Wednesday, August 1, 2012

'12 Olympic Team vs. '92 Dream Team: We play it

Posted By on August 1, 2012, 5:32 PM

Kobe Bryant recently caused quite the stir when he said that this year’s Olympic basketball team would beat the 1992 Dream Team, which is widely considered to be the greatest team ever assembled. Michael Jordan laughed at the thought and Larry Bird sarcastically said, “They probably could. I haven’t played in 20 years now and we’re all old.” Breaking down the matchup, I have compiled my own research and come up with a prediction for how I think this game would be played out.---

Starting Lineups (Season Statistics for year they played in Olympics)

Point Guard:

Magic Johnson (90-91 stats): – 19.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 12.5 apg

Chris Paul: – 19.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 9.1 apg

Both team’s starting point guards are certainly not short on talent. Magic was spectacular in his prime and was one of the most exciting, stat-stuffing players to ever play the game. Paul masterfully conducts whatever offense he is in, having carried several talent-barren teams into the playoffs. Coming into the '92 Olympics, Magic had not played the previous year, as he was forced to retire due to contracting the HIV virus, while Paul is coming into the Olympics fresh off a second-round playoff run. However, the deciding factor in this matchup is size, where Magic stood at 6’9” and Paul stands much shorter at 6’0”. While both players could do an excellent job of setting up their teammates for easy baskets, Magic would be able to back down Paul in the post and get numerous baskets for himself.
Advantage: Johnson (Dream Team: 1 | 2012: 0)

Shooting Guard:

Michael Jordan: - 30.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.1 apg

Kobe Bryant: - 27.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.6 apg

This is the dream (no pun intended) matchup that everyone would be watching under a microscope: Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the best player to ever play the game, against Kobe Bean Bryant, who is arguably the closest thing to Jordan that we have ever seen. Both are extremely competitive and would do everything they could to not let their opponent gain an inch. Jordan was coming into the Olympics fresh off of an NBA Championship and was still several years away from reaching his prime. Kobe is coming off an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and although he put up big numbers and is still one of the best in the game, he certainly is past his prime. This matchup makes basketball fans everywhere froth at the mouth, but due to the point where each player was at in their career when they played on these teams, Jordan gets the advantage. Keep on laughing, MJ.
Advantage: Jordan (Dream Team: 2 | 2012: 0)

Small Forward:

Larry Bird: - 20.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 6.8 apg

LeBron James: - 27.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.2 apg

James and Bird are very well-rounded players, and both were constant threats for triple doubles on any given night. Bird piloted the famed Celtics teams of the '80s to several championships, while Lebron barely won his first championship this past year. However, sadly enough, the '91-'92 season was Bird’s last, as he suffered serious back injuries that in essence were the cause of his retirement, but he gave it one last go with the Dream Team. James is currently in arguably the best shape of his life and is a straight-up beast, standing 6’8’ and weighing 250 pounds. Larry Legend and his bad back stand no chance against the dominant Lebron.
Advantage: James (Dream Team: 2 | 2012: 1)

Power Forward:

Karl Malone: - 28.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.0 apg

Kevin Love: - 26.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.0 apg

Had Blake Griffin not torn his meniscus before this year’s Olympics, he would certainly be playing a major role on this year's team, and it was widely considered that either he or Kevin Love would have started (Carmelo Anthony started the first exhibition game at PF), and Love gets the nod here. Both Malone and Love crashed the boards hard and put up monster offensive numbers. However, Malone possessed a unique set of post moves and is widely considered one of the most built players to ever play the game (along with Lebron). Love lost a bunch of weight a couple of years ago and now seems more accustomed to playing outside rather than bang inside, even though he was second in the league in rebounding this past year. Love could stretch the Dream Team defense with his long-range shooting, but Malone could shoot it a little himself and he would bully Love on the block.

