So about 70 games have been played and this has been the top story in the NBA for most of the season:
Look, they’ve been great. Steph Curry is the best shooter of a basketball in the history of mankind. But all the talk about them being the greatest team ever has to stop. Even if they do beat the Bulls’ 72-10 record we thought would never be broken..They still aren’t a better basketball team than the 95-96 Bulls.
The Bulls won 72 games in a time when the NBA probably last had some resemblance of balance. There were a bunch of top ‘contending’ teams you could imagine winning the title…starting with the West, you had the defending champs Houston Rockets, with Hakeem, the next best player of the Jordan era enjoying the tail end of his peak. You had the Jazz who were always a that and would eventually push the Bulls in the next two Finals. The finalists that year the Sonics. This year, the Spurs are the only team who would give the Warriors a battle in a seven game series. OKC would lose in six, max.
Over in the East, the Bulls had to contend with one of the last time we had so many tough teams in the Conference. Starting with the team everyone thought had ‘next’, the Orlando Magic, with Shaq and Penny having knocked a still rusty Jordan out of the 95 playoffs. The Heat with Zo and Tim Hardaway. The Knicks who brawled with the Bulls seemingly every playoffs back then. The Pacers…all better versions compared to their counterparts today.
There were also not as many ‘walkover’ teams back then. Knicks were a hundred times better than the product you see today. Lakers and Sixers weren’t great, but still more competitive than the tankers of today. Overall, the Bulls won 72 in a league with many more competitive teams, tougher play, and better basketball.
Not convinced? Let’s bring out the time machine and pitch these two teams against each other on the court. On one side, you have Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Ron Harper, Luc Longley starting for the Bulls, with a ‘meh’ bench of Kukoc, Kerr, Wennington, Randy Brown and Jud Buechler being the main guys. On the other, you have Curry, Klay, Barnes, Draymond, Bogut backed up by Iguodala, Barbosa, Livingston, Speights, Ezeli.
So you have the GOAT (Jordan), two of the best perimeter defenders of all time (Jordan and Pippen) and the best pound for pound rebounder/defender (Rodman) and some decent shooters on one side, going up against the two best outside shooters ever (Steph and Klay), the best pound for pound Swiss army knife (Draymond), with admittedly better depth overall.
If you watched the recent Spurs win over the Warriors, two things could be singled out as the key to the Spurs victory. One was Kawhi guarding Draymond, effectively limiting his ability to create for others while also keeping him from getting inside. Kawhi even outrebounded Draymond. Since Draymond had been the pivot for much of the Warriors offense this season, stopping him from doing much with the ball really strangled the flow of the usually electric Warriors offense. The Splash Brothers were forced to uncharacteristically throw up multiple tough contested threes, as they rarely got their usual wide open looks. And Kawhi they say is Pippen-lite. But the Bulls wouldn’t even need to put Pippen on Dray. Rodman would be just as effective, so Pippen and Jordan would take turns with Steph, who is guardable or at least can be hassled enough to go 1-for-11 like the Spurs proved. Klay wouldn’t be able to do much for most of the game with either of those two guarding him.
So while the Bulls certainly have enough defensive ability to stop the Warriors, the opposite isn’t true. Who would stop Jordan? Is anyone on the Warriors even good enough to guard Pippen? Rodman would outhustle Bogut 9 out of 10 rebounds.
So there, no doubt the Dubs are having a historical season, but as long as Curry and Klay aren’t draining 8 threes a piece and Draymond being contained, they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Bulls. So if they do eventually break the record and reach 73 wins, please, don’t start calling them the greatest team that ever was.