Welcome to the latest edition of the Soups on Sports “get off my lawn!!!” series. In today’s episode I layout why the Golden State Warriors…while one of the best teams all time…would get destroyed by the 1996 Chicago Bulls.
What the Warriors are doing this season is awesome! In a salary cap/luxury tax era, this team has blitzed the rest of the league. And they are doing it with a ton of flash. It’s been awesome to watch.
But while they’re tremendous, and they are going to set a new NBA record for wins in a season, they simply aren’t that 96 Bulls team. I watched both these teams a lot, and I know what I saw. But since you can’t see what I saw, here are the 3 main reasons why the Bulls are the better team.
While many will argue about the league having more parity today, it really doesn’t. The 76ers are a joke, the Lakers are awful, the Nets, the Suns, there is a TON of suck in the NBA right now, no more than there was in 96. But what is much different is how physical the game used to be. That was still the era where the way to build was around a 7 footer, and you bang down low. So just about every team in the league played a very physical style.
Today, it’s the complete opposite. In 2004, the league implemented new rules to open up what had become a terrible product. No hand checking, defensive 3 in the key, no more illegal defense, the game is A LOT different now then 20 years ago. There for, no team in the league plays or is built like what would be the least physical team in the league back then. Now it’s all about the 3 ball. The Warriors are the highest scoring team in the league, averaging 115 points per game. The 96 Bulls were the highest scoring team in the league, averaging 105 points per game.
Anyway, the main point here is that the Bulls got beat on a lot more than the Warriors have. An 82 game schedule 20 years ago was a lot more of a grind then it is today.
2) D beats 3
That Bulls team would have been kryptonite for the current day Warriors. Let’s assume you are playing by today’s rules. The Bulls would simply put Toni Kukoc at the 5 instead of Luc Longley, and Phil Jackson could have Jordan on Curry…or Pippen…or Harper…that was the greatness of the Bulls. Probably the greatest defensive squad of all time. 4 of their 5 starters were able to guard any position on the floor. When he was in Detroit, the Pistons would use Dennis Rodman to guard Jordan. I don’t know who Jordan would be on and Pippen would be on, but both would lock down either Curry or Thompson, and then Green would be eaten alive by Rodman.
Then if you go the other way down the floor, my guess is that Steve Kerr (who is coming off the bench for the Bulls but still coaching the Warriors here) would use Draymond Green to guard Jordan, but Jordan would eat him alive just like he did everyone else in his day. John Starks, Gary Payton, Byron Russell, these were ELITE defenders, and Jordan would have his way with them. Andre Iguodala v Scottie Pippen is interesting, but I really don’t like Andrew Bogut trying to guard Kukoc. This is a solid defensive squad in Golden State, but they aren’t great. They aren’t the Bad Boy Pistons, they aren’t the Pat Riley coached Knicks. This is why I’m not so sure the Warriors can even get by the Spurs should they meet in the WCF.
3) The benchmark is different
The Bulls weren’t trying to get to 73 to set the record. They were trying to get to 70. And it was crystal clear by March that they were setting that record, so they put up some absolute stinkers. Those stinkers were all 1 point loses, but 2 of them were against non playoff teams (to the expansion Raptors, and at home to the Hornets), and then I remember watching the last loss of the season. It was a Saturday afternoon on NBC, the Bulls had already set the record and Phil Jackson only used Jordan for 31 minutes, Pippen for 30, so they clearly weren’t concerned with getting to 73.
The Warriors are. And again, they’re going to. But that Bulls team, if the benchmark they had to get to was 75, they would have got to it. No loses in Toronto, no home loses to the Hornets and Pacers. The Warriors are going to get to 73 because they have to. Simple as that. And that’s not to say that it’s not extremely impressive! But to those people trying to make the claim that the Warriors will be the all time greatest team, you’re out of your mind.
I mean, a lot basketball people will likely favor the Spurs in a series against the Warriors. And then if they get past the Spurs, even though the Cavs have been a shit show this season they took the Warriors to 6 last year without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. With 2 major weapons this season (should they stay healthy), I’m not sure the Cavs wouldn’t knock them off. In 96, as great as the Sonics, Magic, and Knicks were, nobody thought any of those teams were even a threat to the Bulls.
I have no way of proving this point, so I’ll have to live with it being just my opinion. But in my opinion, the 96 Bulls are the greatest NBA team of all time and would dominate the 2016 Warriors, and my opinion is right…
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