More Likely to Return to the NBA Finals: Warriors or Celtics?

The 2021-22 NBA season is in the books, and it was the Golden State Warriors capturing yet another Larry O’Brien Trophy after downing the Boston Celtics in six games. 

As we look toward the 2022-23 campaign, which of this year’s Finals participants are more likely to return to basketball’s grandest stage?

Of course, we will have to see what plays out this offseason, but for now, my money is on Jayson Tatum and company. The East, in my view, remains the weaker of the two conferences, with the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat posing the biggest challenge to Boston’s title hopes, the same three teams the Celtics beat en route to this year’s NBA Finals. 

Conversely, the Western Conference will see several teams return to full health, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, and the upstart New Orleans Pelicans. The 64-win Suns are likely not going anywhere and will be highly motivated to put last season’s dreadful Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks behind them. Moreover, the youthful Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves should continue to build on last year’s success, and, of course, we can’t forget about Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. They made a big splash in acquiring former Houston Rockets forward Christian Wood.   

The Celtics have the benefit of youth on their side, as their core of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams will all be 28 years old or younger by the time next season rolls around. Golden State, meanwhile, for all of its experience, will have one of the league’s oldest starting five, headed by its original championship trio of Stephen Curry (34), Klay Thompson (32), and Draymond Green (32). There is also an argument that this year’s triumph was the weakest of the Dubs’ previous championship rosters. 

This is not to suggest the Warriors won’t be one of the league’s better teams, they likely will, but it’s fair to wonder if some of the younger legs out of the West will be too much for Golden State to overcome.