The Golden State Warriors just won their first NBA championship in 40 years. The Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s D-League affiliate 70 miles south, won their first NBA D-League title in their third year of existence. The Warriors franchise becomes the first ever to win an NBA championship and D-League championship in the same season. Moreover, they are much more similar than anyone gives them credit for.
First off, both Santa Cruz and Golden State had the best record in their respective leagues. Golden State went 67-15 and Santa Cruz went 35-15 on the season. Despite the Warriors franchise being known for their offensive prowess, they had the best defensive rating this season, as well as having the highest assist percentage. Golden State and Santa Cruz use similar systems on offense and defense, which could explain why they are both champions.
Another lesser known factor is their big men. The rookie James Michael McAdoo and second-year center Ognjen Kuzmic played a major role in the Santa Cruz title run. McAdoo, however, split time between Santa Cruz and Golden State after officially being called up in January. He was a star for Santa Cruz and a contributing member to Golden State, and now has two rings.
The two All-Stars that most NBA fans know are Stephen Curry, the reigning regular season MVP, and Klay Thompson. Together they are known as “The Splash Brothers” because their sharp shooting makes the basket net splash like a rock thrown into a puddle. Oddly enough, last season, Steph Curry’s younger brother, Seth, and Klay Thompson’s older brother, Mychel, both played in the same back court for Santa Cruz. Fans of the NBA marveled at Curry and Thompson, and fans of the D-League got a taste of it as well. It was admirable how the brothers supported each other. Seth would attend Stephen’s games, Mychel would attend Klay’s games, and vice versa.
However, Seth was later traded to the Erie Bayhawks, affiliate to the Orlando Magic, and could be on the verge of a call-up next season. Mychel Thompson picked up the slack in terms of scoring coming off the bench, helping out former Ohio State guard Aaron Craft and budding star Elliot Williams.
The Warriors franchise is in a great place right now. Golden State has a team in its prime that has now gotten used to winning and winning big. Santa Cruz will have their starting lineup return to compete for another title run, and now that McAdoo has gained championship NBA experience, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the D-League.
By Joshua Hamer