Ranking 15 best Warriors, Celtics players ahead of NBA Finals


The Celtics have taken down some serious talent en route to the 2022 NBA Finals. Sending Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler home in the same postseason is no easy feat.

But Boston has yet to face a team as deep as the Golden State Warriors.

The Western Conference champions feature a potent blend of experienced stars -- Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green -- and young, talented role players like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Golden State boasts four players averaging over 15 points per game this postseason and owns the best offense in the playoffs at 114.5 points per game.

So, how do the Celtics stack up with the mighty Warriors? To get a sense of who has the edge in this series -- which tips off Thursday night at Chase Center -- we examined both rosters and ranked the top 15 players overall based on their importance to their team's success.

Let's dive right in.

15. Payton Pritchard, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 5.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 45.1% FG, 36.2% 3PT

Pritchard fell out of Boston's rotation in Games 5 through 7 against Miami, and he's not a great defensive matchup for Golden State's lethal backcourt of Curry, Thompson and Poole.

But the Celtics will need offense in this series, and Pritchard is capable of getting hot from deep. Boston could really use a Pritchard outburst or two in this series.

14. Gary Payton II, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 6.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg, 72.7% FG, 75% 3PT (seven games)

The Warriors reportedly are hopeful that Payton can return from a broken left elbow as soon as Thursday's Game 1. That would be a great development for Golden State, as the 29-year-old wing is an excellent perimeter defender who could help limit Tatum and Brown.

He also hit six of his eight 3-point attempts in the postseason prior to going down with an injury against Memphis.

13. Derrick White, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 8.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 bpg, 38.0% FG, 27.6% 3PT

White has been feast or famine offensively throughout the postseason, but he's a well-rounded player whose strong defense could help contain Curry, Thompson and Poole. He's also been much more aggressive on offense of late, averaging 14.3 points over Games 4 through 7 against Miami.

If the aggressive version of White shows up against Golden State, it could swing a game or two in Boston's favor.

12. Grant Williams, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.8 bpg, 42.1% FG, 40.5% 3PT

Williams' production has fallen off a bit since he played Game 7 hero against the Milwaukee Bucks, and he's made just two of his last 10 3-point attempts. Defense doesn't slump, however, and Williams has shown he can guard any position on the court.

That versatility will be valuable against Golden State's balanced offensive attack, but Boston needs Williams to rediscover his outside shot if it wants to keep pace on offense.

11. Kevon Looney, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 6.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 66.7% FG

Looney was crucial to the Warriors' WCF victory over Dallas, nearly averaging a double-double (10.8 points and 8.8 rebounds) and going off for 21 points in a Game 2 victory.

The 26-year-old big man will face a much tougher test in Boston's frontcourt, but the Celtics still need to account for the young big man on both ends to make sure he doesn't become an X-factor.

10. Robert Williams, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.9 bpg, 63.5% FG

Speaking of X-factors ... Williams' health is one of the biggest storylines entering this series.

When he's right, Time Lord is an elite lob threat and shot-blocking menace who can also defend the 3-point line with his incredible reach. Williams has battling knee soreness throughout the postseason, however, and looked severely limited in Game 7 against Miami.

Tomase: Celtics-Warriors is a Finals matchup 10 years in the making

Looney has been the better player than Williams over the last two weeks. The Celtics need that to change in the NBA Finals -- especially on the defensive end.

9. Al Horford, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 11.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.6 bpg, 50% FG, 43.2% 3PT

Simply put, the Celtics aren't here without Horford. He's shooting a remarkable 43.2 percent from 3-point range and leads the team in postseason blocks with 27. He played excellent defense on Durant, Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo and has hit clutch shots whenever the Celtics have needed them.

The question is whether Horford has enough left in his 35-year-old legs to continue his impressive play, but the spaced-out NBA Finals schedule could work in his favor.

8. Andrew Wiggins, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 15.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 48.0% FG, 35.3% 3PT

Wiggins has revived his career in Golden State, providing excellent secondary scoring while emerging as one of the team's best defenders. Head coach Steve Kerr even called the Wiggins trade the "key move" that helped get the Warriors back to the NBA Finals.

