Will the battle of Los Angeles really decide the NBA championship?

The offseason saw a huge number of the NBA’s elite jump ship and move to new teams, with many of them either forming or laying the foundations for super teams. It’s a trend that has been brewing for some years but was epitomized this summer by Kawhi Leonard winning the NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors, being named the Finals MVP, and then moving south to become a Clipper.

This summer’s movement, including that of Leonard, has brewed two super teams in one city and one stadium, Los Angeles. Much of the talk during the offseason was about which one will make it to the NBA Finals, and thus be the favorite to win it all. It’s still early days, but the experts are still backing one of the two Staples Center residents to take the NBA Championship in 2020.

The battle of Los Angeles

After LeBron James decided to join the Los Angeles Lakers last season, the plan was to sign him a fellow superstar sidekick, but those plans failed to come to fruition. Instead, the organization went out of their way to fork out a huge amount to trade in Anthony Davis as well as add key free agents like Danny Green and likely future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard.

The Lakers had laid down the gauntlet, and the Clippers were more than willing to accept the challenge. They brought in the driving force of Toronto’s championship victory, Leonard, from the free agency, traded for Paul George, and added the likes of Maurice Harkless and Patrick Patterson to further bolster the roster. Clippers drew first blood in a matchup of gargantuan intrigue to tip off the season, and are expected to continue their dominance.

Despite James effectively being able to carry his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals four times and even defeat one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen, he and new shiny new supporting cast aren’t expected to come out on top when the Clippers are involved. The Clippers edged the Lakers at +300 to +350 in the sports betting, despite losing two more games than the Lakers through the opening month of the season.

At the very latest, the two could meet in the Western Conference Finals, where the proven playoff nous of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard would really be put the test. However, in this star power-driven league, there are plenty of other teams ready to ruin Los Angeles’ plans for a parade.

Contending outside of California

The obvious place to start is with the rampant Boston Celtics. Hyped as a team that’s ready to emerge as championship contenders over the last few seasons, the Celtics now look to be realizing their potential in a crowded Eastern Conference. With their highest-scoring game since 1992, beating the Washington Wizards 140-133, Boston moved to 9-1 after losing their opening game of the season. However, given the strength of teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and even the Toronto Raptors sans Leonard, the Celtics’ ticket to Finals cannot be guaranteed.

The team tasked with stifling either Los Angeles outfit in the Western Conference, as they have been during the Golden State Warriors’ dynastic spell at the top, are the Houston Rockets. Powered by James Harden and his new running mate Russell Westbrook, four of their last five postseason outings have been quashed by the Warriors. Now, with the Warriors flailing under the strain of offseason departures and injuries, the Rockets will see this as their chance to blaze to the NBA Finals.

It’s an exciting time to be an NBA fan, with any number of teams showing enough pedigree to go all the way this season. The focus for much of the season will be on Los Angeles, but that only eases the pressure on other powerhouse teams.