UNITED STATES—Basketball is arguably the most popular sport in the state of California. The state is home to four professional franchises – which leads the state after the departure of the Raiders to Las Vegas. But for the first in, well, maybe forever, no matter what team you cheer for, you should feel good about basketball.
Two teams from the state are leading sports betting websites in California as top picks to win the 2021 NBA Finals. Another team is providing an escape for basketball fans all over the world. After grabbing a steal in the 2020 NBA Draft, the last team is close to ending the longest NBA Playoffs drought in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers the Favorites to Repeat
The reigning champs are looking as good, if not better than last year – despite a short offseason that included a few significant roster changes. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have the Lakers (after 18 games) owning the best record in the NBA.
The addition of Montrezl Harrell gives the Lakers an elite bench scorer, while Alex Caruso is hitting 54.5% of his three-point field goals – which would set an NBA single-season record. The Lakers entered the 2020-21 NBA season as the betting favorites to repeat as champs – and proving the books they were right.
The Los Angeles Clippers Look Much Better this Season
If you are a Clippers fan, you probably view the 2019-20 NBA season as a failure – failing to make the Conference Finals after a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets. It looks like they took the collapse and are channelling it well in 2021. The Clippers sit a half-game back of the Lakers (as of January 26) and honestly look like the only team that can knock them off this season.
The team ranks third in net rating under new head coach Ty Lue. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are having a 50/40/90 season (something never done by two players on the same team over an entire season) – and the overall attitude around the team seems more positive this season. If George can put his playoff demons behind him, the Clippers will give the Lakers a run for their money.
The Steph Curry Experience is Back in the Bay Area
While the Golden State Warriors are not considered a top title contender in 2021 – after Klay Thompson suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon before the start of the season – they are definitely one of the most fun teams to watch. And the main reason they are so fun to watch is the play of Steph Curry.
We saw Curry – in a vintage performance – drop 62 points in a game this season, and just the other day, Curry scored 15 points in three minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Curry’s ability to score makes the Warriors a treat any night and arguably the most fun team to watch on League Pass.
Tyrese Haliburton Impressing Everyone in Sacramento
The Sacramento Kings may have snagged the best player in the 2020 NBA Draft when they drafted point guard Tyrese Haliburton with the 12th overall pick. The Iowa State produce is shooting lights out for the Kings – hitting 50.4% of his field goals and 47.0% from beyond the arc. After 14 games, his offensive rating is 125, tied with Joel Embiid and better than Bradley Beal, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry.
His performance on the court has moved him up to second on the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year odds and is helping the Kings linger within a few games of the seven to ten seed – and a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament. If he can help the Kings end their 16-year playoff drought, he should win Rookie of the Year over LaMelo Ball (the current favorite), whose team is likely to finish outside the postseason.