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US Sports Stars That Will Find Success in 2021

| January 4, 2021 2:01 am PDT
US Sports Stars Poised for a Good 2021

Sports are arguably much more fun when things happen that we don’t see coming. Expect the unexpected, but still brace to be totally floored by it.

Aaron Rodgers was washed until he wasn’t. People weren’t totally sure if Derrick Henry could keep up his torrid rushing pace. I think the answer is clear.

Patrick Mahomes was at risk of being a flash in the pan, but that looks to be a pipedream for non-Chiefs fans.

Even with these massive sports stars, there are moments of doubt, or at least instances where sports fans and bettors aren’t quite sure what the future holds.

It’s fun to see the randomness of it all, but even better than that is seeing a superstar rise up, meet expectations, and help you cash in on a bet.

Whether it’s a player poised to win the league MVP, guide their team to a title, or an individual sports star realize their potential, there could be value in betting on popular stars flourishing.

How and where you bet on sports given this notion is up to you. That said, I thought it’d be interesting to look ahead with the new year coming, and see which US sports stars could be poised for good 2021 seasons.

Kyler Murray (NFL)

Murray is a nice cross between a rising star, and a player most anyone who pays attention to the NFL already recognizes.

It’s hard not to marvel at the Arizona Cardinals quarterback, who in just two seasons has his team looking like a playoff threat.

Regardless of what happens with Arizona this year, Murray has the Cardinals on the upward swing. He claimed the Offensive Rookie of the Year in his first season on the job, and in year two he put up MVP-type numbers while leading the Cardinals to a winning record.

Seriously, Murray’s second season is the stuff of legends, as he’s put up over 800 rushing yards and 11 scores, to go with over 3,800 passing yards and 26 more touchdowns.

And if there was ever any doubt of his clutch ability or star power, just check out this hail mary play that will live on in Cardinals lore forever.

The 23-year old Murray is living up to the insane hype of being a first overall draft pick.

In just two seasons, he’s morphed into one of the most dynamic players ever to play the quarterback position, and he’s transformed a usually “meh” Arizona squad into a legit playoff contender.

The arrow is pointing upward for Murray and the Cardinals. Come 2021, the diminutive rushing quarterback could vie some serious hardware, from a league MVP trophy, to a Super Bowl ring.

Ronald Acuna (MLB)

One of the rising stars in Major League Baseball, Ronald Acuna Jr. is another stud talent that is only getting better, yet is already a household name.

Acuna already started stating his case as one of the best young MLB stars as a rookie in 2018, when he knocked in 26 home runs, and played a key role in helping the Atlanta Braves get back to the MLB playoffs after a four-year drought.

He kept it going (and then some) in year two, where he hammered in 41 home runs and helped the Braves win the NL East for the second year in a row.

Acuna continued to crush in a truncated 2020 MLB season due to COVID-19, and still cranked out 14 dingers in just 46 games. Had last year been a full 162-game season, Acuna may have pushed for 50 home runs.

His efforts even helped the Braves reach the NLCS, where they were a win away from their first World Series appearance since 1999.

This, all while being far less than 100%.

Acuna is a player anyone close to baseball is quite aware of, and he’s the most talented player on one of the best teams in the National League.

Now that the Dodgers have finally won their elusive championship, it’s quite possible Acuna crushes even further in 2021, and perhaps helps Atlanta go get a ring of their own.

Dustin Johnson (PGA)

I want to believe in guys like Tiger Woods, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth, but all three have not played up to their talent level in recent seasons.

A loaded field in the PGA will do that, but some guys have certainly played well. One of them is Dustin Johnson, who already achieved his dream by taking down the 2020 Masters and earning a green jacket.

It was an emotional moment for the 36 year old, who is quite arguably the most talented golfer in the world.

While that’s always going to be subjective, there is no getting around the results. I mean, there’s a reason why Johnson takes the top spot in Michael Wynn’s 2021 PGA power rankings.

Johnson has been quite dominant for some time now, notching at least one win in each of the last seven PGA Tour runs, as well as multiple tourney wins four times. In a shortened 2020, he appeared in three events, winning one and cracking the top-10 each time.

Johnson’s big win at The Masters could be a launchpad for even more success in 2021. There is little reason to doubt the world #1 ranked golfer, who is still very much in his physical prime, and coming off the biggest win of his career.

