The Golden State Warriors and the San Francisco Giants are both successful teams with similar winning formulas. Although the Warriors haven’t won two championships in the past three seasons, both of these teams are built on similar principles. Both teams have a good balance between homegrown talent and players that have come via trade or free agency, both teams showcase a few star players, but they both play like a team, and both teams have excellent team chemistry, stellar defense (or pitching, in the case of the Giants), and an underdog mentality.
Both the Warriors and the Giants have done an excellent job in recent years of drafting quality players. Three out of the five members of the Warriors’ starting lineup were drafted by the Warriors: Stephen Curry (seventh pick in 2009), Klay Thompson (11th pick in 2011), and Harrison Barnes (seventh pick in 2012). They also drafted two other quality rookies in 2012 that have had significant roles in the rotation this season: Festus Ezeli (30th pick in 2012) and Draymond Green (35th pick in 2012). The Warriors have also mixed in some quality players into the rotation that they have traded for or signed as a free agent such as David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, and Carl Landry.
The Giants drafted players such as Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, etc. They have also done a fantastic job acquiring players such as Barry Zito, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Andres Torres, etc. The Giants, like the Warriors, have a great balance between homegrown talent and players acquired via trade or free agency.
Both the Warriors and the Giants have great team chemistry. The Warriors have star players such as Curry, Lee, and Thompson, but they have several other players such as Bogut, Green, Ezeli, Jack, and Landry who also play significant roles in the team’s success. Another example is Kent Bazemore, an undrafted rookie, who is not considered a star player, but he is a large part of their team chemistry because of his enthusiasm and spirited celebrations. Many players on the Warriors have suggested that they’ve had more fun on this team than on any other team in their careers. Members of the Warriors who had been on the team before this season didn’t experience such chemistry when Monta Ellis was on the team. When he was traded, the Warriors were able to play more freely and as a team, which has resulted in greater team chemistry. They truly enjoy playing with each other, they have a lot of fun, and it often results in winning.
“I don’t have to stress for these guys to be unselfish,” Mark Jackson said of his team. “They’re tied together. They love each other.”
The Giants had excellent team chemistry last season, which grew even stronger when one of their best players, Melky Cabrera, was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for testosterone. The Giants became a tighter-knit group after this, and they learned to play as a team, instead of focusing on individual success. Another significant reason for their impressive chemistry was the addition of Hunter Pence. He fit in immediately and although his hitting came on slowly, his passion for the game and his exuberance inspired this team immediately. Pence had that incredible pre-game speech before Game 3 in the NLDS in Cincinnati that summed up what the 2012 Giants team was really about. The theme of the speech was: “Everything you’ve got for the man beside you.”
Hunter Pence also said after winning the World Series, “We bought into something you don’t see very often. We bought into playing for each other and loving each other.”
Although each team’s chemistry is a large part of their success, each team also thrives on stellar defense. The Warriors have never been known for their defense. In fact, they have consistently been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA for a long period of time. However, Coach Jackson has instilled a strong defensive system this season that requires the Warriors to play defense as a team, not individually. In the regular season, the Warriors ranked fourth in the NBA for opponent’s field goal percentage (43.9 percent), after ranking 20th in the NBA last season at 45.3 percent. The Warriors also tied for second in the NBA for rebounds per game (45) in the regular season, compared to ranking 28th in the NBA with 39.2 last season.
The Giants also played solid defense all last season, mostly because of players such as Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Gregor Blanco. In the Giants’ case though, their pitching was even more outstanding. The Giants had one of the best starting rotations in the league, which consisted of Tim Lincecum (who struggled last season), Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong. Last season, the Giants’ ranked fifth in the National League for ERA (3.68), second in the NL for saves (53), and fifth in the NL for opponent’s batting average (.248). This season, the Giants’ pitching has gotten off to a slow start, but they still rank second in the NL for saves (13), and Madison Bumgarner, their most impressive pitcher so far this season, has an impressive 2.31 ERA so far. Barry Zito also has an impressive 2.75 ERA.
The Warriors and the Giants also share an underdog mentality. Both teams have consistently been underestimated by NBA and MLB analysts, and, frankly, they thrive off of that. Before the Warriors started their playoff series against the Nuggets, ESPN predicted that the Nuggets would win in six games. Out of 105 votes, the Warriors only received 10 votes that said they would win. How did they respond to this? They beat the Nuggets in six games. Even though the Warriors and Spurs series isn’t over yet, ESPN predicted that the Spurs would win in five games. We’ll have to wait and see if that prediction is correct, but it is clear though that the Warriors love proving the critics wrong.
“No one picked us to win this series and we did,” Bogut said after winning Game 6 against the Nuggets. “We have a young and emotional group that thrives of each other and I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad I have started to play better basketball and I’m just going to keep working at it.”
Before the start of the 2012 season, ESPN predicted who would win the World Series. Not one analyst picked the Giants to win. In fact, only three out of the 50 analysts chose the Giants to win the NL Championship. Before the beginning of this season, ESPN went through the same process, and, yet again, not one analyst picked the Giants to win the World Series. In addition, not one analyst even picked the Giants to win the NL Championship this season. The Giants weren’t predicted to win the World Series or even make the playoffs in 2010 too. The Giants were labeled as misfits that season, because they acquired several players, such as Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, and Pat Burrell, who were unsigned or waived by other teams. All of those players went on to contribute significantly to the Giants’ World Series run in 2010. Clearly, the Giants enjoy being labeled the underdogs, because it has resulted in two World Series titles in the past three seasons.
The Warriors and the Giants are both successful franchises built upon similar values. Both teams have great team chemistry and appreciate playing their respective sport as team. Both organizations believe in building the team through the draft and through smart trades or free agency pick-ups. Both teams focus on defense, or on pitching in terms of the Giants. Lastly, both teams love being underestimated. They thrive on being the underdog, and they both love winning when no one expects them to. The Giants and the Warriors are both determined teams who share the same winning formula.