My son is a huge LeBron James fan, views him as the best player in NBA history. To him, the Miami Heat was noting short of spectacular, no matter the amount of rings they won and lost. He believes the current Cavs can win against any team I throw at them so I decided to put them against a record setting squad. Many consider the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls as the best team in NBA history. I admit 72 wins is nothing to laugh at plus you add in the postseason and those Bulls went an astounding 87-13. We may never see another team go on a run like that but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. There was a slight chance the Miami Heat of the “Big Three” era had a shot but their focus wasn’t quite there. But with the new “Big Three”, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the talent is there but do they have the right mind frame to achieve that goal? As of now they stand at 3-3 but let’s throw the standings out the window and see who has the better team, me or my son.
I decided to break down the roster of both teams and see who would come out on top. As good as those Bulls were offensively they were equally dangerous defensively. Add to the fact, that core was mostly together for a few years so trust issues were not a problem. They brought into the triangle offense and relied heavily on each other (let the media tell it Jordan won every game alone). This is why I believe no team will ever beat that record in this era. Free agency will not let a team get 5-6 years of the same roster unless they are the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs could have a shot if Pop didn’t rest his players but he keeps his eyes on the prize. Let’s dive in.
PG: Ron Harper vs Kyrie Irving: When speaking about that Bulls team you forget they had a point guard on any other player besides Jordan and Pippen. But Ron Harper was the steady hand that ran the offense. He was a shell of the player he used to be put he provided the tough defense that enabled Jordan to save his legs when crunch time came around. Starting point guards with a total of 73 turnovers is unheard of. Simply put, he played the game the right way. Kyrie Irving is easily in the top 5 of PG’s in the NBA now. He has a knack for getting to the basket, his jumper has improved each season, but my only knock on him is his six assist per game. I know the talent around him is not the best but six a game is not good enough for an All-Pro player. His defense is pretty solid, but if put against Ron Harper I don’t know if he could penetrate that way he has against today’s players. Harper was a defensive ace, with his height and wingspan which could give Irving problems. But Irving is a crafty, smart player that would find a way to do what he does best and that is get to the rim. Advantage: Irving
SG: Michael Jordan vs Dion Waiters: I could type plenty of words here on this matchup but it won’t be fair to either party. We all know that Michael Jordan was an offensive God and a defensive Titan. His quick hands and feet would trouble the most dynamic and gifted offensive players he faced. Offensively what couldn’t he do on the floor? As for Dion Waiters he has had a good start to his career minus the locker room issues that have been publicized in the media. A 16ppg scorer who must improve his three-point accuracy and free throw shooting to be taken seriously in this matchup. Advantage: Jordan
SF: Scottie Pippen vs LeBron James: The respect I have for Scottie Pippen is strong. How good was Pippen? In my opinion I believe he played the background and let Mike dominate. Could Pippen have been a 30 point scorer? Yes, but it was Mike’s league and back then there was no stepping on toes. That magical season he averaged 19/6/6/2, which are good numbers considering he was a team player and fell back some. Defensively, Pippen was top notch and was called upon to shut down PG’s, SG’s, SF’s and even a few bigs. Pippen was LeBron before LeBron. LeBron James is to the NBA what Jordan was in his prime. He is the best player in the league now, with a game this is rivaled by none. He returns home to the Cavs with hopes of binging them what he couldn’t his first time around, a championship. His game has improved since being away, as he has learned how to lead a team with his play and as a on-court leader. This is a matchup for the ages as both players can score from anywhere on the floor and both are great defenders. If this was early in LeBron’s career I would easily give it to Pippen but LeBron has developed a sweet perimeter touch over the years that makes this decision hard. The only drawback I give LeBron is I don’t think he could handle the defense that was played in the Bulls era. It was hard, relentless and unforgiving, and as we seen how he clams up when constant pressure is on him. But I have to give him a slight edge over Pippen because of his ability to set his teammates up for success. Advantage: LeBron
