There are some very talented All-Stars in the NBA right now. The likes of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook have all dominated the league and have all made multiple All-Star Teams over the past few seasons. Meanwhile, Kevin Love is a 5-time All-Star and former NBA champion who could have a case for the Hall of Fame. What do these players have in common? They were born in the state of California. A solid starting five, these players would easily form a championship team.
But there might be some current All-Stars and former superstars that were born in New York that could create an even more dominant starting five. With regards to current stars, Donovan Mitchell is a 2-time All-Star and budding superstar who already has some playoff experience under his belt. Carmelo Anthony is past his prime at 37, but he is a 10-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer who would form a dynamic partner in his prime. Other legends born in New York include the great Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Would a lineup with these 5 stars take Team California over 7 games? Here is how the series pans out.
Donovan Mitchell vs. Russell Westbrook
This matchup brings plenty of excitement, athleticism, and offensive firepower. Donovan Mitchell tends to have a great series whenever he sees Westbrook’s face, and will likely continue to take his level up a notch against the former MVP. Mitchell can attack the paint, shoot the three, and has plenty of bounce to bring a ton of pressure at the point guard spot.
Meanwhile, Westbrook cherishes matchups against an elite guard and will be the attack-first player he has always been. Russ will play fast, creating shots for others, but also turning the ball over as usual. The most athletic point guard ever, Westbrook will also create arguably the most exciting matchup in this series.
Michael Jordan vs. James Harden
Michael Jordan tends to feast on other shooting guards who love to score and play little defense because he is simply the most unstoppable force in NBA history from the perimeter. The GOAT will lead all scorers in the series, even ahead of Carmelo Anthony, because Harden will have a lot of trouble defending Jordan.
Meanwhile, Harden will average a double-double in the series while being the primary scorer/playmaker throughout the series. The Beard does not need much space to get his shots off, and not even Jordan will stop him from averaging 24 PPG in the series. As the best pure point guard in the series, Harden will average 10.1 APG in a very respectable fashion. But will it be enough to counter the GOAT?
Julius Erving vs. Paul George
At the small forward position, Julius Erving and Paul George will go head-to-head on both ends of the floor. Erving can fly with the best of them and will be unstoppable on the fast break alongside Jordan and Mitchell. Creating some of the best plays in the series, Erving will also make a ton of highlights while putting up 20.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG.
PG13 is an elite defensive player and will have his hands full helping Harden out with Jordan. When George gets a” break” from Jordan, he has to handle Julius Erving. George will do an admirable job, limiting Erving to under 21 PPG in the series, but it will come at the expense of his own offense. George will average 17.5 PPG in the series, below his usual average, but he will chip in 6.0 RPG and 6.0 APG for good measure.
Carmelo Anthony vs. Kawhi Leonard
At the power forward position, Carmelo Anthony will be the perfect stretch-4 alongside the dominant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Anthony is and will always be a force on the offensive end, and will have a big series by averaging 27.5 PPG albeit on 42% shooting. Anthony will force the action in the post early, before realizing Leonard is not the one to get posted up. Instead, Carmelo will fall in love with the perimeter shots during the series.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard will bring the focus style of play to the court every game in the series. The Claw does not need to force the offense either, because he drops a cool 25 PPG in the series on 47% shooting. Defensively, Kawhi will have his hands full with Carmelo and will also tackle Jordan at times.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Kevin Love
At the center spot, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominates his matchup. Kevin Love is a very talented big man who can shoot the three and defend at an above-average level, but he is far too undersized to stop Kareem from averaging 24 PPG on 60% shooting over the series. Abdul-Jabbar will also chip in 2 BPG and 5 APG, showcasing his all-around greatness.
Kevin Love will struggle in the series because he does not have enough size and help to stop Kareem from being efficient. A big man shooting a high percentage from the floor spells trouble, and Love will see that early. Love will average a double-double with 10.1 PPG and 11.4 RPG, but his impact will be largely nullified.
Team New York Advantages
Clearly, Team New York have the advantage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The big man will dominate the series, using his skyhook shot to destroy Kevin Love on most occasions. With a dominant big man in the paint, New York can choose whether to play fast or dump it to Kareem in the half-court.
Basically, Kareem makes New York unstoppable. The team already has plenty of firepower with Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Donovan Mitchell, and Carmelo Anthony; but Abdul-Jabbar provides the final touches to a legendary offense. Defensively, Kareem will also have a fantastic series.
Team California Advantages
Team California have a roster built on speed, playmaking, and floor-spacing. Russell Westbrook’s pace will give the team a boost early because he will act like a point-center on most occasions. Kevin Love will aim to spread the floor as much as possible, keeping Kareem out of the paint as much as possible while Russ attacks the basket.
George and Leonard will also put pressure on California’s defense by shooting outside shots, attacking the basket, and running on the break. With the center standing at the three, Russ and also James Harden will be excellent creators. Harden will try to put pressure on Jordan through his playmaking because that is an attribute that California will bring at an elite level.
Who Wins A Best-Of-7?
This series will come down to which players can make the right plays at the right times, and also which team can get critical defensive stops. Other than Game 2, every game in the series will be close with a 5-point margin of victory on average.
Game 1 is a fast-paced game, resulting in both teams shooting close to 47% from the field. Russell Westbrook sets the tone early, dropping 10 points in the first quarter and ending the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds. But New York counter with efficient shooting, as MJ drops 28 points on 55% shooting. Julius Erving also chips in 26 points, including a late three-pointer to seal the victory.
Game 2 goes to Team New York because Carmelo Anthony and Michael Jordan combine for a whopping 60 points on 52% shooting. The duo brings it on every level, from three and from mid-range. California find it difficult to slow down the stars when they got going, and Kareem chips in a game-high 18 rebounds to seal a 110-90 victory.
Team California need a response, and they get it through George and Leonard. The duo combine for 55 points and 8 steals, keeping the clamps on Carmelo Anthony and James Harden. The three-point shot is key, with each player in the starting lineup draining a minimum of 2 three-pointers. The game is tied with a minute left, but a Kawhi Leonard corner three gives the team a lead that ends up becoming the game-winner.
Game 4 goes to Team New York because there is no stopping Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the paint. The big man has his best performance in the series, dropping 37 points and 15 rebounds. There was little that Kevin Love could do, because he is clear outmatched in the paint. Other players have big performances, but this game is all about Kareem.
Team California get out to a convincing 60-45 start at the end of the first half and have to survive a massive comeback by New York. Westbrook notches a triple-double, James Harden drops his series-high 32 points, and Kawhi hits a jumper with 30 seconds to give his team a 4-point lead with 10 seconds left. A late Jordan jumper means New York lose by 2 points.
With their backs on the line, Team California need to force a Game 7 but cannot manage to do so. They have no answer for Michael Jordan, as the superstar drops 40 points and notches 6 assists. Carmelo helps with 25 points, and California completely run out of steam on the defensive end. Kareem registers 6 blocks in the game, sucking the energy out of the opposition. With MJ going off, Team New York win the game 105-100 and the series stops at 6 games.
Final Result: Team New York vs. Team California 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan