Many young stars are thriving in the NBA, but two of them elevated their status as the next face of the NBA with dominant Game 7 performances. Luka Doncic annihilated last year’s finalists Phoenix Suns, while Jayson Tatum dethroned defending champions Milwaukee Bucks.
Next face of the league
The NBA is in good hands based on the semifinals matchup. Jimmy Bulter and the Miami Heat will face Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, in the West, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
What a turnaround it has been for the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, who started the season poorly but now find themselves with a chance to reach the Finals and win the championship. If there’s any need to prove we are now entering the Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic era, fans can look at how these two young men dominated the two series and proved the naysayers wrong.
Tatum didn’t wilt under pressure against the Milwaukee Bucks and the current face of the league and 2x MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had 23 points, six rebounds, and eight assists yesterday's series-clinching game, but his most significant contribution was forcing a Game 7 by tallying 46 points in Game 6.
On the other hand, Doncic manhandled the Phoenix Suns by himself. The Mavs defense held the Suns to only 27 points in halftime (that’s not a typo). In a team that featured a sure Hall of Fame point guard, a legit big man, and a player called Kobe 2.0, they could only muster 27 points in two quarters in an elimination game. Credit goes to Luka, who proved he is already an all-time great in do-or-die games. The Slovenian wunderkind finished with 35 points and ten rebounds.
Meanwhile, Devin Booker had a rough night with 11 points and three rebounds. With their season on the line, Doncic and Tatum bucked the odds and showed everyone why they must be considered the next face of the league. However, Jimmy Butler and Steph Curry will be planning to stop their ascension.
Changing of the guard in the NBA
The competing teams for the Conference Finals have an exciting mix of players. The average age of the Heat roster is 27.9 -- Celtics are at 25.1. Meanwhile, GSW’s average age is 27.9 -- Mavericks are at 26.3.
When asked about GSW players being the old ones now, Klay Thompson claimed they are just living in the moment.
“I love playing basketball at the highest level," he said. "Our careers — we are not singers, we are not actors. We can’t do this until our elder years. So while we’re doing it, you just have to appreciate every single night because it goes really fast.”
That timeframe could end when they face the surging Dallas Mavericks that easily dispatched the NBA’s best team in the regular season. Luka is already cementing his claim as one of the best young stars in the league. Thompson, Curry, and Draymond Green hope to change that and that their experience is enough to pull them through.
In the other matchup, Butler, together with Bam Adebayo, Erik Spoelstra, and the rest of the Heat players, are trying to stop the surging Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and coach Ime Udoka.
The changing of the guard is happening even if other players won’t admit it. We are entering the Tatum and Doncic era. They are just too good for players not even 25 years of age. Both are just starting to ascend the superstar ladder. Curry and Butler are hoping they can still postpone the inevitable.