Championship rosters can be built in a variety of ways. Some are built organically through the Draft and developing young players in house. Others are built around prize free agents that immediately elevate a team from pretender to contender. Then there are ones built on trades, finding players that may not have fit on other teams but prove to be the missing piece of a championship puzzle.
When we look at the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, we see two teams that have rosters with very similar DNA. The core of each team was built with Draft picks, a key trade or two added additional talent and the remaining holes were filled in via free agency.
No stat illustrates the homegrown-ness of this series more than this from ESPN Stats and Information: the top three playoff scorers from both teams — Stephen Curry (25.9 ppg), Klay Thompson (19.8 ppg) and Jordan Poole (18.4 ppg) for the Warriors; Jayson Tatum (27.0 ppg), Jaylen Brown (22.9 ppg) and Marcus Smart (15.5 ppg) for the Celtics — were all drafted by their respective teams. That’s something we haven’t seen in a Finals matchup in 24 years.
Both of the teams in the NBA Finals Top-3 scorers this postseason were drafted by their respective teams (Curry, Thompson, Poole | Tatum/Brown/Smart)
It's the 1st time the top-3 postseason scorers on each NBA Finals team debuted with their respective team since 1998 (Bulls-Jazz) pic.twitter.com/XHh0qxXML5
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 31, 2022
Below is a breakdown of how each roster was built, presented in chronological order by acquisition type, starting with Draft picks, then trades, free agents and two-way players.
Golden State Warriors
Draft (8 players)
The Golden State “Big Three” of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were all drafted by the Warriors in a four-year span from 2009-12. With three well-used picks, the Warriors added the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history in Curry and Thompson and a unique playmaker/defensive guru in Green. That trio has an uncanny chemistry with one another and will play in their sixth NBA Finals together.
Following their first championship in 2015, the Warriors added Kevon Looney in the Draft. After injuries slowed him down early in his career, he has established himself as a key role player for the Warriors, including a few career-best performances in these playoffs.
Over the past few years, the Warriors have added some young talent to complement the veteran core with players like Jordan Poole (2019), James Wiseman (2020, currently injured), Jonathan Kuminga (2021) and Moses Moody (2021).
- Stephen Curry: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (7th pick) of the 2009 Draft.
- Klay Thompson: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (11th pick) of the 2011 Draft.
- Draymond Green: Drafted by Golden State in the 2nd round (35th pick) of the 2012 Draft.
- Kevon Looney: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (30th pick) of the 2015 Draft.
- Jordan Poole: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (28th pick) of the 2019 Draft.
- James Wiseman: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (2nd pick) of the 2020 Draft.
- Jonathan Kuminga: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (7th pick) of the 2021 Draft.
- Moses Moody: Drafted by Golden State in the 1st round (14th pick) of the 2021 Draft.
When Kevin Durant decided to leave the Warriors in free agency following the 2019 NBA Finals, Golden State completed a trade with Brooklyn to acquire D’Angelo Russell for Durant. After Russell proved to not be the right fit for the Warriors, Golden State was able to trade Russell to Minnesota to acquire Andrew Wiggins and a future first-round pick. Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has flourished since joining the Warriors, earning his first All-Star nod (as a starter) in 2022.
- Andrew Wiggins: Acquired in a trade with Minnesota on Feb. 6, 2020. Golden State received Wiggins, a 2021 first-round pick (the pick used to select Kuminga) and a 2021 second-round draft pick in exchange for Jacob Evans, D’Angelo Russell and Omari Spellman.
Free Agency (4)
Andre Iguodala signed with the Warriors last summer to begin his second run with the team after being part of the championship core, including winning Finals MVP in 2015. Iguodala was initially acquired by the Warriors via a three-team trade in July 2013, resigned a multi-year contract in July 2017 and was traded to Memphis in July 2019. Iguodala’s status for the Finals remaining unknown at this time as he has not played since Game 4 of Golden State’s first round series with Denver due to a neck injury.
- Nemanja Bjelica: Signed with Golden State on Aug. 6, 2021.
