unlikely title. But these virtuoso performances come with a price. Nobody can maintain the same level for ever and despite the meticulous care he puts into preparation surely now, as he’s set to enter his 13th season aged 30, is when signs of wear and tear are about to start appearing.
So who’s best placed to dethrone King James?
Well, the obvious candidate would be reigning-MVP and newly crowned champion Steph Curry. A lot is going to depend on how he responds to expectations that he’ll follow up last season with more success. But really, there’s no reason he can’t. Steph is playing with an excellent team at Golden State, and coach Steve Kerr is proving himself to be an astute tactician and an accomplished man-motivator.
Pipped at the post for MVP honours by Curry, you really feel as though James Harden is going to come out with a point to prove. To surpass LeBron, Harden will have to improve significantly on the defensive end and he would definitely benefit from a stronger supporting cast at Houston, but there’s no denying his prodigious offensive talent, and if he keeps getting better he’s going to become unguardable.
And let’s not forget Kevin Durant. If Harden’s going to have a chip on his shoulder this year, Durant’s will have a two by four. Having missed a significant portion of last season due to injury Durant will be fresh, rested, and he’s still only 26 years old (a scary prospect). With free agency looming in 2016, Durant will be looking to put together a strong season and re-establish his MVP status.
Or maybe this will be the season of the raised brow (singular). Anthony Davis has been performing well for the New Orleans Pelicans and has started to bring a real consistency to his game. He’s been in the NBA three years now and when you combine this with his skill, athleticism, and the invaluable playoff experience from last season, you really feel as though a breakout season is on the cards.
A couple of special mentions would have to be the explosive point guards plying their trade in Oklahoma City and Chicago, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. A lot will depend on their individual and team fortunes. Westbrook can put a triple double on the board any night of the week, but that means a lot less if it doesn’t take OKC to the playoffs (like last season). And Rose will have to remain injury-free to surpass the heady heights of his 2011-11 MVP season. But with both of these players still just 26, they have plenty of time on their side.
There are definitely a number of contenders set to challenge King James and while it remains to be seen who’s best placed to step up to the mantle, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. And we should also remember this – Michael Jordan was playing at MVP level right up to the ripe old age of 35.
There might just be a few years left in LeBron’s legs yet.