The LA Lakers will need to wrap LeBron James and his ageing team-mates in cotton wool if they are too avoid a post-season burn out in their quest for their long-awaited 17th NBA championship.
That's the verdict of Sky Sports NBA expert Mark Deeks, who is concerned with the franchise's longevity over the course of a gruelling season.
The Lakers had won 10 consecutive games prior to last night's blowout defeat tot he Dallas Mavericks, during which James ranted at his team-mates for their lack of desire to back him up on the court.
Deeks praised the Lakers but also warned them not to get carried away with their early season form.
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"They are playing very well and – fuelled by a reinvigorated LeBron James – if they are to truly contend for the title this season, this defensive efficiency will of course have to continue, especially when the schedule gets tougher," he told Sky Sports.
"As constructed, however, the Lakers might not have the legs and the personnel to do so. The Lakers have the second-oldest average age in the NBA this season at 29.1, second only to the 30.2 of the Houston Rockets.
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"This number includes the three players at the very end of the roster; Zach Norvell (21), Talen Horton-Tucker (who only turns 19 this week) and Kostas Antetokounmpo (a raw and inexperienced 22).
"Among the playing rotation, then, the average age is even older; LeBron James is 35 next month, Dwight Howard is 34 next week, Jared Dudley is already 34, Rajon Rondo is 33, Danny Green is 32, and JaVale McGee is 31.
"The only rotation player below 25 years of age is reserve forward, Kyle Kuzma, and although only two Lakers (James and Anthony Davis) have what we might call a 1990s minute share, the 10 players sharing the rest of the time often already have plenty of miles on their clock.
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"That might prove to be a problem without mid-season reinforcements and some reshuffling of the rotation over the coming weeks.
"In particular, the frontcourt is an old one. LeBron James was openly caught on camera a few games ago telling a referee he would be playing with better defensive commitment this season, and he has put in more effort on that end accordingly, yet he famously also walks more in game than any other player in the league due to the need to preserve his bursts of athleticism for the offensive end.
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"Notwithstanding the long period of summertime rest he had since ending last season early, it would not be a good idea to use up those bursts before the All-Star break.
"The five spot alongside him has some creaking muscles as well. The centre duo of McGee and Howard are two of the oldest players on the roster, as above, and even if he were to return at some point – which he is considered very unlikely to do – DeMarcus Cousins has been so embattled with injuries in recent seasons that he is not the answer to longevity concerns."
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