- Otto Porter Jr.: Signed with Golden State on Aug. 6, 2021.
- Andre Iguodala: Signed with Golden State on Aug. 10, 2021.
- Gary Payton II: Signed with Golden State on Oct. 19, 2021.
Two-way deals (4)
- Damion Lee: Converted from a two-way contract to a regular contract by Golden State on Jan. 15, 2020.
- Juan Toscano Anderson: Converted from a two-way contract to a regular contract by Golden State on May 13, 2021.
- Chris Chiozza (2-way): Signed a two-way contract with Golden State on Aug. 13, 2021.
- Quinndary Weatherspoon (2-way): Signed a two-way contract with Golden State on Jan. 3, 2022.
Similar to Golden State, the Celtics built their core through the Draft … they just did so about five years after the Warriors. While Curry was the pick that got things started for Golden State in 2009, the first piece of this Celtics core came in 2014 with the selection of Marcus Smart. In 2016 and ’17, the Celtics drafted Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, respectively, giving them one of the top wing duos in the league.
While the Celtics are making their first Finals appearance since 2010, they have been knocking on the door for years, falling in the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 (Brown’s rookie season), 2018 (Tatum’s rookie season) and the 2020 bubble season. In addition to the Smart/Brown/Tatum trio, the Celtics also added Robert Williams (2018) and Grant Williams (2019) in consecutive drafts, with both players having career-best seasons during this run to the Finals.
- Marcus Smart: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 2014 NBA Draft.
- Jaylen Brown: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (3rd pick) of the 2016 NBA Draft.
- Jayson Tatum: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (3rd pick) of the 2017 NBA Draft.
- Robert Williams: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (27th pick) of the 2018 NBA Draft.
- Grant Williams: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (22nd pick) of the 2019 NBA Draft.
- Payton Pritchard: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (26th pick) of the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Aaron Nesmith: Drafted by Boston in the 1st round (14th pick) of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Less than three weeks removed from their 2021 playoff exit, the Celtics made a key trade to acquire Al Horford from Oklahoma City in exchange for Kemba Walker and a future first-round pick. This is Horford’s second run with the Celtics — similar to Golden State’s Iguodala — after he spent three seasons with Boston (2016-19) before signing with Philadelphia as a free agent.
Horford wasn’t the only familiar face to return to Boston as the Celtics acquired Daniel Theis in a trade deadline-day deal with the Houston Rockets. Theis began his NBA career with Boston in 2017 and spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Celtics before being traded to Chicago as part of a three-team deal in March 2021. He went to the Rockets via a sign-and-trade deal with the Bulls in August 2021, but returned to Boston six months later via another trade.
Also at the trade deadline, the Celtics acquired guard Derrick White from San Antonio in exchange for Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson and two future protected first-round picks. While White had never played with the Celtics before, he did team with Tatum, Brown and Smart during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, playing for a coaching staff led by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich with current Celtics coach Ime Udoka serving as an assistant.
- Al Horford: Acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City on June 18, 2021. The trade sent Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick to Boston for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick.
- Daniel Theis: Acquired in a trade with Houston on Feb. 10, 2022. The trade sent Theis to Boston for Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom and Dennis Schroder.
- Derrick White: Acquired in a trade with San Antonio on Feb. 10, 2022. The trade sent White to Boston in exchange for Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson, a top-four protected first-round pick in 2022 and the right to pick swap in 2028.
Free Agency (4)
- Luke Kornet: Signed a contract with Boston on Feb. 11, 2022.
- Nik Stauskas: Signed a contract with Boston on March 4, 2022.
- Malik Fitts: Signed a contract with Boston on March 15, 2022.
- Juwan Morgan: Signed a contract with Boston on April 9, 2022.
Two-way deals (3)
- Sam Hauser: Converted from a two-way contract to a regular contract by Boston on Feb. 11, 2022.
- Brodric Thomas (2-way): Signed a two-way contract with Boston on Oct. 18, 2021.
- Matt Ryan (2-way): Signed a two-way contract with Boston on Feb. 28, 2022.