Dream Team vs. Today

Dave,

What's your take on the recent comments of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James that the 2012 USA Men's Basketball Team could defeat their 1992 "Dream Team" counterparts? Astute or arrogant?

Ike

Let's first give credit to James and Bryant. They are two of the best of all time. They could play on any team, anywhere including the 1992 Dream Team. There wouldn't even be a question. "OK Mullin, Drexler, and Laettner, we've got two future guys coming in and they're as good as anybody in the universe. Two of you will have to go. You can rock-paper-scissors for it. Stop laughing, Bird. You're an old man now and should be going but we need your name value." I am glad the comments came from these two and not somebody deeper on the roster. They probably have a right to think that, and nowadays whatever somebody thinks they say. (#twitter)

Let's also avoid the trap of everybody who's been on the planet longer saying, "Everything was better back in the day garble-garble music, automobiles, stereo speakers." At the same time we'll not fall in with everybody who hasn't been on the planet as long saying, "Everything new is better than anything old garble-garble internet, tablets, cuisine." Instead let's take a serious look at both rosters.

2012

1992

LeBron James

Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant

Scottie Pippen

Kevin Durant

Magic Johnson

Carmelo Anthony

Karl Malone

Chris Paul

Charles Barkley

Kevin Love

Patrick Ewing

Russell Westbrook

David Robinson

James Harden

John Stockton

Andre Iguodala

Clyde Drexler

Deron Williams

Larry Bird

Tyson Chandler

Chris Mullin

Anthony Davis

Christian Laettner

Two things stick out about the 2012 crew: they've got serious scoring punch at the top of the list and nice role players towards the bottom. The trio of James, Bryant, and Durant: they're athletic, skilled, virtually unstoppable even by the best defenders. The initial impression of everybody from '92 would be, "Oh man...these guys are going to be tough covers." I'm not sure the Dream Team could watch all three at once. The 1992 point guards would have trouble containing Paul and Williams as well, as they're not matched up well athletically. Throw in a couple good games by the mid-roster and they could well spill over the dam of the Dream Team's defense. The guys from '92 would also get in trouble if the game became a track meet overall. Therefore the James/Bryant statements aren't totally crazy. 2012 has advantages.

If the main attribute of the current squad is scoring, though, you have to look at that 1992 roster and admit that all of them (sans Laettner) could, and did, put up huge numbers. The biggest advantage to the Dream Team would be depth. Not only would those pinnacle players from 2012 have to guard Jordan and Pippen, they have to guard Drexler, Bird, and Mullin coming off the bench. Carmelo's going to score, but who is he going to defend? Everything the point-producers in '12 can do the guys in '92 could match.

Then you move to the bigs. I appreciate what Kevin Love does, but that's Karl Malone across from him...perhaps the greatest of all time. Don't like what Malone did to you? Here comes Barkley. And don't even talk about the center disparity here. Remember that the 1992 team looked at Shaquille O'Neal (then a rookie, but still...) and said, "No thanks." The 2012 group would be starting rookie Shaq and might not ever take him out of the game except for fouls or fatigue. The current team would get killed at the big positions, probably needing to go small to keep firepower on the court. But going small would mean sacrificing rebounds and post defense. Difficult boards on some possessions, no boards at all on others, equates to no running game. There goes one of the main avenues of attack.

Finally, you're going to have to deal with the mental toughness of those '92 players. They were older when they played, but almost all of them had won big for many years. Is anybody going to argue that LeBron knows more about winning than Michael? Durant vs. Pippen? Carmelo vs. Magic? Kobe and maybe Chris Paul are the only exceptions. When steely gaze met steely gaze, the guys from 2012 would be the ones retreating. The modern guys don't like to lose, but the Dream Team didn't lose.

Plus, you know...Jordan.

Summing up: I give athleticism and most of the matchups at the smaller positions to the 2012 team. I also give them a chance to win. But I give depth, an overwhelming advantage at the big positions, mental toughness, and the knowledge of how to win to the 1992 players. The 1992 guys could come close to matching the advantages of 2012 but the 2012 guys would have no way of closing the gap on the Dream Team's advantages. 1992 wins a seven game series 4-1, 4-2 if the younger guys played out of their minds.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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