Advantage: Malone (Dream Team: 3 | 2012: 1)

Center:

Patrick Ewing: - 24.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.9 apg

Tyson Chandler: - 11.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 0.9 apg

The starting center battle is not even close. Ewing was the captain of the bruising Knicks teams of the ’90s and Chandler is the defensive anchor of the Dallas Mavericks team, which won a championship two years ago. Chandler is an excellent defensive player, being the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and would certainly give Ewing a little trouble on the defensive end, but he is extremely limited offensively. Ewing was a threat on both sides of the ball and would dominate this matchup. I can’t help but wonder what would be the result if Dwight Howard hadn’t gotten hurt.
Advantage: Ewing (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 1)

Bench: Players listed based upon playing time and role from the Dream Team, and projected playing time and role for 2012 team

Sixth Man:

Charles Barkley PF: - 23.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.1 apg

Kevin Durant SF/PF: - 28.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg

Other than the Jordan and Kobe matchup, the battle of the sixth men might prove to be the most interesting. Barkley was, in fact, the Dream Team’s leading scorer at 18 points per and was arguably one of the most well-known players on the team (if not for his play, certainly for his quotables). KD is the three-time defending scoring champion and is able to put the ball in the basket from anywhere at any time, and one could make a strong argument that he will be the 2012 team’s leading scorer throughout the Olympics. Both are extremely talented on offense, but due to the nightmares that Durant would give Barkley and the Dream Team on defense, he gets the nod (although arguably Scottie Pippen would guard Durant, but I don’t have enough time to break down all those possibilities).
Advantage: Durant (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 2)

Seventh Man:

Chris Mullin SF: - 25.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 apg

Carmelo Anthony SF/PF: - 22.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.6 apg

'Melo and Mullin have eerily similar statistics, but it is the role that they play on their respective team that will determine the winner. Both can score the ball and neither was spectacular on defense, but looking at physical ability, 'Melo gets the edge here. He is arguably one of the top two best scorers currently in the NBA and can get baskets in a variety of ways. Mullin was no slouch, but he got the majority of his baskets with the Dream Team as that other guy who got open looks because of the defense focusing on other players; plus, he simply would not be able to stop 'Melo on defense.
Advantage: Anthony (Dream Team: 4 | 2012: 3)

Eighth Man:

David Robinson C: - 22.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.5 apg

Deron Williams PG: - 21.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 8.7 apg

Now, I know you might say that it is unfair to compare a point guard to a center, but as I said before, the bench comparisons are based on the player’s role and playing time on their team. Robinson played a key role on the Dream Team, and Williams figures to do the same for the 2012 team. However, Robinson will take advantage of the 2012 team’s lack of size and will dominate inside. The 2012 team’s lack of quality bigs would prove to be its biggest downfall in this game, and the Dream Team would take full advantage. Williams would prove to be effective for the 2012 team, but going against Magic and John Stockton would be no easy task.
Advantage: Robinson (Dream Team: 5 | 2012: 3)

Ninth Man:

Clyde Drexler SG: - 25.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 6.7 apg

Blake Griffin PF: - 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.5 apg

Drexler did quite a bit for the Dream Team as their fifth-leading scorer. Griffin is hurt and will not play for the 2012 team, but Kobe didn’t know that when he said they would beat the Dream Team. Drexler was another one of those players who can affect the outcome of a game in a variety of ways, and Griffin can, well, dunk. His limited offensive abilities would hurt him greatly against the Dream Team and his effectiveness would certainly be curtailed. Drexler would still be able to contribute greatly to the Dream Team’s success and that is why he has the advantage.
Advantage: Drexler (Dream Team: 6 | 2012: 3)

Tenth Man:

Scottie Pippen SF: - 21.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.0 apg

Andre Iguodala SF: - 12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.5 apg

