Monday, August 18, 2008

The Ultimate Matchup - Dream Team vs. Redeem Team

"Get me on the court and I’m trouble
Last week messed around and got a triple double"

Those immortal words from Ice Cube, aka O’Shea Jackson, inspired this column.

To preface, my wife is obsessed with the Olympics. Because she is currently recovering from surgery and isn’t supposed to get up and around much, the Olympics have been on about 24/7 at our house. It is tough for me to sit down and write this with the fascinating match for the gold medal in team table tennis currently taking place, but I think I can muster up enough strength to talk about an argument that has been gaining steam recently: Is the Redeem Team as good as the Dream Team?
With the first glance at this fantasy matchup the answer seems obvious - no. The Dream Team was so star-studded that it seems a bit ridiculous to even suggest that the Redeem Team would have a chance. Ten of the twelve players on the Dream Team roster were named among the 50 greatest players of all time by the NBA. Three members of this year’s version are sure-fire hall of famers in Kobe, Kidd, and LeBron, and several others could well be on their way to the same. Even so, the Dream Team clearly has more star power. But how would these teams actually match up? This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive analysis because, frankly, I don’t have the time, but here is what I would expect out of these two teams.

Here are the rosters and the starting lineups used in most games:
Dream Team
Guards - Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan
Forwards - Charles Barkley and Karl Malone
Center - Patrick Ewing
Bench - John Stockton, Clyde Drexeler, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Christian Laettner, David Robinson

Redeem Team
Guards - Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant
Forwards - Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James
Center - Dwight Howard
Bench - Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade, Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh

Some of these matchups would be awesome to see. Imagine seeing Kobe and Jordan (while in their primes) going at it all game long. Would Scottie Pippen be able to defend LeBron or Dwyane Wade? Would Dwight Howard’s athleticism stand up against Ewing and Robinson? This is how I break it down -

Point Guards: I’ve got to give a slight edge to the Redeem Team here. Seriously. Magic was on his way down (and hadn't played in the league for over a year) and Kidd is currently on the downside of his career, so they are sort of in similar circumstances, so I’d take Magic there. That leaves the combination of Chris Paul and Deron Williams vs. John Stockton. Based on what I saw out of Paul and Deron last season, I’d take them over Stockton. I like the 2 for 1. Now, if this were the Magic Johnson of the 80s I would take him over any and all of the other guys, Stockton included.

Wings: This one is close enough that I’ll call it even. It’s hard not to give the advantage to the originals just because of Jordan, but the combination of Wade, Anthony, LeBron, and Kobe is pretty ridiculous. Both teams have good defenders in MJ, Pippen, Kobe, and Prince (LeBron doesn’t get enough credit for his improving D), and both have scorers in Jordan, Clyde, Wade, Kobe, and James. Even though Jordan is the best of the bunch and was in his prime, I have to call it even because of the overall talent and depth on the Redeem Team.

Post: This is where it gets ugly. The Dream Team absolutely slaughters the 2008 team. Ewing, Malone, Barkley, Robinson, Bird. Wow. Oh, and Laettner. Can't forget Laettner (I would also like to point out that they chose him over Shaquille O'Neal - not that it mattered). All five of the guys mentioned before the Dukie are better than any post player on version 2008. Dwight Howard is a physical freak, but he doesn’t have the skills that the guys on the Dream Team did. Also, can you imagine Carlos Boozer trying to guard Malone or Barkley in the post? What a joke.

Defense: I’ll give this to the Dream Team in spite of Bird, Magic, Mullin, and Laettner, none of whom were defensive stoppers. The rest of the team makes up for them with the Admiral, MJ, Pippen, and Malone, each among the best defenders ever at their positions. The rest of the guys on the team were at least adequate.

Athleticism: The Redeem Team takes this one easily. Magic, Bird, Laettner, Mullin, and Stockton all solidify this one. Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Howard are all ridiculously athletic.

Intangibles: This one goes to the Dream Team easily. Kobe (3), Prince (1), and Wade (1) are the only players on this year’s team with NBA championship rings. Magic has 5. Bird has 3. Scottie and MJ each have 6. For those of you wondering, Scottie and Mike each have 6 more than Stockton, Malone, Ewing, and Sir Charles combined. I just needed to make that point for all my friends who are Jazz fans. The Dream Team takes this category easily.

The analysis seems to point to the Dream Team winning this matchup. It really wouldn’t be fair just to look at the statistics to make the call. Due to the evolution of international basketball the Redeem Team has to play harder and be more focused to win games whereas the Dream Team could just show up and go through the motions and destroy teams (messed around and got a triple double...). The Dream Team won games by an average of 43.8 points per game! The closest margin of victory was 32. Larry Bird had retired before the Dream Team played and Magic Johnson hadn’t played an NBA game in over a year, but Jordan and Barkley were both coming into their primes. Version 2008 is younger, more athletic, and hungry. The team was assembled in a systematic fashion to be able to win games while playing an “international style.” These guys want to win and they seem to enjoy the recent comparisons to the originals. So, who would win in a 7 game series? I would be shocked if the Redeem Team could win more than one game in a seven game series. In a single elimination game? I would bet on the 1992 team, but I wouldn’t completely put it past the new guys.


Boyd said...

Just to nitpick, Bird retired after the Olympics.

Taylor said...

Oh, well then. Please disregard my entire post. Don't Be Cruel PlayBoyd. Don't Be Cruel.

Boyd said...

And Bird only won 3 championships. Bye

Taylor said...

I thought I changed that. I wrote four, saw it was three, and apparently didn't do anything about it...
But, it's My Prerogative.