Monday, June 18, 2012

4 comments Trolling Leads to Comparing 2012 and 1992 Dream Teams

Chris Palmer, who is a person I had never heard of before I started writing this post, made the following statement on Twitter recently:

"Respect to the Dream Team. But Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Wade, Howard, CP3, Westbrook, Rondo would run them off the floor."

You can read all of his comments here. That's his Twitter account. Apparently Chris Palmer writes for ESPNLosAngeles and is an authentic ESPN NBA Insider, which is a title that apparently requires capitalization. This statement got me to thinking. Would the 1992 Dream Team be run off the floor by the 2012 Olympic team? Obviously it is nearly impossible to accurately compare these two teams, and I am sure someone somewhere has done a better job than I have in comparing these two teams (I'm guessing Bill Simmons will shit a comparison out soon since he writes 1-2 times per week and is out of column ideas to the point he is turning his weekly column into a Christmas card updating us all on his family's exploits), but I thought I would at least think this question out in long form using Palmer's Tweets.

First, we need to get the roster for each team. We know the roster for the 1992 Dream Team and I will guess at the roster for the 2012 Olympic Team, assuming the best American NBA players will play. I'm leaving off guys who I don't think would play (Rose/Duncan) or players I don't think would make the team (Garnett). So here are the rosters with the position they play, along with their age in each respective year when the Olympic games (1992 and 2012) occurred. By the way, I am not including Derrick Rose on this list because he would not play in these Olympics due to this knee injury. This isn't a list of the best players of the era and I am trying to be realistic on who would/could play for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics, so much like Isiah Thomas didn't make the Dream Team because everyone hated him, Rose wouldn't be on the 2012 Olympic team because he is injured.

1992 Dream Team

PG- Magic Johnson (33 years old)
PG- John Stockton (30 years old)
SG- Michael Jordan (29 years old)
SG- Clyde Drexler (30 years old)
SF- Larry Bird (35 years old)
SF- Chris Mullin (29 years old)
SF- Scottie Pippen (26 years old)
PF- Charles Barkley (29 years old)
PF- Karl Malone (29 years old)
PF- Christian Laettner (23 years old)
C- Patrick Ewing (30 years old)
C- David Robinson (27 years old)

2012 Olympic Team

PG- Chris Paul (27 years old)
PG- Russell Westbrook (23 years old)
PG- Rajon Rondo (26 years old)
SG- Dwayne Wade (30 years old)
SG- Kobe Bryant (34 years old)
SF- LeBron James (27 years old)
SF- Kevin Durant (23 years old)
SF- Carmelo Anthony (28 years old)
PF- Blake Griffin (23 years old)----as pointed out in the comments Kevin Love should have this spot. I was wrong to put Griffin here. It doesn't change opinion of this hypothetical game, but Love is a natural international player. Big mistake on my part.
PF- Chris Bosh (28 years old)
PF- LaMarcus Aldridge (27 years old)
C- Dwight Howard (26 years old)

So there we go. I left off Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, and Paul Pierce because I didn't think they would make the team.

Because it is hard to directly compare each team considering they played 20 years apart, I'm going to compare these two teams in the context of Chris Palmer's Tweets about the subject. He next Tweeted,

The speed alone would overwhelm the 30-something Dream Team.

He does have a point in that the 1992 Dream Team was older than the 2012 Olympic Team. The average age of the 1992 Dream Team was 29.2 years of age. and the average age of the 2012 Olympic team would be 26.8 years of age. I get what Palmer is saying about the speed of the 2012 team, but in their time Bird, Mullin, Ewing, and Stockton weren't considered to be fast players, but this still didn't stop them from dominating. This is a fast 2012 team, but the lack of speed didn't hurt members of the 1992 team when they played in the NBA. So I can feel comfortable giving the 2012 team an advantage in speed, but I don't know if this is such an advantage it means the 2012 team would dominate the 1992 team.

Dream Team had lots of subpar defenders: Mullin, Bird (back), Drexler, Laettner.

This is a fairly valid point. The Dream Team also had Ewing, Robinson, Pippen, Jordan, and Stockton (who cheated and grabbed so much it slowed the opposing point guard down). They were pretty good defenders in their own right. Besides, it isn't like the 2012 team is a defensive juggernaut with Anthony and Griffin on the roster. I'm not sure Westbrook, Rondo, or Paul could necessarily guard a much bigger Magic Johnson on the offensive end. Magic definitely wasn't in his prime, but I still think it wouldn't be an easy matchup for the 2012 point guards.

