Hard to miss clear similarities between Warriors, Grizzlies


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Structurally, the Warriors and their Western Conference semifinals opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, are one in the same. Just years apart.

If the Memphis Grizzlies' front office stood in front of the Mirror of Erised, they would see themselves as the Warriors -- a franchise built by homegrown stars that made the right moves through free agency and trade and came out on top with multiple championships. 

That's what the Warriors already have built, and what the Grizzlies are trying to emulate. So far, they appear to be on a similar path. 

"The similarities organizationally are really striking in terms of drafting well, player development, signing the right free agents and then putting a roster together," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday after practice at FedExForum. "Not just accumulating talent, but putting together a roster that makes a lot of sense." 

For the Warriors, it all began with the drafting of Steph Curry with the No. 7 pick in 2009. Two years later, the Warriors selected his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, at No. 11 overall and followed that up the next year by bringing home one of the greatest draft steals of all time by adding Draymond Green in the second round with the No. 35 overall pick. 

The Warriors' current roster construction consists of eight players drafted by the organization, plus Juan Toscano-Anderson, who went undrafted out of Marquette but was given his first NBA opportunity by Golden State. The Grizzlies' roster also has eight players drafted by the franchise, plus multiple undrafted players the team scooped up. 

For them, timeline-wise it began with Jaren Jackson Jr. being taken with the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft. They followed that up by picking Ja Morant with the second pick one year later, which really jumpstarted their success and aspirations. The next year, Desmond Bane heard his name called with the last pick in the first round. In his second season, he averaged 18.2 points per game in the regular season. 

Memphis even has its own second-round steal in Xavier Tillman Sr., who just like Green, went to Michigan State and then was the No. 35 overall pick. The Warriors' Spartan alum was shocked Monday when he was reminded that this is just Tillman's second season in the NBA. 

"Is this only X's second year?" he questioned after practice. "Jesus, he plays like a 10-year pro." 

The same could be said for Green early on in his career when given more opportunities. He, Curry and Thompson first got a taste of the playoffs in 2013 when they upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round before battling the San Antonio Spurs for six games in the semifinals. The next year, they lost in the first round but took the Lob City LA Clippers to seven games.

For the Grizzlies, Morant and Co. snapped their three-year playoff drought by ending the Warriors' season last year in the NBA play-in tournament before then losing to the Utah Jazz in five games. They made the leap this season, finishing the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, one spot ahead of the Warriors. 

They might not be light years ahead of the league like the Warriors once were, but they are on a very similar trajectory as Golden State was when Steph, Klay and Draymond were first coming up. 

"Historically, that's what the league is about," Kerr said. "It's about young teams trying to break through, knock off the veteran teams to establish their own place in the league and it's generally an evolution that happens. It's one of the best things to watch as a fan. I know our fans have loved the continuity that we've had with the Warriors. I'm sure Memphis is feeling the same way.

"Grizzlies fans get to watch Ja, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson. They're homegrown for the most part. I know [Kyle Anderson] came from the Spurs. You home-grow it and you add pieces here and there and the fans, they get comfortable. They get happy watching these guys become part of the family.

"I know our fans have loved that about our team. I think the similarities are very apt." 

Along the way, the Warriors of course made franchise-changing moves outside of the draft with the additions of players like Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and others, and more recently have done so with Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica. 

The Grizzlies' version of that with this season's roster is the incorporation of Anderson, Steven Adams, De'Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones. 

Kevon Looney now is in his seventh season with the Warriors, and the 26-year-old has only seen his role expand on the court over the years while growing as a player and person. The Warriors' next chapter to create a new dynasty could rest on the shoulders of 22-year-old rising star Jordan Poole, 21-year-old James Wiseman and 19-year-old rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. 

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A walk in the Bay Area can include a whole lot of Curry, Thompson and Green jerseys on any given day. Poole jerseys being worn by Dub Nation are no longer a rarity, and the same could be said for Kuminga as soon as next season.

Building a championship roster, however you do it, whether it be through the draft, free agency or trades, is extremely hard. Establishing a foundation from the ground up and watching it grow to create sustainability, though, certainly creates an added layer of pride. 

"There's a lot of different ways to put together a good team, but the fact that you can have a lot of different guys come together and build synergy and chemistry, for us to be doing it as long as we have and now for Loon to take on a more prominent role, JP coming into his own and we got Mood, Wise and JK chomping at the bit to get more time, it's our way of having built success and like you said, sustaining it," Curry said Monday.

"There's a pride of our culture and DNA kind of taking over and proving that we can win at the highest level. That's what we want to control as long as we can. In the league, those examples are hard to find."

The Warriors are the NBA's cornerstone example over the last decade. The Grizzlies strive to be the same, and inwardly and outwardly already have shown they feel they can do just that.

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