PF: Dennis Rodman vs Kevin Love: What a matchup this would be here. Dennis Rodman wasn’t much of a scorer but as a defender and rebounder, he was the best. His tenacity was matched by no one on the court as you would occasionally see him flying over the front row crowd trying to save a ball or diving on the floor with reckless abandon for loose balls. His 15reb per were tops in the league as anything that came off the glass was his. He didn’t look like he belonged in the post but opponents hated to go against him no matter their size. Kevin Love is another rebounding freak of nature, averaging 12reb per to go with his 19ppg. The one knock on Kevin has been his lack of focus on the defensive end on the floor. Rarely will you see him diving for balls or taking charges. On the offensive end he will get his buckets anywhere on the floor, either down-low or on the perimeter where he seems to have unlimited range. I will have to go with Love on this matchup strictly for the offense that he will give his team. As good as a defender that Rodman was he would have a hard time fighting through constant screens to get to Love on the perimeter. In the post would be a battle as well but I believe Love could still get his buckets. Rodman did not look to score so Love would not have to waste much energy on that end. Advantage: Love
C: Luc Longely vs Anderson Varejao: Back then the Bulls ran more of a center by committee type of scheme, it just so happens that Longley started the majority of the games. Was he a factor? Yes he was, if not for just being a big body in the middle. He didn’t provide much on the offensive or defensive end, but he did know how to use those six fouls (joke). There were not too many centers who punked or out hustled him as he tried to do his best to make his presence felt on the floor. It just wasn’t meant for him to be the guy. Anderson Varejao is a throwback player to the 80’s, who fights for everything he gets. He is another tenacious rebounder who is not afraid to put his body on the line for is team. He doesn’t look to score points as his joy comes from controlling the glass and protecting the paint. He is not much of a shot blocker but with him and Love in the frontcourt they form a deadly combination. Advantage: Varejao
The Benches: Cavs Bench vs Bulls Bench: Jordan and Pippen were the stars of the Bulls but the bench played a vital role in their magical run to 72 wins. Players like Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington and Toni Kukoc provided much to the teams success. Kerr was known as a sniper from beyond the acr, while Bill was another big body Jackson could throw on the floor for a little defense. The star of the second unit of course was Kucoc. When his head was screwed on straight during a game Toni was unstoppable. Growing up he was the man all his life but was forced to play 3rd fiddle when coming to the Bulls. He sucked is pride in and collected rings. He was the James Harden of the Bulls (for you young cats). The Cavs boast a pretty good bench with players like Tristian Thompson, who would be starting if not for the signing of Love. Last season Thompson per game averages of 12/9 were great numbers for a 2nd year player. Mike Miller is another team player, the type of guy we all wish was on our favorite team. Despite injuries that has crippled a once promising career he continues to make a name for himself as a big shot taker and maker. He will add veteran leadership to this second unit. Brendan Haywood never lived up to his hype coming out of college but has had a pretty decent NBA career as a starter and reserve. Not reliable as a scorer but can provide some veteran leadership to the young bigs on this Cavs team. Shawn Marion still has some spring to his step and will be a valuable piece to the unit filling in for James on occasion. The benches are total opposites, while the Bulls bench besides Kukoc specialized in one area, the Cavs bench seems to be a little more versatile. Advantage Cavs
Coaches: Phil Jackson vs David Blatt: Phil is the best, 11 rings as a coach, six with these Bulls. He and Tex Winter brought in a style of play that is not easy to learn, the players mastered it and then they took over the NBA as a dominate unit. His mind games may seem over the top to many but ask those players how it felt at the end of the season when they were the last ones standing. David Blatt is in his first year and I’m pretty sure he has a lot to learn but when your first roster as head coach has three of the top players in the NBA how much experience do you really need? While some may wish him the best, you must believe that there are plenty of coaches hoping he fails the same way they prayed Erick Spolestra failed. If he falls on his face then what coach wouldn’t love to come in and take over? He has a basketball background, mainly overseas but don’t think for one second he can’t handle the pressure of the NBA. Basketball is viewed a little different in other countries, hostile fans and environments that will make the average NBA fan look like a boy scout. Blatt has one job and that is to call the appropriate timeout (joking), but really he has to manage the personalities on this team. Some of the roster has already tasted NBA success and the pressure is off him to teach the team that. That’s what James, Miller, Jones and Marion are for. Blatt just has to be himself and hope he doesn’t blow it. Advantage: Bulls
Winner: Cavs (on paper). As far as individual match-ups go, The Cavs will dominate the game but team wise, these Bulls were in sync. I have the Bulls winning a close contest. (Vote on your winner)