Warriors, Celtics built NBA Finals teams through Draft: Preview

When Steve Kerr looks at how the Boston Celtics built a championship-level team, he sees many similarities to how his Golden State Warriors reached the 2015 NBA Finals.

Boston built a core through the draft, taking Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum over a four-year period from 2014-17 and adding the necessary pieces to get over the hump this year and make it to the Finals.

Awaiting the Celtics in Game 1 on Thursday night is Kerr’s Warriors, who embark on their sixth trip in eight years, led by the homegrown core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

“Traditionally, that’s how it’s supposed to work in the NBA,” Kerr said. ‚ÄúIf you look over the years, you build a team through the draft, you take your lumps through the playoffs, you move up and then reach the Finals. Our team was structured like this. … I think that’s good for the sport.”

This approach bucks a growing trend in the megastar movement league, as teams have sought to build more through free agency and trades than in the draft.

Both teams have eight players on their rosters who were originally drafted, and according to ESPN, this is the first Finals since Chicago-Utah in 1998, when both teams’ top three playoff scorers made their NBA debuts with their current teams .

The similarities between the teams are not complete, with the biggest discrepancy being experience. Led by Curry, Thompson and Green, the Warriors have a total of 123 Finals games on their roster, compared to none of the Celtics, who have lost three Eastern Conference Finals games in the past five years.

“There’s obviously nerve and adrenaline and fear and nervousness – like everything in terms of the emotions you play at that stage,” Curry said of his debut appearance at the finals. “That’s why the first game is sometimes everywhere. And once you settle in, it’s basketball, as it usually is.”

Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who assisted two teams at the finals in San Antonio, is not overly concerned, citing the post-season experience his top players have had in recent years.

Boston won two seven-game games just to get here this season, defeating defending champions Milwaukee at home in the second round and winning in Miami in the conference finals.

“I think once you get out of the initial media circus and the intensity and like everything is way over the top, obviously when you get on the pitch it’s not much different,” he said.

coach in the 1

Udoka is the fifth coach since 2015 to reach the finals in his freshman year as NBA head coach, with three of the previous four winning all. Kerr beat Cleveland’s David Blatt in a freshman-year NBA coach battle in the 2015 Finals, then lost to Ty Lue and the Cavs the following year. Toronto’s Nick Nurse also won against the Warriors in 2019 in his first year as NBA coach.

Before that, Pat Riley (1982 Lakers) and Paul Westhead (1980 Lakers) were the only freshman coaches to win the NBA Finals since the 1950s.


Golden State owner Joe Lacob was a minority owner of the Celtics before taking over the downtrodden Warriors in 2010. At the time, he said he hoped the Warriors could match the success of franchises like the Celtics and Lakers.

“We were trying to change the direction of this franchise back then,” Lacob said. “The first thing you need to do is set goals.”

With a chance for a fourth title in Golden State’s sixth finals in eight years, Lacob’s lofty goals have become a reality, but he’s far from satisfied.

“It’s going to be many years before you come anywhere close to what the Celtics have achieved through all their amazing decades of success,” Lacob said.

home cooking

Curry said early in the playoffs that he wanted the Warriors to find an identity at the Chase Center in the first playoff heat of the 3-year arena. Golden State did that, winning all nine games at home and outselling their opponents by 14.6 points per game. The Warriors are the fifth team to advance to the finals 9-0 or better at home.

Both teams have had success away from home, with Boston having won seven of their nine away games so far and the Warriors having won at least one away game in a record 26 straight playoff streak.

injury report

The Warriors finished the final round without three key players – Andre Iguodala (neck), Gary Payton II (left elbow) and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) – who could provide needed defensive help on the wings against Tatum and Brown.

All three have been able to train this week and are considered doubtful for Game 1. Iguodala has missed the last 12 games, Payton has missed nine and Porter has sat in the last two games of the Western Conference finals.

The Celtics are dealing with a serious injury of their own, with center Robert Williams III handicapped by an infection in his left knee. Williams has played the last four games against the Heat but hasn’t looked at his best. He is classified as questionable.

Smart is removed from the injury report after dealing with a sprained right ankle in the last lap.

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