A familiar franchise is back in the NBA Finals – the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals series and will face the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Game 1 is Thursday night at 5 p.m. PT.
This isn’t the first rodeo for Golden State. In fact, the Warriors have made the Western Conference Finals six times since drafting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
Arguably a modern dynasty, the Warriors first reached the NBA Finals in 2015 beating LeBron James and the Cavaliers, 4-2. The team went on to win again in 2017 and 2018 after adding Kevin Durant, who has since departed for the Brooklyn Nets.
So, how does this year’s Warriors team stack up against that first title team in 2015? Let’s take a look at a few key similarities and differences and see if this year’s Warriors team can get the job done by winning a fourth title since 2015.
Same Core Players, Different Supporting Cast
There are two key similarities with the 2015 Warriors and the 2022 Warriors.
The first is the head coach. Steve Kerr has been coaching the Warriors since 2014 and is considered to be one of the best basketball minds in today’s game. Kerr has grown accustomed to coaching two of the best shooters all-time in Curry and Thompson and is able to push the right buttons to keep his players engaged and focused throughout the ups and downs of a season.
Secondly, the Warriors have held onto their core players who they acquired via the draft. Curry, Thompson, and Green have been able to stay with Golden State through the prime of their careers.
The combination of having a consistent coach and developing superstars has been a big reason why the Warriors have had so much success since 2015.
However, the role players on the 2015 team are a bit different relative to the 2022 team. The 2015 team was largely made up of veteran players such as Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, David Lee, and Marreese Speights.
None of these players were young rising stars, but they were particularly good at their roles. For instance, Iguodala provided excellent defense and could knock down important shots. Livingston could create his own shot and provide an offensive spark.
Balance is Key in 2022
This year’s Warriors have a more balanced roster. The core players are now the experienced veterans and are supported by rising stars such as Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
Additionally, the 2022 Warriors can score from all over the court and have excellent shooting, which wasn’t the strong suit of the Warriors’ first title team (except for Curry and Thompson).
Nevertheless, both teams play great defense, which oftentimes gets overlooked largely due to the offensive fireworks that come in the form of great three-point shooting from Curry and others.
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How the 2022 Warriors Met Expectations
Before the 2021-22 NBA season tipped off, there were some questions that swirled around Golden State. For one, folks weren’t sure how Klay Thompson would integrate into the team after coming off an Achilles injury. In addition, there was uncertainty around their roster as many felt like the younger players weren’t ready for the big stage.
But the Warriors started off hot, winning 21 of their first 26 games, which included wins over the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers. They began to look like the Warriors of old with Curry and Poole forming a new dynamic shooting duo.
Prior to the season many sportsbooks had the Warriors at +1200 to win the NBA title, which was among the top five teams, but it certainly didn’t feel like many oddsmakers were giving them a good chance.
Yet, the team had higher expectations than the 2015 Warriors. That season, sportsbooks were giving the Warriors a 25/1 chance to win the title behind Western Conference foes such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s hard to imagine that the 2015 Warriors were discredited during the preseason and that the 2022 Warriors with all their uncertainty were still among the top contenders before the season started.
Warriors the Current Favorites
Fast forward to today, the Warriors have risen to the occasion and are current title favorites among the final four teams. For example, FanDuel has the Warriors at -160 to win it all. And rightfully so.
This Warriors team is set up to make a final push towards another championship much like they did in 2015. They can rattle off one of their patented offensive runs (made famous by the 2015-2017 Warriors) at a moment’s notice — largely due to their continued excellence from 3-point range. They can also still play great team defense. Both were key reasons why the 2015 team was able to win it all and could be why they do it again.
Icon Sportswire Photo/Brian Rothmuller