Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dream Team or Redeem Team?

All of the cool kids are doing it; so I think it's time that Zee and I bow down to peer pressure and chime in on this debate: who would win a match-up between the 92 Dream Team and the 08 Redeem Team? To keep this comparison as simple as possible, let's ignore the rule changes that have occurred to the sport in recent years and assume equal playing fields for both of the teams. Also since the international competition is much stronger now than it was in 98, we cannot use stat comparison of the two teams to support our arguments. It doesn't matter that the Dream Team beat teams by an average of 44 points compared to only 28 points by the Redeem Team or that the Dream Team averaged a +14 rebound differential compare to only +6 by the Redeem Team. We can also ignore the fact that the Dream Team averaged 11 more assists, 10 more steals, and 2 more blocks per game. The Dream Team faced little competition on their way to a gold metal; Russia, the only team that might have challenged them, boycotted the Olympics that year. Both Chuck Daly and Mike Krzyzewski are fine coaches. So let's just call that comparison a wash. So with that out of the way, let's just do an old fashioned player by player comparison to determine which team is better.

Point Guard. Magic Johnson and John Stockton vs. Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jason Kidd. It's hard to argue against Magic and Stockton; two of the best point guards to ever play the game. Both are brilliant playmakers. And Magic's size and strength advantage would be huge for Dream Team. On the flip side, Paul and Deron are super athletic, quick and would be defensive nightmares. An aged Magic and gimpy Stockton would not be able to stop either of them. Jason Kidd, IMO, is just John Stockton without a jump shot. Redeem Team was applauded for its great ball-hawking skills, but Stockton and Magic are two of the best at taking care of the ball. I don't see turnovers as a problem. In a half court set, I like Stockton and Magic as better distributors. Experience could be a factor here. Both sides will have their way offensively. Winner: Even. It's close.

Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler vs. Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade. While Kobe and Wade were the stars of the 2008 Olympics, they are at best slightly lower than Michael and Clyde. Clyde Drexler, IMO is a hugely underrated superstar in this game with a great all-around game. He's on the same level as Wade. MJ, however, is the difference maker in this equation. He's the greatest player to ever play the game. He would give Kobe fits. He brings more intensity, is a better defender, and just finds a way to win and make his teammates better. Everything Kobe can do, Mike can do better. This would be a fun matchup to watch, however. I just can't see Jordan losing here. Winner: Dream Team. Because they have Mike.

Small Forward: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and Chris Mullin vs Lebron James, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. Well, first off Chris Mullin and Michael Redd are comparable players. Both are excellent shooters but poor defenders. Scottie Pippen and Tayshaun Prince will serve similar roles on their teams as a defender and utility player. I like Pippen better on defense, however. The more interesting matchup is Lebron and Bird. Both are excellent scorers, passers, and rebounders. Bird, obviously, is the better shooter, but Lebron is just so strong and athletic, and would give Bird trouble on the defensive end. Also Bird was old at this point, and could contribute in short bursts only. I like Bird's basketball IQ and will to win, but I think Lebron has the edge. Could Pippen stop Lebron? I don't think so. Winner: Redeem Team. Though I'm being a bit generous.

Power Forward: Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Christian Laettner vs Carmelo Anthony and Carlos Boozer. Lol. Let me first start off by saying that Christian Laettner does not belong in the same sentence as Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. The Redeem Team gets squashed here. If they had Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, however, that would a different question. I'm not sure who I would choose as the best side in that scenario. But I digress. You can see that Dream Team has a much stronger front court. Both Barkley and Malone can dominate on both ends of the floor. Carmelo would get squashed. He's marshmellow soft and not a real power forward. Carlos Boozer hardly got any minutes in Beijing, and we expect him to go up against Barkley and Malone? Get out of here. Winner: Dream team. Easily.

Center Patrick Ewing and David Robinson vs Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. Double lol. Are you serious? Ewing and Robinson would school these young pups. Dwight Howard struggled massively in the 08 olympics. Imagine him against two of the greatest centers to ever play the game. Every game would be a lesson for the kid. His poor shooting and lack of offensive moves would be a handicap; and he would struggle to stop either Ewing or the Admiral on the defensive end. Chris Bosh could maybe hang with these two legends in terms of scoring, but not defense. Overall, the Dream Team has a huge advantage here, and would be the difference maker in a series between the two teams. Winner Dream Team. By a landslide.

As you can see, Dream Team wins over the Redeem Team easily. Of note, Isiah Thomas was left off of the 92 Dream Team. If you add his name to the list instead of Christian Laettner, Dream Team becomes that much better. Hakeem Olajuwon was not a US citizen at the time, so that's why he was not on this team. He would have made a great addition also. Likewise, Dominique Wilkins is another guy who barely missed the cut. He could have replaced Chris Mullin on this team. Even with them excluded, the Dream Team boasts 10 of the top 50 players ever in the NBA as announced at the 1997 NBA All-Star game. Sure Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were at the twilight of their careers, but this team has too much talent and experience to lose. They have some of the greatest clutch players, smartest minds and most illustrious winners to ever grace the sport. A more interesting comparison would be the 96 Dream Team II vs the 08 Redeem Team. But that's a discussion for another entry.

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