California has some great players playing for their teams, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But there are only a handful of true California natives, players who were born and raised in the state. There are 5 players who stand out the most: Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Love.
But how will they match up against the best players from the Yugoslavia region? Yugoslavia has some incredible talent including Goran Dragic, Luka Doncic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nikola Vucevic, and Nikola Jokic. In a 5-on-5 battle, it is time to see which region has the better overall talent.
Here is how the competitive matchup plays out.
Russell Westbrook vs. Goran Dragic
This matchup is an advantage to Team California from an athletic standpoint and also on the stat sheet because Westbrook always has that advantage over any point guard in the league. But Goran Dragic does not back down, providing exceptional leadership for his team and being an offensive threat every time down the floor.
Westbrook wins the matchup battle with a triple-double, but Dragic has an important impact for Team Yugoslavia because his defense and leadership prove to be invaluable.
Damian Lillard vs. Bogdan Bogdanovic
Damian Lillard has a clear advantage in this matchup, despite the size of Bogdanovic. Lillard is a special scorer and his clutch shooting will be the strongest aspect of Team California’s offense. Lillard drops 40 points on Team Yugoslavia, but Bogdanovic plays his role as well.
Bogdanovic has plenty of experience playing for his National Team, not to mention he also played Finals in the Olympics and FIBA World Cup. Bogdanovic does his best to defend Lillard, and his efforts are applauded.
James Harden vs. Luka Doncic
This matchup is all about offense. Harden is a 3-time scoring champion who is currently the assist leader in the NBA right now, while Luka is one of the best all-around scorers and playmakers in the world. That is why, for much of the game, this matchup is even.
Harden grabs his usual double-double with 25 points and 10assists, but Luka gets the biggest play of the game to go in his favor. Harden struggles to defend Luka in the pick n roll, and it shows by the end of the game.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Nikola Vucevic
This matchup seems very uneven on paper, as Kawhi Leonard plays small forward while Vucevic plays center. But Leonard is strong enough to be a factor guarding Vucevic, and he does his best to deny him the ball. In fact, he does an admirable job.
Vucevic has the stronger first half, while Kawhi Leonard comes into the game late with his shot-making. Vucevic is a load to handle for any defender, but Kawhi does as good a job as possible on him.
Kevin Love vs. Nikola Jokic
Kevin Love’s floor spacing is key for Team California, but he will be needed in the paint. As Team California gives up a ton of size inside, they need Love to focus his efforts on the boards and being as much of an irritant to Nikola Jokic as possible.
This means Love doesn’t score much and is the best rebounder on Team California, but he gives up a lot to Nikola Jokic. The Joker is a bigger player than Love and he absolutely dominates the matchup.
The game starts out with Team Yugoslavia dominating the paint and getting any bucket they want at the rim. Team California’s defense is subpar in the first quarter, as they allow 20 points in the paint. Jokic is the star of the first quarter with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. The score after the first is 32-25.
The second quarter continues with Team Yugoslavia’s offense as Luka starts finding his rhythm from deep. He nails 3 three-pointers in the quarter, and Team California find themselves down by double-digits with the score 45-30. Luckily, Damian Lillard and James Harden take over the rest of the quarter to lessen the score 58-50 at the end of the half.
The third quarter is much of the same, with Team Yugoslavia dominating the paint while Team California find their offense from Lillard and Harden. There’s little to separate both teams and the code is 88-80 entering the fourth. Kawhi Leonard owns the fourth quarter, getting key stops and also hitting key buckets down the stretch. Team California come all the way back and after a deep Damian Lillard three-pointer, they lead 102-100 with 15 seconds left.
Team Yugoslavia pull off the best possible play with Luka and Jokic in the pick n roll, and Jokic draws contact from Kevin Love to finish the And-1. Jokic nails the free throw, giving Team California a shot with 2.2 seconds in the game. Lillard gets the late inbound and throws up a wild shot which doesn’t go, giving Team Yugoslavia the 1-point victory with Nikola Jokic earning the Game’s MVP with 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Team California vs. Team Yugoslavia 102-103
MVP: Nikola Jokic (30 Points, 15 Rebounds, 11 Assists)