SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – When Steve Kerr looks at the way the Boston Celtics built a championship-calibre team, he sees plenty of similarities to how his Golden State Warriors got to the NBA Finals in 2015.
Boston built a core through the draft by taking Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum during a four-year span from 2014-17 and added the necessary pieces to get over the hump this year to make it to the finals.
Waiting for the Celtics in Game 1 today (9am Brunei time) will be Kerr’s Warriors, who are making their sixth trip in eight years led by the homegrown core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
“Traditionally, this is how it’s supposed to work in the NBA,” Kerr said.
“If you look over the years, you grow a team through the draft, you take your lumps through the playoffs, you climb up and then you get to the finals. Our team was built somewhat the same way. I think that’s good for the sport.”
That approach bucks a growing trend around the league of megastar movement as teams have tried to build more through free agency and trades than in the draft.
Both teams have eight players on the roster acquired originally in the draft and this is the first finals since Chicago-Utah in 1998, according to ESPN, when the top three playoff scorers from both teams made their NBA debuts with their current teams.
The similarities between the teams isn’t complete, with the biggest discrepancy being experience. Led by Curry, Thompson and Green, the Warriors have 123 games played in the finals on their roster compared to none for the Celtics, who lost in the Eastern Conference finals three times in the previous five years.
“There are obviously nerves and adrenaline and anxiety and nerves – like everything in terms of the emotions of playing at this stage,” Curry said about his first finals appearance.
“That first game is sometimes all over the place because of that. And once you settle in, it does become about basketball, like it normally is.”
Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who was an assistant on two teams that went to the finals in San Antonio, isn’t overly concerned, citing the experience his top players have gotten in the post-season in recent years.
Boston won two Game 7s just to get here this season, beating defending champion Milwaukee at home in the second round and winning at Miami in the conference final.
“I think once you get out of the initial media circus and the intensity and how everything is much more exaggerated, obviously it’s not much different when you get on the court,” he said.
Udoka is the fifth coach since 2015 to make the finals in his first year as an NBA head coach, with three of the previous four winning it all. Kerr beat Cleveland’s David Blatt in a battle of first-year NBA coaches in the 2015 finals and then lost to Ty Lue and the Cavs the following year.
Toronto’s Nick Nurse also won it in his first year as an NBA coach against the Warriors in 2019.