Kobe Bryant thinks that this 2012 USA Olympic team would beat the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the 1992 Dream Team. I can’t for the life of my figure out how that is possible, so let’s just jump into it and take a look at the numbers.
I assembled the most basic statistics that most NBA fans are familiar with to compare the 92 team’s individual stats from the previous year with the 2012 team’s past year’s performance. I used the previous year to give a perspective of what the selection committee would have been looking at to pick the team. I’ve hidden the players’ names so that you can take a look the stats and make a judgement call based on just the numbers. Listed are the 12 players’ individual stats, and the bold totals* at the bottom is an average across the team:
Looking at the numbers, is it possible that Kobe has a point? Team B is the current USA squad, and while they look pretty evenly matched, they seem to have the edge in scoring the rock. Maybe in a close game, it comes down to whoever has the ball last. Could Scottie lock down Lebron and funnel him towards D-Rob, forcing a kick-out to Paul who swings it cross court to Durant for a last second game winner? Would Jordan pass out of a Kobe/Wade double team to find an open Malone under the basket, only to have it swatted away by Tyson Chandler? It sure seems like it’s plausible that the 2012 team could beat that 92 Dream Team after all.
Except Team A isn’t the 92 Dream Team. It’s a team consisting of players from the 91-92 season who were NOT selected for the Dream Team. That’s right, these guys didn’t even make the squad. Yet they have nearly identical numbers to this years team, and quite frankly might be better suited as a team to beat the current men’s team. Ouch, sorry Kobe. Here’s my team of non-Dream Teamers that I think might be able to give this 2012 team a run for their ego, because to me, it’s pretty obvious that the actual Dream Team would smoke this Olympic squad out of the building.
THE STARTING FIVE
PG: Kevin Johnson (19.7 pts, 47.9% FG%, 3.7 R, 10.7 A, 1.5 S, .3 B)
I know, you are probably screaming “WHAT? NOT ISIAH?” Yes, Zeke has been forever linked with Jordan’s ultimatum to ban his inclusion on the actual Dream Team. However, I’m picking this team like the 2012 selection committee would, and while Isiah’s legacy can’t be denied, we’re ignoring past glory to get the best guys on the court. KJ was an incredible NBA talent. He could find open teammates demonstrated by his 10.7 assists and was fearless driving the paint. He was probably as quick as Chris Paul is now, however have you ever seen Chris Paul yoke on someone like KJ did on Hakeem the Dream?
SG: Reggie Miller (20.7 pts, 50.1% FG%, 3.9 R, 3.8 A, 1.3 S, .3 B)
When considering who to start here, I went with Reggie because I wanted to get a sharp shooter on the court. It’s hard to argue with Reggie’s ability to knock down a jump shot from ridiculous range, and he had a knack for making huge plays at the end of games when it really mattered (Knicks fans look away). And for all those people who defend the low shooting percentages of wing players now because of they take a lot of jump shots (see Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony), explain to me how Reggie Miller was able to knock them down at a 50% clip?
SF: Dominique Wilkins (28.1 pts, 46.4% FG%, 7.0 R, 3.8 A, 1.2 S, .6 B)
Now here’s your scorer. The Human Highlight Film battled Jordan nearly every year for the scoring title and could crush the rim when he took it to the hole. If people think Carmelo Anthony can’t be defended, N’que puts him to shame. Offensively, there aren’t many small forwards who could knock it from range (career 32% 3pt shooter) and tomahawk in the lane with authority (2-time slam dunk champion). For instant offense, he’s one of the best.
PF: Dennis Rodman (9.8 pts, 53.9% FG%, 18.7 R, 2.3 A, .8 S, .9 B)
I was a bit torn between Rodman and Derrick Coleman at the power forward, but I opted for Rodman because he absolutely controls the boards. He was the definition of hustle, and if the ball was loose, he was going to get it. Also, he was an extremely smart player and played hard nose defense all the time. The best part about him, and his fit on a team like this, is that you don’t have to worry about him competing for shots. He’s not easily defended because he was a terror on the offensive boards. So, not only does he not take shots a scorer wants, but he actually gets more shots for them with his rebounding. Now that’s exactly the type of complimentary player you want to build a winning team.
C: Brad Daughertly (21.5 pts, 57.0% FG%, 10.4 R, 3.6 A, .9 S, 1.1 B)
The center position was a tough spot to fill without having access to Ewing and Robinson. The other great C’s to potentially pick from weren’t US citizens, so we lose out on Hakeem and Dikembe. Brad Daughertly seems like a good fit for this team. He was ultra efficient from the field (57.0%) and managed to give you 10.4 bounds and 3.6 assists, both pretty good for a big man. To put this in perspective, these numbers are nearly identical to Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett’s championship years with the Lakers and Celtics.
THE BENCH & THE MATCHUPs
PGs: Isiah Thomas (18.5 pts, 44.6% FG%, 3.2 R, 7.2 A, 1.5 S, .2 B) and Tim Hardaway (23.4 pts, 46.1% FG%, 3.8 R, 10.0 A, 2.0 S, .2 B)
How can you argue with a Hall of Fame floor general with 2 championships and one of the most lethal combo guards the league has ever seen. With KJ, these PGs have the quickness to defend Chris Paul and Deron Williams, something that debaters question about Magic and John Stockton. All three of these guys were also incredibly difficult to guard, so the 2012 squad would have their hands full for the entire 48 minutes of a game. Westbrook is a bit of a wild card here as his size would make him difficult to cover for any of these guys. However, he doesn’t assist at the level of these three, and he’s liable for four or five bone-headed mistakes a game, pretty much neutralizing any size advantage he had.