Going into 2021, Johnson will be a threat to repeat at the 2021 Masters. In fact, a look at the early betting odds for the 2021 Masters shows he’s the favorite.

Johnson is’t just the main guy to consider for the biggest tourney of the year. Though. He’ll be in contention for just about every single tournament he competes in. If that’s not a US sports star poised for a good 2021, I don’t know what is.

Luka Doncic (NBA)

There are numerous superstars to keep tabs on in the NBA, but none pop off the page quite as much as the surging Luka Doncic.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar isn’t from the United States, but in just two seasons he’s absolutely risen to the top of The Association in terms of popularity and production.

Doncic coasted to NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2019, and then immediately vaulted his Mavs to the NBA playoffs with a 43-32 record. Dallas fell in the first round in six games against the Los Angeles Clippers, but Doncic didn’t go down without recording an iconic moment first.

The wild thing is Doncic is seemingly just scratching the surface of his potential. He displayed fantastic range, elite playmaking, and efficient offense as a rookie, but in year two, he took it to a whole new level.

Seriously, Doncic waxed the league to the tune of 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. For a short while there, he looked like the best player in basketball in just his second season, and had people talking about an MVP campaign.

Going into year three, the MVP chatter is very real. Doncic’s scoring and playmaking are here to stay, and if he can elevate Dallas even further, he could seriously dethrone Giannis Antetokounmpo and become the new face of the league.

The latest 2020-21 NBA MVP odds sure don’t disagree, at least.

Christian McCaffrey (NFL)

You wouldn’t know it based on his 2020 NFL campaign, but there’s a very good chance Christian McCaffrey is set up for an awesome 2021 season.

There is no getting around the failure this 2020 season has been, of course. McCaffrey was limited to just three games due to injury, his Carolina Panthers couldn’t make the playoffs, and his massive off-season contract looks like a tentative gaffe.

I don’t think any of that sticks, though, provided C-Mac can stay healthy come 2021.

Why? Because the guy is a total beast when he’s on the field.

McCaffrey put up an extremely rare 1,000 & 1,000 yard campaign in 2019, where he totaled 116 catches and 19 touchdowns. His workload is massive and the injury questions linger, but this is the case with any NFL star.

Assuming he’s healthy, his truncated 2020 production offers a glimpse of an even better year in 2021.

Just look at his three games from this past NFL season.

Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns
23 97 4 38 2
18 59 5 29 2
18 69 10 82 2

That’s 20+ touches, 80+ total yards, and multiple scores in every game he played in, for those keeping score at home.

The stats obviously stand out, but what is even more interesting is how good he made the Panthers when he was on the field.

McCaffrey is viewed as some fraudulent superstar because Carolina won a few games without him, and/or didn’t win enough with him. However, looking back at the last couple of seasons, he’s been on a team with shaky quarterback play, as well as a poor defense.

Carolina has also lost a ton of close games, which have ruined the perception of his next-level effectiveness.

In fact, in the three games he appeared in this year, the Panthers were quite competitive and were mostly burned by a weak defense (31+ points allowed each time). McCaffrey otherwise nearly led Carolina to two wins – one of which could have come against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

While extrapolating his 2020 numbers is not totally sustainable or realistic, just think for a second if McCaffrey’s 2020 pace kept up over the course of a full season. He’d be looking at something in the neighborhood of 32 total touchdowns, 100+ catches, and close to 2,000 total yards.

If he can come even close to sniffing that, he’d be among the best 2021 athletes, regardless of what the Panthers accomplish as a team.

Walker Buehler (MLB)

There are several MLB players set up for good 2021 seasons, but there are few big names I like to blow up more than Walker Buehler.

The talented Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher “regressed” in his third season as a starter, posting a middling 3.44 ERA and winning just one of eight starts.

It’s tough to really judge pitchers in a wild 2020 season, of course, and what’s even crazier is looking at eight starts and thinking we can go off of it at all – let alone write off a guy this talented.

The year prior, Buehler had a 3.26 ERA with a 14-4 record and 215 strikeouts. The year before that he was displaying his immense upside with a stellar 2.62 ERA.

Buehler is a guy who can dominate games, miss bats at an elite rate, and limit run production. He reminded everyone of his top-shelf ability en route to the Dodgers winning the 2020 World Series.