Not to mention, how did Clyde Drexler appear on Palmer's list as a sub-par defender? He is 7th on the all-time steals list. It certainly seems like he was capable of stealing the ball if he wasn't an excellent on-ball defender. I think the 1992 Dream Team as more defensively capable than Palmer gives them credit for being.

Defensive core of Kobe, LeBron, Wade is simply the best ever.

I can see that argument, but Jordan, Pippen, and Ewing are a pretty good defensive core too. You have to remember in this contest, 2012 Kobe is older than 1992 Jordan, 2012 LeBron is older than 1992 Pippen, and 2012 Wade is the same age as 1992 Ewing. Not that these players would be matched up against each directly, obviously, but the 1992 team's defensive core is actually younger than the 2012 team's defensive core.

Dream Team quality bigs Ewing, Robinson neutralized because of tempo.

Clearly Chris Palmer never saw David Robinson play basketball. Robinson was comfortable with a fast tempo and you only have to go to YouTube to see video of David Robinson running the break with his Spurs teammates. So while Ewing would guard Howard, when the 2012 team went up-tempo the 1992 team could bring in Robinson at center, move Barkley to power forward, Drexler to small forward with Jordan and Stockton/Magic at the guard spots. Or the 1992 team could put Pippen at point guard in a lineup with Drexler, Jordan, Robinson and Barkley. That team could run the break, even with Barkley in the lineup. Rebounding could be an issue for this 1992 squad since Barkley was undersized, depending on the power forward the 2012 team goes with (Griffin...but then who plays center in the up-tempo game for the 2012 team? Maybe Bosh/Aldridge or LeBron moves to power forward), but I would feel good if I were the 1992 team in an up-tempo contest.

So my basic point is the 1992 would be comfortable at center with an up-tempo game because Robinson had no issue playing center at an up-tempo pace.

Jordan on Kobe. Pippen on LeBron. Who guards KD, Rose, Westbrook?

Again, Rose's knee is blown out. So I wouldn't include him on this team. Jordan on Kobe and Pippen on LeBron? How about this? Kobe in 2012 doesn't need Michael Jordan on him. Drexler could probably guard a 34 year old Kobe, Pippen would be on Westbrook, then Jordan guards LeBron. Or Pippen could be on Durant and Jordan guards LeBron. Or you could switch those two. I'm guessing Stockton or Magic (who was not healthy during the 1992 Olympics, but played anyway) would guard Westbrook if Jordan did stay on Kobe and Pippen on LeBron. It's a tough matchup, but I think the 1992 team would figure out a way to make it work. Clearly the 2012 team would be younger and faster. My point is the 1992 has more options than are presented by Palmer.

On the other side of the ball, if we are assuming a Westbrook, Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Howard lineup versus a Magic, Jordan, Pippen, Malone, Robinson lineup, who is guarding in-his-absolute-prime Michael Jordan? 34 year old Kobe Bryant? He's a good defender, but he isn't that good anymore defensively. Let's say LeBron guards Michael Jordan, which I would pay a lot to see happen. Get the hologram people to work on this immediately. So LeBron is on Jordan, Kobe is guarding Pippen, and Durant is guarding Malone? I know Durant has length, but I can't think this matchup is to the advantage of the 2012 team. Magic would have a half a foot in height over Westbrook at the point position as well.

Concerning the play down in the post, the 1992 team would get Howard in the pick-and-roll with Malone/Robinson and cause him problems. Howard is a great defender, but Robinson or Ewing could drag Howard away from the basket. I love Durant, but I'm not convinced he can guard Karl Malone. In that case is LeBron guarding Karl Malone? If the 2012 team takes LeBron off Pippen/Jordan to guard Malone and that leaves Pippen/Bird/Mullin with Durant on them. Perhaps Durant could handle that assignment better than he could handle Malone. My point is I think there are mismatches on both sides of the court, which is what would make this a tough game.

Dream Team can't guard speed. And there's no Easter Bunny. Sorry you're finding out like this.

