Thursday, January 20, 2022

Stephen Curry weighs in on hypothetical matchup between Warriors dynasty and ’96 Bulls: ‘I’d say Dubs in six’

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are considered by many to be the greatest team in NBA history, but Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors went on to top them in two significant regards. They won 73 games during the 2015-16 season, beating Chicago’s league-record 72 wins in 1996, but any hopes they had of becoming the greatest team of all time were dashed when they lost the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They reloaded the following offseason by adding Kevin Durant, and when the 2017 playoffs rolled around, they posted an NBA-best 16-1 record en route to one of the easiest championships in league history. The 1996 Bulls lost three times on their way to the title.

This has created a divide in the “best team of all time” debate. The Bulls fit the traditional definition. They had the best record of all time and perhaps history’s greatest player in Michael Jordan. The Warriors are a bit more complicated. They weren’t quite as dominant in the regular season, but made up for it in the playoffs. They might not have had one Jordan-caliber player, but unlike those Bulls, they had four genuine superstars. 

If nothing else, those Warriors are considered the most talented team ever assembled, but when asked in a GQ video how he thinks his Warriors would stack up in a seven-game series, Curry said he “absolutely” believes Golden State would beat Chicago. “Obviously we will never know, but you put us on paper with them, I like our chances. I’d say Dubs in 6, too,” Curry said.

Chicago would have a few critical matchup advantages in a hypothetical series. Few teams have even one defender capable of bothering Curry and Durant. Chicago could throw Jordan on Curry and Scottie Pippen on Durant, two of the best defenders ever. Dennis Rodman is perhaps the greatest rebounder of all time, and those Warriors teams, at their best, played small. That would have cost them on the boards. 

But Golden State had Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala to defend Michael Jordan, and they also had a significant mathematical advantage just based on the number of 3-pointers they took compared to any team from the 1990’s. Even with a shortened 3-point line, the Bulls took only 16.5 3-pointers per game in 1996. The Warriors nearly doubled that, taking 31.2 3’s per game. That makes their offense significantly less predictable. Golden State could play traditionally, letting Durant isolate, or it could use its motion offense, which borrows heavily from Phil Jackson’s triangle but with modern spacing concepts, to take advantage of Chicago’s old-fashion defense principles. If nothing else, the Bulls have seen nothing like the Curry-Green pick-and-roll. Blitzing Curry out of his long-range 3’s is the standard defensive approach to those plays, but giving Green a 4-on-3 against a defense so unused to defending such plays would likely go fairly well for Golden State.

There’s not necessarily a right answer here, though I’d personally lean towards Golden State. They are the two best teams of their era for very different reasons. If Jordan was asked the same question, he’d likely share Curry’s confidence and pick the Bulls.

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