Just take a look at what he did throughout L.A.’s dream title run.

Game Innings Pitched Hits Allowed Strikeouts Earned Runs W/L
NLWC (Game 1) 4 3 8 2 W
NLDS (Game 1) 4 2 8 1 W
NLCS (Game 1) 5 3 7 1 L
NLCS (Game 6) 6 7 6 0 W
WS (Game 3) 6 3 10 1 W

This was really a rather impressive run. Buehler was rock solid for the Dodgers, and for the most part, they knew he was completely shutting the opposition down when he hit the mound.

Everyone knows Buehler is talented, is already one of the top pitchers in baseball, and still has untapped upside. The crazy thing is the best may still be coming, and MLB fans and bettors alike should brace for some of it to come in 2021.

Kevin Durant (NBA)

It sounds weird to say Kevin Durant is among the 8 US sports stars poised for a good 2021. Both because he’s such a huge superstar that normally you’d just say “duh”, and also because he hadn’t played for over a year prior to the start of this season.

But KD is back, my friends, and the NBA betting world better get used to it. Just check out how he fared in his first regular-season game with the Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets were my preseason pick to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2021 NBA Finals.

That took on some risk when you note the health of Durant and running mate Kyrie Irving in recent years, but the upside is beyond obvious. And most of the top US betting sites have them priced as the team to beat in their conference.

In his last full season, Durant averaged 26 points, 5.9 assists, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. He shot 52% from the floor and 35% from long range en route to a third straight trip to the NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors.

He was eyeing a threepeat after winning consecutive titles with the Dubs, but a ruptured Achilles ended that dream.

Had that injury never taken place, who knows what we’d be discussing right now. Would the Warriors have won a third or maybe even a fourth championship? Would KD even be in Brooklyn?

It’s all worth wondering, but it’s also all in the past.

Moving forward, Durant already looks like himself. Through his first three games, he’s averaging that same 26 points per game, he is shooting lights out from distance, and his Nets look very much like a title contender (#1 in defensive efficiency).

Durant isn’t the same as most everyone else on this list, as a lot of these players poised for great 2021 seasons are probably looking ahead to next year. KD still has the entire 2020-21 NBA season to look forward to.

That will likely include stellar production (per usual), and a potential run to the NBA Finals.

Patrick Mahomes (NFL)

One other US sports star poised for a good 2021 is undeniably Patrick Mahomes. This applies to the ending of his 2020 NFL season, and the coming NFL season.

Mahomes is likely going to narrowly miss out on winning his second NFL MVP this year. Aaron Rodgers has just been better, and he’s also elevated the Packers to another amazing season.

That isn’t to slam Mahomes, of course. He’s been quite dominant himself, with over 4,700 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns at the time of this writing.

Marching into 2021 when concerning the immediate future, Mahomes has his Chiefs locked into the AFC’s best record, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Nobody feels like a real threat to the Chiefs in their conference, which probably means Mahomes and co. have a pretty good shot at repeating as world champs.

That alone would make for a pretty great 2021, but no matter what happens in the NFL playoffs to end the current season, Mahomes would then be set up for yet another epic run when the 2021 NFL season begins next September.

The production, the wins, and the chase for another title will all put Mahomes on track to be one of the most accomplished quarterbacks of all-time, and he’s still just 25.

Mahomes has the talent, swagger, and production, to rival anyone. He also has the coaching and supporting cast to somehow be even better in 2021 and beyond.

Who better to end this list of US sports stars poised for a good 2021?

Summary

Are there more than eight star athletes slated for a good 2021 season? Of course, but when speaking hypothetically, it’s a list that could go on for some time.

I wanted to point out some special talents that have already left their mark in some regard, but could impossibly be en route to even better seasons come 2021.

Luka Doncic is just getting started, yet in year three, he could be looking at a league MVP. Maybe he even gets the Mavs to the Finals.

Kevin Durant is officially back and hunting down another ring. The same can be said for a lot of these guys, who are at worst dynamic, elite, and dominant talents.

At best, they just might parlay stellar 2021 campaigns into high-level team success.

Got some US sports stars set up for amazing 2021 runs that you want to discuss? Hate some of my picks? Chime in with your take in the comments below.

Should you feel the need to bet on or against the players above, be sure to hit up the best US sports betting sites before doing so.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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