Who’ll reign supreme in the sunshine state this season?

California is a big place, and a big deal. Its economy alone is so large that if it was a country, it’d be the 9th richest nation on Earth. It’s also the only state, other than Texas (which is also big), with 4 NBA clubs – the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Warriors. Big teams with big stars. But just how will each of them fare this season?

Well, let’s start this off by completely eliminating California’s most famous franchise, the Lakers, from the conversation. They were already going to suck. Then Steve Nash was ruled out before the season even began. Then the much-lauded rookie, Julius Randle, broke his leg in the season opener.

The curse is real.

L.A. now sit 0-4 at the bottom of the league, with only occasional flashes of brilliance Kobe Bryant giving Lakers fans anything to live for. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

kobe looking to heavens

We’re not quite ready to consider the Sacramento Kings as contenders just yet either, despite them handing the Clippers their first loss of the season last night. Remember, they only managed to scrape 28 wins and failed to make the playoffs last year.

So it’s pretty much a two-horse race between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors for control of California.

But which team has the edge?

In Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State has the best backcourt in the league. Last season, the Splash Brothers drained 774 three-pointers, while putting up 38% of the Warriors’ shots.

Both shone at the World Cup this summer, and Thompson in particular seems to be getting better by the game (hey…clubs don’t hand out $70m contracts for nothing these days!).

The Warriors aren’t simply a run-and-gun club though. Last season they finished fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, thanks largely to the signing of Andre Iguodala, one of the best wing defenders in the league. And with centre Andrew Bogut back to health, plus the addition of the long-limbed Shaun Livingston this summer, Golden State should be even harder to score on this year.

The biggest change at the club is the replacement of Mark Jackson as head coach with Steve Kerr.

Kerr is, of course, a coaching rookie. But he’s already shown he is not afraid to shake things up – controversially starting Harrison Barnes ahead of Iguodala, and implementing elements of the Triangle Offence with which he became so familiar during his time playing under coach Phil Jackson at the Chicago Bulls.

He’s also made clear that he wants more ball movement, after the Warriors averaged the fewest passes per possession last season.

But that might be a challenge, considering their point guard, Curry, is a shoot-first player who leads the team in scoring.

blake griffin jam

Over in L.A., the Clippers led the NBA in offensive efficiency last season, despite significant injury problems. But Chris Paul and J.J. Redick are healthy now, and looking dangerous already.

Meanwhile in Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clips had arguably the best tandem in the league last year. Griffin finished third in MVP voting too – and his evolution is only continuing this season, according to CP3: “(Friday) was the night where he started to understand who he is, and how good he is,” Paul said last weekend. “He is our go-to guy.”

It’s very early days, obviously, but Griffin is already averaging a career-high 26.3 points per game.

The addition of Spencer Hawes gives DeAndre Jordan a solid backup, and gives coach Doc Rivers an offensive option at the end of games. Hawes has shot 70% from the foul line over the course of his career, offering Rivers an alternative to the free-thow inept Jordan (42%). Hawes was the best three point shooter among seven footers last season, by a good margin.

All things considered, it’s extremely hard to make a call on which team will do better. But with Dov Rivers giving the Clippers the edge in terms of coaching experience, and the Warriors’ susceptibility to injury, we’re predicting the Los Angeles Clippers will claim the California crown.

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