SGs/SFs: Mitch Richmond (22.5 pts, 46.8% FG%, 4.0 R, 5.1 A, 1.1 S, .4 B), Larry Johnson (19.2 pts, 49.0% FG%, 11.0 R, 3.6 A, 1.0 S, .6 B), and Reggie Lewis (20.8 pts, 50.3% FG%, 4.8 R, 2.3 A, 1.5 S, 1.3 B)
If you thought the starting line-up was light on scoring, well here is where we make it up. Mitch Richmond lit it up with Run TMC, and people often forget how talented Reggie Lewis was as an overall player. He was the the guy that Boston expected to carry the Bird/McHale/Parrish legacy, and in 91-92, he was the Celtic’s best player on a team that included those 3 Hall of Famers. These guys are capable back-ups to Miller and Dominique and this entire group could score point for point with the likes of Kobe, Melo, Durant, and Harden (not to mention more efficiently).
Now the obvious problem with facing the 2012 USA Team is Lebron James. At 6′ 8″, 240, he’s a physical freak. He is by far the most talented player on that team, and a player whose physical attributes have never been seen before in the NBA. The only guy that had Lebron’s combination of size, strength, and athleticism in the history of the NBA was probably super rookie Larry Johnson. Grandmama? Yes, Grandmama. Standing at 6 foot 6, weighing 250 pounds, LJ was every much of an athlete that LBJ is today. While LBJ is definitely the superior player (his court vision is incredible), if anyone was going to have a chance to slow him down, pre-back injury LJ had the strength and agility to do so.
PFs/Cs: Derrick Coleman (19.8 pts, 50.4% FG%, 9.5 R, 3.2 A, .8 S, 1.5 B) and Kevin Willis (18.3 pts, 48.3% FG%, 15.5 R, 2.1 A, .9 S, .7 B)
Obviously the weakest part of this team by name recognition, the power forwards/centers were no slouches when you look at what they did on a day to day basis. They certainly don’t compare to the greats, but going up against the likes of Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Tyson Chandler, they’re not playing the greats of this generation anyway. While they don’t scream out at you, these guys were more skilled then their 2012 counterparts. Willis was underrated throughout his career and pairing him with Rodman, there’s not a lot of opportunities for offensive boards. DC was a great all around PF and much more skilled that Blake Griffen is now. K Love could stretch this defense with his 3pt making ability, but DC or Rodman could actually guard him out there leaving Willis and Daughertly to protect the middle against the offensively challenged duo of Chandler and Griffin.
The names aren’t as sexy now since we have seen where their careers have gone, but during the early 90s, we were discussing these guys like we talk about this current Olympic team. Their numbers are in line with these All Stars now, and they played in a much tougher NBA. I think Barkley nailed it when he said that only Kobe, Lebron, and Durant would have a chance of making the 92 Dream Team. I’d even go as far to say that the only guy who would look like he fit on the court with these Hall of Fames would be Lebron because his game compliments team play much more so than Kobe or Durant’s.
I’ve included the Dream Team’s 91-92 season stats for comparisons sake. Magic’s numbers are from his last season, 90-91, and Laettner’s are from his rookie year, 92-93.
The numbers speak to how dominant this group of players, not just in the counting stats, but also in how each one of these guys played every aspect of the game and played with extreme efficiency. Half the team averaged 6+ assists, half averaged 8+ rebounds, nearly the entire team picked up a steal a game, and everyone shot at a near 50% rate. When Larry Bird has the worst shooting percentage on your team, you know this team is built to decimate any competition. You could close your eyes and take any five guys at random and put them on the court and you’ll win. Can you say the same thing if you happen to come up with Iguodala, Carmelo, Harden, Chandler, and Blake Griffin? Could they definitively beat Laettner, Stockton, Magic, Pippen, and broken back Bird? Here’s a player by player comparions between these two teams.
So, I say to Kobe … Wha’chu’ talkin’ bout Kobe.
Notable exceptions not included in this list, the All-Snub-Snub Team if you will:
Mark Price – 17.3 PTS, 48.8% FG%, 2.4 R, 7.4 A, 1.3 S, .2 B. Price shot nearly 95% from the FT line in 91-92.
Joe Dumars – 19.9 PTS, 44.8% FG%, 2.3 R, 4.6 A, .9 S, .3 B. The stats don’t stand out, but he gave Jordan fits on D.
Shawn Kemp – 15.5 PTS, 50.4% FG%, 10.4 R, 1.3 A, 1.1 S, 1.9 B. This was coming off the bench for most of the year. Gotta love The Reign Man’s athleticism.
Buck Williams – 12.9 PTS, 60.4% FG%, 10.1 R, 1.5 A, .6 S, .9 B. The 80s version of Tyson Chandler, a four-time member of the NBA’s All Defensive Team.
Shaquille O’Neal – 23.4 PTS, 56.2% FG%, 13.9 R, 1.9 A, .7 S, 3.5 B. If we put a college player on the team, here’s your guy. These numbers are from his rookie year and he clearly solves the C problem this team might have.
*Note that FG% are not weighted by shots, so it’s very likely that this 2012 team’s FG% is artificially inflated by Chandler’s 67% on limited shots. This NBA today is not as good as the NBA from the 90s, plain and simple.