Because they’re making their sixth appearance in eight years, the Warriors didn’t need any instructions to get to the 2022 Finals and having Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green along for the ride doesn’t hurt either.
The catch this time is that the Warriors are bringing a completely new supporting cast, thanks to Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins‘ unexpected surprises. Last season, the former made 11 appearances in the NBA G League, while the latter was stuck in reputation prison. They not only outperformed their predicted ceilings this season, but they also shown the fortitude required to succeed in the playoffs despite their lack of playoff experience.
As a result, the Warriors have returned, yearning for more champagne, and are well-positioned to lift the trophy for the fourth time since 2015. Their veteran trio has won championships, and the addition of youth and agility to the mix makes for a winning formula.
Meanwhile, this Celtics club is attempting to add to the franchise trophy collection, which is already larger than the Warriors’ and everyone else’s except the Lakers’.
Boston took the harder route to get here, defeating Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving before sweating it out in a pair of seven-game series against the defending champion Bucks and the Heat, but it can sometimes toughen you up and harden your resolve. Jayson Tatum is on the verge of becoming a superstar, and Jaylen Brown has proven to be an effective sidekick. Both are excellent two-way players who, together with Marcus Smart, help Boston to be a top defensive team.
3 Key Factors to Look Out For
- Will Curry finally be able to prevail? Not as a member of a team he already has three championships, but as an individual? In the Warriors’ five trips to the Finals, Curry was never the best player on the court, partially because the competition for that title was fierce (LeBron James, Kevin Durant), and partly because Curry seemed to be a level below his own standards, with Andre Iguodala frequently raised. After winning the All-Star and Western Conference Finals MVP awards this season, the elusive Finals MVP may finally be within his grasp.
- What would Draymond Green do to guard Jayson Tatum? It seems only natural that a previous Kia Defensive Player of the Year would be paired with such a dangerous scorer. Last round, however, Green only partially guarded Luka Doncic, with Andrew Wiggins taking over the role. Wiggins will almost certainly be given the Tatum assignment, if only because he is a better athlete and fared well against Doncic. Green is the only logical and most qualified candidate if Tatum gets Wiggins into foul trouble.
- The Celtics are the more powerful squad. They must flex that muscle in ways that the Mavericks were unable to do in the Western Conference finals against Golden State. Al Horford is rediscovering his game, and Robert Williams III, provided he stays healthy, is a capable rim protector. Grant Williams is a big player, and Daniel Theis is available if needed. This imbalance can be exploited by Boston, forcing the Warriors to modify, if not completely rethink their small-ball strategy.