For the first time since 2005, neither LeBron James, Kevin Durant nor Stephen Curry are in the Playoffs’ second round. As a trio, they combined for ten championships, seven regular season and Finals MVPs, 44 All-Star appearances and 38 All-NBA team selections while highlighting a generation of basketball superstars. Now, a new generation of stars is arriving, and the group of players that dominated in the 2010s decade are finally starting to slow down. 

Curry’s Golden State Warriors lost in the Play-In game to the Sacramento Kings, Durant and the Phoenix Suns were swept by Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and James and the Los Angeles Lakers lost in a five-game series to the defending champion Denver Nuggets. After 20 years of these players highlighting the NBA postseason, their time at the league’s top has seemed to end quickly. 

It represents more than a generation leaving the game; it is also a new era of stars taking their spots. Edwards is one of the brightest young stars in the league, at age 22, averaging 25, 5, 5 in the regular season and 31, 8, 6 in the playoffs as he led the sweep of his idol in Durant. Edwards was the critical reason Minnesota had a top-3 seed in the Western Conference and turned a team with the longest playoff drought into a genuine title contender. However, just in his third season, Edwards has already received comparisons with Michael Jordan for his hard-nosed mentality and willingness to go up against any player in the league. Minnesota is set to match up against the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs.  

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is another young star who has quickly risen to the ranks and become one of the most valuable players in the league. He led the youngest team in the NBA to a No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference, averaging 30, 6, and 5 on 53% shooting in the regular season. Gilgeous-Alexander is a tall and long point guard who can defend multiple positions, run the team’s offense, and provide essential experience for the other young players on the OKC roster. Along with him, the team has young stars Jaylen Williams and Chet Holmgren, who averaged at least 16 points in the regular season. The Thunder will play the winner of the Clippers vs. Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. 

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Though making his first All-Star appearance at 27 years old, Jalen Brunson has quickly become one of the best-loved players in New York Knicks history. Brunson is in his second season with the team after signing a 4-year $104 million deal in 2022 and led the team to a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with regular season averages of 28.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Brunson has averaged 34, 8, 6, including a record-breaking 47 points and ten assists in their Game 4 victory. This redesigned Knicks team under head coach Tom Thibodeau finished with their best regular season finish in 11 seasons while rejuvenating exciting basketball in Madison Square Garden. 

Reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic is only 29 years old, and the Nuggets still look like the top contender to make a run to the Finals in the Western Conference. Jayson Tatum, 26, is also playing at an All-NBA level, leading the Boston Celtics to the best record in the league and beating the Miami Heat in five games in the first round of the playoffs. 

Luka Doncic is another young player who has seen immense success in the NBA; at 25 years old has the second-most made three-pointers in Dallas Mavericks history and led the team to four playoff appearances and two 50-win seasons. Throughout the season, Doncic averaged a league-high 33.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game and is putting up similar numbers in Dallas’ first-round matchup against the Clippers.

Without James, Durant or Curry in the conference semifinals, the NBA looks to have finally turned a new leaf. After 20 years of absolute domination, a new era of stars looks to take their place. This does not mean that the careers of these legends are complete, but it at least shows a changing tide after two decades of success.

James is 39 years old and looks to be finally winding down his career. After the Lakers’ Game 5 loss, he hinted that he is just about ready to be done, but in the past, he has also said that he wants to play with his son Bronny James for a never-before-seen father-son duo in the league. It was the Lakers’ best regular-season finish in four seasons, but they did not make it out of the first round. 

Curry, at 36 years old, hasn’t shown the same signs of slowing down compared to teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Curry averaged 26, 4, 5 in the regular season, while Thompson had 18 points a game on 43% shooting, and Green finished with averages of 8.6 points, seven rebounds, and six assists a game. Golden State won the title in 2022 but failed to pass the Play-In tournament this year as their dynasty slowly dismantled itself. 

Durant, at 35 years old, finished the regular season averaging 27 points, 6.6 rebounds, and five assists a game while sharing a roster with All-Stars Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Many had high expectations for this Suns team headed into the playoffs, but after a first-round sweep to Edwards and the T-Wolves, the experiment now looks like a failure. 

All three of these NBA legends are still competing at an extremely high level, but the young stars are competing at an even higher level, one that James, Curry and Durant saw throughout their Finals matchups in the 2010s decade. These stars are still putting up the numbers but are seeing different playoff success than players like Jokic, Tatum, Doncic, Edwards, Gilgeous-Alexander and Brunson. It is hard to accept after 20 years of prosperity in the league, these players aren’t the ones we’ll see in May and June, but change has to come eventually. 

It is hard to predict James, Curry and Durant’s future, but even if this was their last collective run as a group of stars, the league’s future is in good hands.

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