Just from looking at the 1992 Dream Team roster, it does seem like they would struggle to guard the speed of the 2012 Olympic team. It's difficult to simply say, "Dream Team can't guard speed," since these two teams are never going to play each other. The 1992 Dream Team can't guard speed, but basketball isn't simply a foot race. If basketball was a foot race the Golden State Warriors would make the playoffs every year. The 1992 Dream Team can't guard speed, but how would the 2012 Olympic team guard the 1992 team from the perimeter? I've completely neglected this part of the discussion so far. With Jordan in his absolute prime, Drexler still playing at a high level and Barkley winning an MVP one year later, those three guys are going to be in the lane, so who is going to match up the perimeter shooters the 1992 team would have. Guys like Chris Mullin, Larry Bird, and Stockton. The Dream Team was really good from the perimeter and I want to reiterate I think Chris Palmer is underestimating Clyde Drexler's defense. I don't know if I would consider Drexler to be a sub-par defender.

The advancements in skill and athleticism can't be ignored. Too much for '92 to overcome.

While I again get what Chris Palmer is saying, these "advancements" in skill and athleticism are not being ignored. Basketball players today are physical specimen compared to players 20 years ago. I guess if Palmer is looking at it from a physical standpoint, the 1992 team would be overmatched. As I said before though, several of these 1992 Dream Team members were physically overmatched when they played in the NBA and it didn't affect their performance. I think Chris Palmer is looking at this from a purely perimeter-oriented standpoint, which I think he has to throw how Howard/Aldridge/Griffin/Bosh would hold up against Ewing/Robinson/Barkley/Malone into the discussion as well.

OK, KG and Timmy, you can play too. Need you to guard the ringless Barkley and Malone.

The fact these guys are ringless is incredibly irrelevant. Both of these guys had to get past the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to get a title. Those 90's Bulls teams were really, really tough to beat. Not very many teams in the 90's were able to beat them in the playoffs. So the "ringless" portion is a cheap shot, especially since only three of the players on the 2012 team have NBA Titles. I left Garnett off the 2012 team because I would take Bosh/Aldridge/Griffin over him in this competition (and I'm not sure Garnett would play either) and Tim Duncan has stated he won't play in the Olympics anymore. He wasn't even a member of the 2008 Olympic men's basketball team. So Duncan wouldn't play most likely and Garnett wouldn't make my team. The fact Barkley and Malone were ringless is just so incredibly irrelevant when it comes to a fictional head-to-head competition like this.

Not disparaging the Dream Team. They changed basketball by globalizing the game. But they would lose today.

It's fun to talk about, but almost impossible to say for sure. It's a tough call and I can't say for sure which team would win this game. Gun to my head, I would possibly go with the 1992 Dream Team over the 2012 Olympic team, but I can see how the 2012 team would win. I think there is one thing we can all agree on...who the hell is Chris Palmer and when did he "bust up" Randolph Childress like he claims he did,

Hey Cory, I used to bust up Randolph Childress. I know he put big numbers on you.

and where did Palmer play college ball? I've tried to find information on Palmer and can't seem to find anything. He does seem to have some sort of infatuation with Randolph Childress. Maybe it is payback for Childress dunking on him...

Either way, it seems Chris Palmer wanted some attention and he got it. This is a tough argument that can't ever be proven one way or another. Lost amid the claims the 2012 Olympic team is more athletic and faster, I think sight is being lost that the 1992 team contained 11 Hall of Fame players, only two of which were older than 30 years old. So it isn't like they were an excessively old team and they had the best player in NBA history in his prime and were incredibly well balanced from the perimeter and in the paint.

So while I see some matchup difficulties for the 1992 team in guarding LeBron/Wade/Kobe, I also see some matchup difficulties for the 2012 team in guarding Malone/Jordan/Bird/Mullin on offense. As much as Chris Palmer seems to believe this isn't true, the 1992 Dream Team probably would have kept up with the 2012 team to the point I think they could beat them.

I know it goes against the state of the sports media today, but there is no right or wrong on this question. Which team do you think wins if these two teams play? Am I being unrealistic in my expectations for the 1992 Dream Team or is Chris Palmer not only a Grade-A troll, but also overstating the 2012 Olympic team's hypothetical dominance?


rich said...

PG- John Stockton (30 years old)
SG- Michael Jordan (29 years old)

You can take whoever you want, but holy Jesus is that the backcourt you'd love to go with...

Oh wait, I forgot, fuck that - I'll take Magic Johnson and Jordan.

Dream Team had lots of subpar defenders: Mullin, Bird (back), Drexler, Laettner.

... An NBA insider saying that the 1992 Dream team had subpar defenders... has this guy even watched an NBA game this year?

