Despite his age, LeBron James has defied Father Time and is still the face of the NBA, even at 35. He’s proving once again in the playoffs that he’s the best player in the world. However, the Los Angeles Lakers star can’t keep up his run at the top forever.
At just 20 years old, Dallas Mavericks wunderkind Luka Doncic proved to be an unstoppable force this season. He led the Mavericks in a surprisingly competitive series against the stacked Clippers in the first round of the playoffs and even hit an iconic game-winning shot. Real Madrid center Edy Tavares played with LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with Doncic when he was still in Europe and isn’t surprised by the young man’s progression.
“It makes me very happy to see how he is playing,” Tavares said of Doncic, via Radio Marca. “I knew that it would be easy for him to play in the NBA and he would be a much better player because there are more spaces.”
Doncic the New Face of the NBA?
The league needs an heir apparent to LeBron and there are some strong contenders. However, Tavares believes that Doncic is already the best player in the NBA.
“I am very proud of him [Doncic], there is no longer LeBron, now there is only Luka,” Tavares said.
Considering he’s played with both of them, Taveres has unique insight into both players. While an argument can be made that Doncic is already a Top 5 player, he’s not the best player quite yet. He hasn’t even won a playoff series in the NBA. LeBron, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard all have better claims to the top mantle right now.
That’s not a knock on Doncic, it’s just a fact. He’s got an incredibly bright future ahead of him and could eventually become the face of the NBA. However, he is not quite there.
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LeBron Had Better 20-Year-Old Season Than Doncic, Says Analyst
Doncic wasn’t just great this season, he was historic. Twenty-year-olds don’t put up the kind of numbers he did. In fact, there’s only one player in NBA history who can claim he had a better year at 20 and that’s LeBron. There’s some debate whether Doncic did have a better 20-year-old season than LeBron but Tim Cato of The Athletic doesn’t believe that is the case:
I think it’s fair to conclude that James, when accounting for the context of the league, his team and his performance, was better at age 20 than Doncic. He did a little less, statistically, with a lot less around him. He also offered more defensively. (His defensive win shares were twice Doncic’s this season, which helped the disparity.) It’s not that win shares definitively proved anything one way or another. But the idea of how it’s calculated is the right methodology to examine this unnecessary comparison of 20-year-olds, and we’re left with one player slightly above the other.
Having the second-best 20-year-old season ever isn’t something to be disappointed in. LeBron may just go down as the greatest player of all time when he hangs it up. For Doncic, falling second to him should be an easy pill to swallow.