Kobe Bryant believes that the 2012 Redeem Team would beat the 1992 dream team. Arguing about this is basically, the NBA fan's equivalent of the "Who would win? Superman or Batman?" argument. And in this analogy, yes, I think the people that pick the Redeem Team are like the people that pick Batman -- it only sounds plausible if you have Batman jumping through a ridiculous series of logical hoops to somehow equalize the playing field. Yes, Batman would kick Superman's ass if he was wearing Kryptonite gloves and Superman is moronic enough not to just blast him off the earth with heat vision from a few miles away. My reaction to Kobe's statement is very much like Jordan's:
I got lambasted by twitter arguments about how Westbrook, Paul, and Williams could use their athleticism to deny the passing lanes to guys like Jordan and Drexler. I bet a bunch of coaches from the 1992 NBA are now slapping their heads. "It's so obvious. I should have just put my most athletic defenders on the wing and tried to deny Jordan the ball!"
Unfortunately, due to software bugs that I am too lazy to fix, I only have partial numbers, and I am missing a couple of players. But let's take a look at the Dream Team from the nba in 1991-92:
And the Redeem Team:
Laettner isn't on here (he was a senior in college), and Magic isn't either. But Laettner wouldn't factor in to this discussion and anyone who has doubts about whether Magic could still play probably isn't really receptive to this argument.
So on paper this looks competitive, but the Redeem Team has a lot of problems. For one, Howard is hurt (and Kobe knew this when he made the claim, so we must assume that Kobe wasn't "counting" him). So the Redeem Teem has immediate defensive problems -- Chandler and James are its best interior defenders, and James and Iggy are its best wing defenders. Beyond Chandler and James, this team has real problems defending the physical pounding that's going to come from Robinson/Barkley/Ewing/Malone. Griffin and Love both get more flack than they deserve for their defense, but neither is an elite defender.
(As an aside, someone told me that Chandler was an advantage because he was a "defensive specialist". This person clearly did not ever watch David Robinson play. Robinson did everything Chandler did on defense, and more, but was far more gifted on offense. He was 91-92's defensive player of the year. Seriously, scroll up and look at the "BLK" column. That's not a typo. Nothing against Chandler, but he's not an "advantage" over Robinson. Nice try.)
Problem two: many of the Redeem Team's best players play the same position. Harden and Iggy are both great but wouldn't see much floor time because of Durant, Wade and James. The Dream Team has a lot more balance and isn't heavy at any one position so it is much easier for them to put five great players on the floor at once.
Three, after Chris Paul, this team's point guards cannot hold with Stockton and Magic. I got a tweet today from someone saying that they thought Paul, Westbrook and Will would not only defend Stockton well, but outplay him. Paul, Ok, we can hold a discussion, but the other two? Whaaaaaat? Let's look at some data. Here are Nashes' two MVP seasons:
I know Nash isn't on the Redeem Team, but he's the best "modern-day" analogue for Stockton. I am also fairly sure that no one would argue that Williams or Westbrook, right now, is better than Nash during those two seasons. Given that, now note how favorably Stockton's 1991-92 season compares' to Nash's MVP years. He holds his own in shooting efficiency while far surpassing him in assists, steals (!!!), and getting to the line. Stockton was actually a very tenacious defender (it's not for nothing that he was considered a dirty player; the best defenders often are). And Stockton essentially held this level of play for the entire 90s. The idea that Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams could outplay this version of Stockton is simply laughable. Only if they were wearing kryptonite gloves. And the idea that somehow this Stockton, who was in the top 5 in steals for basically the whole 90s, and was 2nd-team all-defensive in 91-92, was too slow to defend these guards...
The final problem that the Redeem Team has is age. It's funny that Kobe refers to his team as the young one. In 1992, Barkeley and Jordan were 29. Malone was at the end of 28. Robinson had just turned 28. Pippen was at the end of 26. This isn't particularly old. Still, one presumes the Redeem Team *could* play a much younger lineup, but of course Kobe is presumably assuming that he'd start (and play the bulk of minutes) at shooting guard. Which would make him the oldest player on the court (assuming Stockton starts instead of Magic). I doubt that today's long-jumper-chucking Kobe would give that Jordan (who, by the way, was on the all-defensive team) any difficulties on the defensive end, and the idea that Kobe could defend 1992's Jordan is just plain whacko. It's very hard to see the Redeem Team's bench making up for the complete drubbing that Jordan would give Kobe at shooting guard on both ends.
Well, that's my comic book geek post for the summer. What say you guys, Superman or Batman?