Yo Mike, don't forget about us...
There’s been a lot of talk about who is MVP this year. Lebron James' Cavs has the best record in the league and the best stats. In my opinion, as many others assess as well, he’s the clear cut choice. However, the arguments that make the case that he has a worse team than Kobe Bryant, I’m just not buying. I broke down the idea of skill versus talent in a previous post to begin to exemplify my point.
Call me a Kobe apologist, but the dude has always been knocked for playing with Shaq to earn his rings and not being able to lift mediocre talent deep into the playoffs. While Kobe currently is playing with a very talented squad, his mediocre teams were “mediocre” at the very best, and only because Kobe was on them. With starting centers, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm, and starting point guards Chucky Atkins and Smush Parker, and starting small forward Luke Walton, it’s fair to say that Kobe’s talent was sub-mediocre to downright awful. His most talented sidekick has been Lamar Odom, and everyone knows Lamar is the epitome of inconsistency.
The idea that Michael Jordan won six championships all by his lonesome is one that infuriates me to no end. ESPN’s Chris Broussard does this all the time. So, what I have done is compiled a team of current players that could somewhat matchup with the 95-96 Bulls team that won 72 games in terms of style of play, production and talent-level. It’s a difficult thing to do, trust me, because that Bulls team had several players with whom there are no real comparisons in today’s game.
Anyway, here’s what I came up with.
Michael Jordan (29.4 PER): Dwyane Wade (30.2)
Thought I would go with Kobe? Well, this season, Wade’s numbers are more reflective of MJ. Kobe’s game will always be a prettier version of MJ’s, but as far as raw numbers, Wade’s season is right there with Jordan’s 95-96 campaign.
Scottie Pippen (21.0 PER): Paul Pierce (17.1)
Actually, last year’s Pierce is a better comparison. Even still, Pierce isn’t the defensive sieve that Pippen was, though he’s a better offensive player. Less steals, but a better clutch scorer.
Luc Longley (11.9 PER): Marc Gasol (16.5)
Gasol is more polished than Longley, even at this early in his career, but they both have similar skill sets and put up similar numbers. Neither was a great rebounder, both can pass fairly well, and both have a certain amount of finesse to their games.
Ron Harper (14.4 PER): Marquis Daniels (12.9)
This comparison isn’t perfect either. Both are big two guards who,
due to pretty good handles, can play the point guard position. Both
could average 18 plus on a bad team. Both are poor outside shooters. Harper was better, because he was a much better defensive player, but this comparison holds up pretty well, especially considering that Daniels has improved somewhat in that area this season.
Dennis Rodman (13.6): ?
There really isn’t anyone like Rodman in today’s NBA. David Lee gets a bunch of rebounds, but not nearly as many as Rodman, plus the Worm’s in a different universe defensively. Dwight Howard is close with the rebounds, but of course, his offensive game, though raw, is the same distance from Rodman’s O as Rodman’s D is to Lee. To appreciate how truly unique Rodman was, you have to consider that the league’s leading rebounder right now, Howard—who is a good 3 inches taller and 40 plus pounds heavier and light years more athletic—would only be having Rodman’s 10th best rebounding season. And even at that, Howard’s year (his best I might add) isn’t quite as good. Rodman’s tenth best season came when he was 37. Howard is 23. My immediate comparison jumps to 2000-03 Ben Wallace, but even though Wallace finished first, second, first in rebounding those three years, he collected only 181 more rebounds in 31 more games than Rodman did as a Bull and averaged 4 less rebounds per game over that same span. Of course, Big Ben (a four time defensive player of the year recipient) also brought the blocks and steals. The Worm, a former two-time defensive player of the year himself, did so by never once averaging one steal or one block in any of his 14 seasons. Rodman was a better man-on-man defender, while Big Ben was the best help defender of at least the first half-decade of the 21st century. Rodman was equal parts Ron Artest (mentality), Bruce Bowen (defensive-style) and Ben Wallace (rebounding). So, there really is no comparison for Rodman, but Wallace circa the turn of the century, is the closest I was able to find.
Toni Kukoc (20.4 PER): Hedo Turkoglu (14.55)
The best comparison in terms of skill set is probably Hedo Turkoglu. But Turk’s nowhere near as efficient. Maybe last season’s Turk matches up better (17.66 PER).
Steve Kerr (15.2 PER): Steve Blake (14.8)
Blake averages more assists because he has to, and nobody in the league today (and only Tim Legler back in 95-96) can compare with Kerr’s 51.5 percent from deep. Blakes 43 percent, while good, is nowhere near that lofty mark. Even still, the two Steves have a lot of similarities. Both are super efficient point guards who take care of the rock and are deadly from beyond the arc.
Bill Wennington (11.0 PER): Kurt Thomas (14.2 PER)
Not super great at anything, but hardnosed defenders who liked to bang and had a decent 15-foot jumper.
Jud Buechler (14.1 PER): Sasha Vujacic (12.3)
Though one was clean cut and the other is greasy, both are non-athletic white boys who have sloppy handles, but excel at shooting and playing gritty, mosquito-annoying defense.
Randy Brown: Brevin Knight
Nothing special, but feisty and efficient.
Jason Caffey: Chris Douglas-Roberts
Rooks who did the little things.
Dickey Simpkins: Jamal Magloire
Simply the numbers matched up.
Jack Haley: Mark Madsen
Complimentary, annoyingly dorky white boy at the end of the bench.
So, this "new" Bulls team is pretty awesome right?
PG: Marquis Daniels
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: Paul Pierce (circa 2008)
PF: Ben Wallace (circa 2002)
C: Marc Gasol
With a bench consisting of Hedo Turkoglu (circa 2008), Kurt Thomas, Steve Blake, Brevin Knight, Sasha Vujacic, Jamal Magloire, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Mark Madsen.
Now, you telling me that if this team was constructed like this today and they won the championship, that we would all say, hell, Dwyane Wade carried this team all by himself?