During what is the slowest sports time of the year, the closest thing to a story is Kobe Bryant saying the current U. S. Olympic basketball team could “pull it out” against the legendary Dream Team of 1992. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley didn’t take kindly to Bryant’s assertion, to say the least.
My instinct says that it would be a contest of skill versus athleticism. The 1992 team with David Robinson and Patrick Ewing would abuse the current team in the post. Scottie Pippen, out of anybody I have seen in my lifetime, might be the only defender with the size and speed to match up with LeBron.
Conversely, I am not sure how Barkley or Malone would cope with Kevin Durant. Twenty years ago, 6-foot-10 power forwards did not posess the shooting range or athleticism that Durant has. In general, for the current team members to have a chance, they would have to use their athleticism to create turnovers and score on the break as the Dream Team would likely own the glass. The only other advantage the current team has is greater continuity after the core of this team won the gold in 2008 and the World Championship in 2010. Overall, I’d give the current team more of a chance if it were healthier and had Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade.
I posed the question to Gabriel David on Twitter. Not surprisingly, given his appreciation for the history of basketball, he basically gave the current team no chance and even argued the Dream Team was more athletic.
I then came up with the idea of doing a completely objective simulation. I went to WhatIfSports.com and loaded the rosters for both teams. I did have to take a few of short cuts: I used Magic Johnson’s 1990-91 season as he had retired before the 1991-92 season due to his HIV diagnosis. I used Christian Laettner’s 1992-93 rookie season and I assumed Blake Griffin would return to the current Olympic team as Anthony Davis has yet to make his NBA debut and was not available for the simulation.
WhatIfSports assigns each player season a salary value for use in their leagues. For example, you can draft a team with the 1991-92 Michael Jordan and the 1967-68 Wilt Chamberlain if you register for one of their sim-leagues. The leagues have a salary cap, so each player is assigned a salary. The total salary of the Dream Team is $94 million, while the 2012 Olympic Team is only $84 million. Clearly the simulation agrees with the conventional wisdom that the Dream Team was superior.
I did a best of seven series. Given that the Dream Team is the favorite, I gave them home court advantage. Here are the results:
2012 Olympic Team – 118
The Dream Team – 107
Durant was the leading scorer with 20 points. The 2012 team was 32 of 41 from the line, while the Dream Team was only 9 of 17. Clearly the sim treated the Dream Team like the Celtics in the playoffs.
2012 Olympic Team – 111
The Dream Team – 113
Bryant scored 30 points, but it wasn’t enough to shut up Sir Charles or MJ. True to form, with the Dream Team up by one and 0:21 left, Karl Malone only made one of two free throws, leaving the door open for the 2012 Olympic Team to tie or win. LeBron missed the game-tying shot and the Dream Team held on.
The Dream Team – 123
2012 Olympic Team – 101
The Dream Team owned the paint as both Barkley and Malone scored 20 points. This is despite Barkley going 2-for-10 from the line. The Dream Team shot over 60 percent from the field and the 2012 Olympic Team was let down by its outside shooting, going 3-for-13 from three point land.
The Dream Team – 114
2012 Olympic Team – 95
For the first time in the series, one of the teams is held under 100 points. The 2012 Olympic Team had another brutal shooting performance, shooting 6-for-22 from behind the three-point line. They also had 18 turnovers, which didn’t help. The 2012 Olympic Team is facing elimination.
The Dream Team – 104
2012 Olympic Team – 106
The 2012 Olympic Team avoids elimination and forces a Game 6. They did so overcoming a rebound disparity of 59 to 41. This was an ugly game as neither team shot over 50 percent from the field and there was no scoring in the last 1:40 of the game. Both teams were also brutal from behind the arc; the Dream Team was 1-for-7 and the 2012 Olympic Team was 6-for-21.
2012 Olympic Team – 112
The Dream Team – 105
The 2012 Olympic Team forces a Game 7 as Chris Paul goes off for 28 points. The Dream Team was 1-for-3 from the line for the entire game! I don’t think Jordan ever played a game in a driveway where he failed to get to the line. Clearly, WhatIfSports has integrated David Stern into it’s Sim Engine and wanted to force a Game 7. Either that or somebody must not have tipped the ball boy.
2012 Olympic Team – 89
The Dream Team – 111
In the deciding Game 7, the Dream Team’s size advantage was key, yet again, as they out-rebounded the 2012 Olympic Team 58 to 39. Robinson and Malone were the leading scorers as the 2012 Olympic Team’s lack of size proved decisive.