Wiggins' defense will be especially important against Tatum and Brown, and if the All-Star starter can slow down Boston's star wings while putting up 15 points per night, the Celtics will have a hard time winning this series.

7. Marcus Smart, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 39.5% FG, 33% 3PT

Smart remains as confounding as ever: He's shooting under 40 percent during the postseason and missed seven 3-pointers in Game 7 vs. Miami -- but also scored 24 points in that contest while hitting key shots when they mattered most.

Smart is the Celtics' best defender and top facilitator, and if he's on his game offensively, Boston is nearly impossible to beat. If he was more consistent offensively, he'd be ahead of Poole on this list.

6. Jordan Poole, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 18.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.9 spg, 53.1% FG, 39.3% 3PT

There's a case for both Wiggins and Smart ahead of Poole here based on their defensive prowess. But the team with the most points wins, and Poole has been an absolute bucket during the postseason.

The 22-year-old has scored at least 20 points in seven of Golden State's 16 playoff games and is shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. His offense has been immensely valuable, as teams can't over-help on Curry and Thompson without risking a Poole takeover. Preventing Poole from getting hot should be one of Boston's top priorities in this series.

5. Klay Thompson, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 19.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 45.7% FG, 39.9% 3PT

Thompson is a three-time NBA champion and a deadly deep threat, as he reminded everyone by drilling eight 3-pointers in Golden State's clincher against the Mavericks. But he's lost a significant step on the defensive end after missing two full seasons due to injury, and that Game 5 outburst was the only time he topped 20 points in the WCF.

There's a good chance we get a "Klay Thompson Game" in this series, but Poole's emergence means Golden State doesn't need Thompson to score to win games.

4. Draymond Green, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 8.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 bpg, 53.9% FG, 26.1% 3PT

Love him or hate him, Green has long been the engine that makes the Warriors run. He's an elite playmaker and a lockdown defender who can guard every position on the floor while also making an impact on the boards.

Don't be fooled by Draymond's lack of scoring production. He stuffs every other part of the stat sheet and will be central to Golden State's defensive efforts against Tatum and Brown.

3. Jaylen Brown, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 22.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 48.5% FG, 38.6% 3PT

Brown has been a danger to himself and others this postseason, averaging nearly 23 points per game but struggling mightily with turnovers (3.0). Celtics fans should take the bad with the good, though.

Brown has bailed Boston out on multiple occasions throughout the playoffs by creating his own offense when Tatum has been off his game. He'll need to cut back on the turnovers against stout defenders like Wiggins and Green, but if he and Tatum can put up 20-plus points per night consistently in this series, Boston will be hard to beat.

2. Stephen Curry, Warriors

2021-22 postseason stats: 25.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 44.9% FG, 38.0% 3PT

Curry is the face of the Warriors, and he's no figurehead. The 34-year-old is still at the top of his game, leading Golden State in postseason scoring by more than six points per game while pouring in nearly four 3-pointers (3.8) per game. 

Curry is a master at moving without the ball and making the defense work to take away his lethal 3-point shot. He's also a brilliant playmaker who will make you pay for sending too much help his way. Boston has passed every defensive test so far this postseason, but Curry represents a vexing final exam.

1. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

2021-22 postseason stats: 27.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 44.6% FG, 37.5% 3PT

Tatum was named First-Team All-NBA for a reason. The 24-year-old has blossomed into a do-it-all superstar who can go off for 46 points in a must-win Game 6 on the road or finish one assist shy of a triple-double in a pivotal Game 5 at home. He's also one of Boston's best defenders who is tied with Brown for the team lead in steals.

There are plenty of talented players on both sides who could impact the balance of this series. But Tatum has the ability to win it by himself by taking over on both ends of the floor. If Tatum plays like one of the NBA's top five players, there's a very good chance Boston is raising Banner 18.

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