Both Pippen and Iguodala were called to be the defensive stoppers on their respective teams. Pippen is arguably one of the greatest wing defenders of all time, and while Iguodala can still stick pretty solid D, he is nowhere near Pippen’s league. Pippen was also able to give you 30 points on any given night, and the same cannot be said for Iggy. Having Scottie Pippen as the 10th man on your team is a gift from God, and Iguodala is not even seriously considered to be in the top tier of players in the NBA at the moment. Pippen runs away with this one.
Advantage: Pippen (Dream Team: 7 | 2012: 3)

Eleventh Man:

John Stockton PG: 15.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 13.5 apg

Russell Westbrook PG: 23.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.5 apg

Russell Westbook is a freak and it would be difficult for Stockton to hang with him on defense if he were by himself. However, Stockton had David Robinson, Pat Ewing, Karl Malone, and Scottie Pippen behind him, which is when Westbrook would meet his demise. Decision making is key in this matchup, as Stockton would beautifully orchestrate the Dream Team offense while Westbrook would lower his head and relentlessly attack the rim for turnover after missed shot after turnover. Westbrook would stupidly try and convince everyone that he is the best player on the court, which would lead to greatly hurting his team. If Coach K were smart, Westbrook might not see the floor during this game.

Advantage: Stockton (Dream Team: 8 | 2012: 3)

Twelfth Man:

Christian Laettner PF (college stats): - 21.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg

James Harden SG: - 16.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg

The 12th guy on each team doesn’t figure to play very much in the game, but when they do get in the game, Harden takes Laettner to school. Laettner was on the Dream Team because the team wanted to have at least one amateur player on their team (I think it should have been Shaq). Harden is a three-year pro at this point and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. He would be able to help out his team to a much greater extent than Laettner would his, even if it didn’t really affect the outcome.

Advantage: Harden (Dream Team: 8 | 2012: 4)

Now that the individual matchups have been broken down, I came up with a simulated game with statistics to see how the game would pan out. The final score and statistics for each player were:

Dream Team: 124

Starters

Magic Johnson: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists

Michael Jordan: 27 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists

Larry Bird: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist

Karl Malone: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 0 assists

Patrick Ewing: 10 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists

Bench

Charles Barkley: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist

Chris Mullin: 5 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist

David Robinson: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 0 assists

Clyde Drexler: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Scottie Pippen: 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

John Stockton: 4 points, 0 rebounds, 7 assists

Christian Laettner: 2 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists

2012: 103

Starters

Chris Paul: 6 points, 0 rebounds, 7 assists

Kobe Bryant: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

Lebron James: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

Kevin Love: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists

Tyson Chandler: 5 points, 8 rebounds, 0 assists

Bench

Kevin Durant: 24 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist

Carmelo Anthony: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 0 assists

Deron Williams: 10 points, 1 rebound, 8 assists

Blake Griffin: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists

Andre Iguodala: 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist

Russell Westbrook: 4 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists

James Harden: 3 points, 0 rebounds, 2 assists

The Dream Team pounds the ball inside to Robinson, Ewing, Malone, and Barkley early and often, to which the 2012 team has no response. Jordan leads the Dream Team with 27 points, Magic hands out 7 assists, and Malone goes for 15 and 8. Pippen plays defense on Durant, but KD still manages to get loose and pace his team with 24 points. 'Melo and Deron Williams both have strong games off the bench and Lebron is his usual stat-stuffing self. The game is remotely close after the first quarter, but in the second, the Dream Team begins to build a lead, when Westbrook makes several ill-advised plays in a row leading to bad shots and turnovers. The lead seems to hang out at the 16 point mark, and even gets as close as 12 midway through the third quarter, but the Dream team never leaves this game in doubt as they hang on for the 19-point win. Nonetheless, the game is exciting and entertaining from the tip as both teams give it their all trying to prove that they are the best. However, in the end, the true champion and best team ever comes out on top.

I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose were on the 2012 team. I guess then you have to cut Laettner from the Dream Team and replace him with Isaiah Thomas or Shaquille O’Neal. Sadly, we will never get to see these two teams play, but it is sure fun to talk about.

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