I already told you I didn’t see this coming. Not with Kyrie Irving out for the rest of the season.
But now that it’s happening, it’s time to face the facts: the Boston Celtics are the Golden State Warriors of the East.
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That’s right, I said it. The Celtics are the Warriors.
Without Irving, I never thought I’d feel this way about this group this soon. But here they are, up 2-0 on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Some of that has to do with home-court advantage. Some of it has to do with Brad Stevens being one of the best coaches in the NBA. But most of it has to do with the fact that the Celtics are just playing the way they’re capable of playing.
Would it be nice to have Irving on the court? No doubt about it. But even without him right now, we’re witnessing a handful of lottery picks live up to their potential on the biggest stage.
And that’s kind of what happened to Golden State, isn’t it?
The Warriors had been playing below-.500 basketball for years, and then Steph Curry showed up. Then Klay Thompson arrived. And then, the “Splash Brothers” were formed.
Now, Kevin Durant has joined them, and it’s been pure domination ever since. But even before Durant signed in the summer of 2016, Curry and Thompson led the Warriors to the playoffs in 2012-13 and again in 2013-14, only to bring an NBA Championship to Golden State in 2014-15, and make a second-straight appearance in the Finals in 2015-16.
The Warriors’ dominance had kind of come out of nowhere. All of a sudden, in 2014, Curry and Thompson became must-see TV. They were supposed to be good, but not this good.
Then again, maybe they were.
Curry was drafted No. 7 overall in 2009. Thompson was drafted 11th overall in 2011. And they had some help the year in which they won the title. Draymond Green was an early second-round pick in 2012 and had proven to be a steal. But they also got contributions from some lottery picks in Andrew Bogut (No. 1 overall in 2005), Harrison Barnes (No. 7 overall in 2012), and the NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala (No. 9 overall in 2004).
The 2014-15 champion Warriors had a group of lottery picks who came together to play to their expectations and then some, all while being led by coach Steve Kerr, who took over for Mark Jackson after the 2013-14 season.
Right now, these Celtics are must-see TV. And like the Warriors did in 2014-15, the C’s are slaying the beast in LeBron. With Game 3 on Saturday in Cleveland, it’s not over yet. But it’s interesting to compare the 2014-15 Warriors to these current Celtics.
Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum were both drafted No. 3 overall. Marcus Smart was drafted No. 6 overall. And I think people forget that Al Horford was drafted No. 3 overall back in 2007, behind Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
These Celtics were expected to make an impact, even if the extent and the timing of that impact might have caught some people off guard. And these Celtics aren’t going to be a one-hit wonder, either. They’re here to stay, and will only improve when Irving (No. 1 overall in 2011) and Gordon Hayward (No. 9 overall in 2010) get back on the court next season. Much like how the Warriors improved when they signed Durant.
Three years after their 2014-15 championship, Golden State is still going strong as a dominant force in the West. And if they can handle their business against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, they just might run into the Golden State of the East.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.