After doing opening day alumni lists of those from California high schools in the NFL and MLB, here’s the same for the NBA as the 2020-21 season tips off this week. We did this list previously at the start of the 2020 NBA playoffs, but several key Californians have switched to different teams and we have teammates from CIF state championship teams in 2016 and 2018 who are debuting as rookies.
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Whether the Los Angeles Lakers in the next few seasons will be able to duplicate the kind of NBA Finals success that the Golden State Warriors had from 2015 to 2019 remains to be seen, but for some California fans of the NBA the start of the 2020-21 season this week also offers many other intriguing storylines.
The Lakers look poised to defend their NBA title in the second year of the LeBron James and Anthony Davis superstar partnership. In their run, the Warriors reached the NBA finals five years in a row and won world championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Two of the best players in the league currently from California high schools — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — are in their second year together with the Lakers’ Staples Center rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, and could be the Lakers’ biggest threat.
Speaking of teammates, this week’s tip off of the NBA season also will be highlighted by the debut of former Chino Hills teammates LaMelo Ball and Onyeka Okongwu plus former Chatsworth Sierra Canyon teammates Cassius Stanley and Kenyon Martin Jr. Chino Hills won the CIF Open Division state title in 2016 when Ball and Okongwu were freshmen. Sierra Canyon captured the same crown in 2018 when Stanley and Martin were seniors.
Ball will play this season for the Charlotte Hornets while Okongwu isn’t that far away with the Atlanta Hawks. It has been reported that Okongwu will be missing the first two weeks of the season with a foot injury. Stanley is suiting up for the Indiana Pacers while Martin is a member of the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are also the one team in the NBA with the most California players, and by a wide margin. Their opening day roster, which like all of them in the league, is larger than in previous years due to COVID-19 protocols. We counted them with five from California.
There has been much speculation and reporting that superstar James Harden no longer wants to be playing for the Rockets. As the season starts, the Artesia of Lakewood grad is still on the Houston roster.
There was once again plenty of movement, however, involving prominent California players in the NBA off-season. Former Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year Jrue Holiday from Campbell Hall of North Hollywood has now landed in Milwaukee from New Orleans, where he hopes to provide a missing piece to go along with MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. And in Washington, Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks (from East Union of Manteca) will be reuniting with triple-double king Russell Westbrook (from Leuzinger of Lawndale). Brooks was the head coach at Oklahoma City when Westbrook previously played for the Thunder.
Here is a rundown list for all of the players from California high schools that were shown on reported opening night rosters for all 30 teams as of Monday night, Dec. 21, 2020:
Atlanta Hawks – Solomon Hill F (Los Angeles Fairfax), Onyeka Okongwu F (Chino Hills), Tony Snell G (Riverside M.L. King). Head coach: Lloyd Pierce (San Jose Yerba Buena).
Boston Celtics – None.
Brooklyn Nets – Spencer Dinwiddie SG (Woodland Hills Taft), Tyler Johnson SG (Mountain View St. Francis).
Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball PG (Chino Hills). Note: Last U.S. high school that Ball played for was Chino Hills. Went to Australia for pro league after sophomore season.
Chicago Bulls – Chandler Hutchison G (Mission Viejo).
Cleveland Cavaliers – None.
Detroit Pistons – Delon Wright G (Lawndale Leuzinger). Note: Josh Jackson SG played at Napa Prolific Prep (non-CIF school). Note: LiAngelo Ball (Chino Hills) signed a contract recently, but was later cut. He may possibly play for Pistons’ G-League team, but G-League status currently unknown.
Indiana Pacers – Aaron Holiday PG (North Hollywood Campbell Hall), Justin Holiday SG (North Hollywood Campbell Hall), Cassius Stanley G (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon). Note: Aaron, Justin and brother Jrue Holiday (then a member of the New Orleans Pelicans) became the first trio of brothers to play in an NBA game last season.
Miami Heat – K.Z. Okpala SF (Anaheim Esperanza), Gabe Vincent PG (Stockton St. Mary’s).
New York Knicks – None.
Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday PG (North Hollywood Campbell Hall), Brook Lopez C (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial), D.J. Wilson SF (Sacramento Capital Christian). Note: D.J. Wilson was announced as part of a trade to Sacramento that was also slated to bring guard Bodgan Bogdanovich to Milwaukee, but the trade never became official.
Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon PF (San Jose Archbishop Mitty), James Ennis SF (Ventura).
Philadelphia 76ers – None.
Toronto Raptors – Stanley Johnson PF (Santa Ana Mater Dei), Norman Powell SG (San Diego Lincoln).
Washington Wizards – Robin Lopez C (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial), Russell Westbrook PG (Lawndale Leuzinger). Head coach: Scott Brooks (Manteca East Union).
Dallas Mavericks – None.
Denver Nuggets – None. Note: Bol Bol C played one season at Santa Ana Mater Dei, but last season was at Findlay Prep (Nevada).
Golden State Warriors – Marquese Chriss SF (Elk Grove Pleasant Grove). Head coach: Steve Kerr (Pacific Palisades Palisades). Note: Klay Thompson G (Rancho SM Santa Margarita) injured and will miss 2020-21 season.
Houston Rockets – Tyson Chandler C (Compton Dominguez), James Harden SG (Lakewood Artesia), Kenyon Martin Jr. F (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon), David Nwaba G (Los Angeles University), Christian Wood PF (Los Alamitos). Note: Head coach Stephen Silas isn’t from California, but is the son of Paul Silas (Oakland McClymonds).
Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi Leonard SF (Riverside M.L. King), Paul George SF (Palmdale Knight).
Los Angeles Lakers – Jared Dudley SF (San Diego Horizon Christian). Note: Many of the Lakers’ assistant coaches are from California, including Jason Kidd (Alameda St. Joseph), Miles Simon (Santa Ana Mater Dei), Mike Penberthy (Fresno Hoover) and Phil Handy (Union City James Logan).
Memphis Grizzlies – De’Anthony Melton PG (Encino Crespi).
Minnesota Timberwolves – Jordan McLaughlin G (Etiwanda).
New Orleans Pelicans – Lonzo Ball PG (Chino Hills).
Oklahoma City Thunder – Trevor Ariza SF (Los Angeles Westchester), T.J. Leaf PG (El Cajon Foothills Christian).
Phoenix Suns – None.
Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard PG (Oakland). Note: Gary Trent Jr. PG played at Napa Prolific Prep (non-CIF school).
Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley F (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon), Chimezie Metu C (Lawndale). Head coach: Luke Walton (University, San Diego).
San Antonio Spurs – DeMar DeRozan PF (Compton).
Utah Jazz – Miye Oni SG (Viewpoint Calabasas). Note: Oni had an injury as a junior in high school and didn’t play. He went to a prep school after a strong senior season at Viewpoint and then went to Yale. There are still late bloomers, even in the NBA.
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