The most popular NBA teams might reside in California and New York right now. After all, the amount of talent playing for both cities is at an all-time high. Californian teams include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and the Golden State Warriors.
For New York, the Knicks and Nets are competing in the Eastern Conference. With the announcement of LaMarcus Aldridge retiring from the NBA, Team New York will have to make adjustments with regards to their best team. Aldridge retires with 19.4 PPG and 8.2 RPG over his career, making 7 All-Star Teams with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.
In a competitive 5-on-5 matchup between the best players in each City, here is the game analysis between Team California and Team New York.
Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving
This matchup is about getting buckets. Curry is the single greatest shooter in NBA history and the man responsible for changing the game to how it's played today. On the other hand, Kyrie Irving is arguably the best ball handler in NBA history and a player that was born to be in the clutch against big-time opponents. This matchup will go back and forth with both guards proving they are two of the best point guards over the past decade.
There isn't a clear advantage in this matchup because both point guards deliver with the ball in their hands and hit big shots for their teams. A major difference will be that Curry will get exposed defensively, mainly due to James Harden’s greatness on the offensive end in the pick n’ roll. Still, Curry will score more points than Irving in this game.
Paul George vs. James Harden
This matchup is always a great one, but Harden cannot be stopped even with an all-time great defender in Paul George. Harden is having another spectacular season averaging 25.2 PPG and 10.9 APG for arguably the most talented team in NBA history.
Clearly in the MVP Race, Harden will always have the advantage in any matchup. But Paul George is no pushover, averaging 23.0 PPG on 43.8% shooting from deep. George will do his best to contain Harden, but it probably won't be enough because The Beard is simply too good.
Kawhi Leonard vs. Kevin Durant
This matchup is between 2 of the game’s best players and forwards. Durant is the perfect complementary piece to Irving and Harden because he can play both on and off the ball. Durant’s ability to hit shots also comes into play, because he forces Kawhi Leonard to defend him tightly all game. Durant is too deadly from the perimeter so Leonard will force KD to drive the ball early on in the game, which ends in the latter's favor. Durant gets hot early on and looks to be getting a firm grip on the game early on.
But Leonard starts cranking down as the game goes on, forcing Durant to be more of a passer especially as help comes. Nobody can stop Durant, but Leonard can force him to run into traffic and also use his powerful body to bother him. This matchup is a great one between two NBA champions, but Durant is simply too good.
LeBron James vs. Julius Randle
On paper, LeBron James has a massive advantage. James is of a similar build to Randle, except he is faster and more athletic with arguably the highest basketball IQ in history. After all, James is putting up 25.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 7.9 APG in his 18th NBA season.
But Julius Randle is no pushover. He has become an excellent all-around player who can not only score inside but also handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter. Randle is having a career year averaging 23.0 PPG and 10.7 RPG, but there is only one winner in this matchup and that's still The King.
Anthony Davis vs. DeAndre Jordan
The advantage clearly goes to Team California. Anthony Davis is the most talented big man in the game, even if his season was cut short by injuries at the halfway point. Davis is averaging 22.5 PPG and 8.4 RPG for the Lakers and was the key addition for the franchise that destroyed the league's competition last year.
DeAndre Jordan is still a capable defensive big man, but he is way past his prime. Averaging 7.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG this season, he is too slow and flat-footed to guard Anthony Davis on the perimeter. Aldridge will get help from Randle, but Davis has a big advantage.
Team California Bench: Dennis Schroder, De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell, Draymond Green, Andre Drummond
Team New York Bench: Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Joe Harris, RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, Mitchell Robinson
Both benches are incredibly talented and deep. Team California has athleticism, speed, and a versatile lineup to throw at Team New York. On the other hand, Team New York has capable bigs and shooters who can help space the floor.
In the end, the bench players that will play most are the guards of Team California and the scorers of Team New York. Dennis Schroder, De'Aaron Fox, and Montrezl Harrell will eat up the majority of the bench minutes for Team California while Tyrese Haliburton and Andre Drummond contribute in stretches as well.
Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green will be key factors off the bench in stretches because Team New York will get hot with their scoring in the first and fourth quarters. Their defense will help slow down important scorers and give Team California breathing room to operate and find their rhythm at times.
Team New York have primarily Joe Harris and Immanuel Quickley who can light up the score sheet from deep, while RJ Barrett brings his much-improved scoring to the lineups. Expect Mitchell Robinson to play big minutes trying to defend Anthony Davis down low.
The game starts off hot early, hits a snag in the middle of the game, and later ends off in a shootout. Team California takes the lead at the end of the first quarter, with the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis finishing off with 10 and 8 points respectively. They are simply too big and too talented at the start of the game.
The second quarter sees Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving come to life to even the score by halftime. The leading scorers are Durant with 15 and Anthony Davis with 19. The reason Team New York got back into the game was an adjustment to start Randle and Robinson together which helped get stops and let Brooklyn's Big Three run on the break.
The third quarter starts and ends very slow. Team California, and particularly LeBron James, slow the tempo to prevent Brooklyn's Big Three from running. This also allows Stephen Curry to dominate the quarter, nailing 4 3-pointers in successive fashion. Team New York answer with Barrett and Harris getting good looks in the quarter, but Team California leads 100-92 entering the fourth.
The fourth quarter is a massive shootout. Curry and Irving go toe to toe in the early stages, while LeBron and Harden dominate the playmaking. Team California's 8-point lead is cut down to 2 with 6 minutes remaining, with the score 120-118. A cold stretch by both teams commences for 2 minutes until a bucket by Durant ties the game up.
In the end, a massive play by Brooklyn's Big Three seals the deal. With the score tied 130 to 130 with 45 seconds left, Harden comes up with a steal to find Irving on the break. A lob to Durant is finished but with a foul by George. With Durant sinking the free throw, Randle cleans up a big miss by Curry and gets fouled to ice the game.
Team New York vs. Team California 135-130
MVP: Kevin Durant (37 Points, 7 Rebounds, 5 Assists)