Will LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry turn their team’s season around?

The All-Star trio and their respective teams have faced atypical challenges during an up-and-down 2023-24 season.

LeBron James and the Lakers share similar championship aspirations with Kevin Durant and the Suns.

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LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry. Those names are a lot to digest, and there’s no question how much weight they carry in this generation.

They’re the most dominant trio of the last dozen years. The results are more than convincing — 10 championships, six Kia MVPs and seven Finals MVPs from 2010-22. Big winners.

That was then. This is now: Their teams are currently hanging on the ledge in the Western Conference. The vital signs for the Warriors, Lakers and Suns are mixed. And as the season creeps toward the midway point, there’s a chance that one, two, or maybe all three could miss the playoffs.

Therefore, these all-time greats are at an intersection of sorts. They’re still among the league’s finest, even with Curry and Durant at 35 and LeBron at 39. And they’re certainly headed to the All-Star Game next month.

But how did they find themselves so precariously and strangely south in the West standings? Like, all three of them? Phoenix is eighth, L.A. is ninth and Golden State is outside the Play-In Tournament at 12th.

With Durant and the Suns visiting LeBron and the Lakers Thursday (10 ET, TNT), here’s an examination of where each player stands, how they got here, and where they might be heading this season:


LeBron James and the Lakers

LeBron so far: In summation, he’s sturdy and solid, both equally impressive here in Season No. 21. His all-around play and body remain strong and LeBron continues to defy logic, ranking among the league leaders in points and assists.

The Lakers so far: They won the first In-Season Tournament championship last month, a result that’s opposite from the rest of their season. During a pair of games in Las Vegas, the Lakers looked like contenders for June. Before and since then? Meek.

The issues: It’s stunning how a team with a healthy LeBron and Anthony Davis — who has been tremendous at both ends, by the way — can’t generate traction. The availability of those franchise players was the biggest question mark entering the season.

But other than Austin Reaves, the supporting cast isn’t delivering a punch at the level expected of them, or above. Strange, since those players were useful in the Lakers’ journey to the conference finals last spring. But poor defense and spotty shooting is dooming L.A.

The solution: Ordinarily, its current situation wouldn’t be cause for panic for L.A., but this is different. The Lakers are on the championship clock with LeBron. They can’t assume (A) he’ll be back next season, and (B) he’ll be at this level if he does return.

So they must stick with a win-now mindset and be buyers at the trade deadline. If that means surrendering future assets and/or young pieces to rent, say, free-agent-to-be Pascal Siakam for a few months, then that deserves consideration.

The quote: “Everyone is getting so cracked up about Vegas and keep bringing up Vegas. It was two games. We took care of that business. It was the In-Season Tournament, we played it, we won it. But that was literally just two games.” — LeBron James


Kevin Durant and the Suns

The Suns’ star players haven’t played many games together so far this season.

Durant so far: There are times when Durant is the best player on the floor and it doesn’t matter whom he’s sharing it with. Still the scoring machine, Durant is averaging just under 30 points a night at an astonishing 47.4% shooting from deep.

His pull-up jumper from the elbow and length on layups remain deadly, and at nearly six assists, he’s above his career average. He remains among the toughest players to check in the game.

The Suns so far: Phoenix was built to be feared, but nobody’s shaking in their sneakers on the other bench. One reason is obvious. Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have missed 40 games combined. Before the week began, they played only 88 minutes together this season.

So that’s where you start, with injuries. The Suns are so nucleus-heavy that any missed games by those three can have negative results. There’s a sizable talent gap between that core and the rest of the team.

The issues: Aside from poor health, the Suns are learning about themselves on the fly. They’re not terrible or terrific in anything they do. Again, this personality is skewed because they haven’t been whole, given the injuries.

There’s one persistent question — do they need a pure point guard? No such species is currently on the roster, at least not anyone who can command big minutes.

The solution: A seven-game road trip that starts later this month could spur a turnaround or lead the Suns further down the hole. If the Suns are indeed a contender, they’ll ace that test and keep it moving.

Phoenix is tough to figure out now. This team still has a high ceiling because of the obvious star power and assuming better health. By comparison, that gives them the edge over the Lakers and Warriors.

But, much like those teams, given where they sit, they can’t afford a lengthy stumble. Or else.

The quote: “Only results matter to people watching, and context really doesn’t matter. So whatever it is, we know what it takes to build a good team, and expectations from the outside really shouldn’t concern us. We understand with the talent we have, people expect so much out of us.” — Kevin Durant


Stephen Curry and the Warriors

The Warriors (17-20) are currently 12th in the Western Conference standings.

Curry so far: It’s another solid effort from Curry, marked once again by consistency and efficiency. Curry’s averaging 27 points and is shooting just under 40% from deep. He had eight 3s against the Wizards and dropped 38 points on the West-leading Wolves, one of the better defensive teams.

On the flip side, he’s had some head-scratchers, too. Curry last Sunday shot 2-for-14 against Toronto, and 3-for-15 against Miami last month. In previous years, those clunkers were highly unusual for him.

Warriors so far: It’s the most disappointing season in the Curry Era, considering the lack of major injuries. The core is conflicted. Draymond Green is returning from an indefinite suspension that lasted 12 games, and Klay Thompson toggles between solid and suspect.

Therefore, the Warriors are playing catch-up to younger and hungrier teams in the West such as OKC, the Wolves and even the team they bounced in the playoffs last spring, the Kings. Not to mention Denver.

The issues: Clearly, the Warriors are struggling to find roles for the new blood, mainly Jonathan Kuminga, none of whom are All-Star quality. Chris Paul is out for at least 3 weeks following hand surgery. Plus, Andrew Wiggins hasn’t been the same since he locked down Jayson Tatum in the 2022 championship series.

The solution: Green must dial down his destructive intensity and turn up whatever’s left in the performance tank because the Warriors’ weakness is defense and size. Perhaps they can get value for Wiggins at the trade deadline. Or, dare we suggest, trade Thompson if there are no plans to extend him next summer.

The quote: “When you lose, you search for why you’re losing. Everybody can speak to something they can do better to help us win. Until we start winning there’s going to be nit-picking in everything to try and figure out what the solution is.” — Stephen Curry

 

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