Looking at who could make the team, you really only have Howard and LeBron as good defensive players, the rest are either "meh" or "oleh!" defenders.

I have to admit I know nothing of Aldridge's D, so I can't say much there.

But ya, Barkley, Ewing and Jordan? Ya, that's a pretty solid defensive team there.

Defensive core of Kobe, LeBron, Wade is simply the best ever.

I actually laughed at this.

Kobe with two bad knees is not a good defender. Sorry, he's just too old and injured to be.

Wade hasn't been an elite defender...ever has he? He's looked very pedestrian in the playoffs.

So you have one very good defensive player and two guys who aren't. Best defensive core my ass.

Two-thirds of the best defensive core ever has been getting their asses kicked all playoffs.

Jordan on Kobe. Pippen on LeBron. Who guards KD, Rose, Westbrook?

Given that KD and LeBron play the same position, I'm guessing Pippen covers KD.

Or if they play both at the same time, Barkley.

So then you have Westbrook and Rose, again two guys who play the same position and you know what? You aren't defending them on the perimeter. Two of the "greatest d core" hasn't been able to in the finals.

But you know what you do do? You let him drive and watch Barkley, Robinson, Pippen and Robinson block the shit out of everything.

Need you to guard the ringless Barkley and Malone.

Good news then, you stick Pippen on LeBron or KD depending on who wins a ring. No need to cover the ringless guy after all.

But they would lose today.

No, no they wouldn't and it's very simple as to why: today's players are one dimensional.

When was the last time Howard or Blake made a jump shot?

Seriously, I would love to see Howard try to back down an in his prime Robinson or Ewing.

When was the last time Wade shot well outside of 16 feet?

When has Anthony ever played well outside of isolation?

I'm sorry, but Barkley, Robinson and Ewing were all more versatile players than this asshat seems to remember.

Oh and they had mothefuckin' Michael Jordan, a guy so good, that he invented the shooting guard position we know today and still no one has come close to doing what he's done.

And here's the biggest thing for me - the 1992 team was able to play as a team, an actual fucking team. The Heat have been together for two years now and they still struggle to do that.

The fact that the 1992 Dream Team could go three deep at every position and still have someone considered one of the best in the game, that's something special.

Could you imagine the fallout if Westbrook or Paul didn't feel like they got enough touches? How about Wade crying after Jordan hand checked him for a quarter?

Other than Aldridge, Rondo, LeBron (I can't believe I just typed that), Durant and maybe Paul... the 2012 team isn't exactly the type of players who make the people around them better.

Lastly, I'll say this look at the Heat-Celtics series. The old and slow Celtics were able to force the younger, more athletic and talented Heat to seven games, so lot of good that athleticism does in the face of good defense and vets who know how to play as a team.

Unknown said...

Just a quick comment on a 2012 omission. No Kevin Love on your 2012 team? He seems like a natural in international competition.

Kyle said...

Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. There's no way in hell Blake Griffin makes the team and Kevin Love doesn't. He's better in every single way besides dunking.

Bengoodfella said...

Unknown and Kyle, I was wrong about that. I think I got too excited about Blake Griffin being athletic and being on the team. Kevin Love is superior. I'm going to make a note saying he should be on the team. Huge mistake on my part.

You would think I have a huge pro-Oklahoma or Clippers lean or anti-UCLA or T-Wolves lean, huh?

Rich, I like the defensive core of the 92 team. It's a strong defensive team. I know Ewing gets crap from some fans, but the man could guard the post. I don't get where Drexler is a bad defender. He isn't a great defender, but he was always opportunistic with getting steals and getting in passing lanes.

Plus, the Dream Team had 29 year old Michael Jordan and 26 year old Scottie Pippen. Those are two great defenders.

I thought the dumbest part of this column was the idea the 92 team can't play a fast paced game at the center position. David Robinson thrived in a fast offense.

I think the athleticism angle is a bit overplayed. I realize the 2012 team has better athletes, but I really think the 92 team is stronger in the middle. I think Howard could be guarded by Ewing/Robinson and Malone and Barkley were really strong rebounders. The addition of Love would help the 2012 team, but I believe the 92 team has the best player (Jordan) and a point guard (Magic) who would be able to see over and make plays on the smaller 2012 point guards. The 2012 team is quicker, but I also think the 2012 team can shoot the 3 pt shot better.

It would be a good game.