For a long time, the greatest compliment you might have been able to pay LeBron James or Kevin Durant was they were ... inevitable.

Maybe the stars of the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets didn't always win, but they always scared their opponents and always gave their teams a chance no matter the circumstances, pretty much the highest level one can ascend to in basketball.

The indications over the past year or so, though, are that this simply may no longer be true.

This is part of a star player's career arc, of course, but it also is relevant when considering the league's balance of power.

Let's be clear: James and Durant remain unquestionably among the elite players. Durant started the week fifth in scoring, at this early stage averaging his most points per game in eight years. James is two months from turning 38 and is averaging 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

But their ability to unfailingly lift their teams, regardless of their makeup, to endless title contention might have passed. This is a dangerous position to take, which is why it's littered with "mights" and "maybes." All-time greats have a way of making people eat such sentiments.

Their teams, even with younger potential Hall of Famers playing alongside them, are a combined 3-10.

In March, with the Lakers in a losing streak that helped submarine their postseason hopes, James declared: "Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under, then I got a chance."

Frankly, that was accurate. In James' 10 career trips to the NBA Finals, he was on the conference's top-seeded team only twice, and nine different times in the lead-up to the Finals he led teams to series wins without home-court advantage. Records just didn't matter; James was just too good.