Well, we are now less than two hours away from the tip-off of the most important game for USA Basketball since the Original Dream Team. (On a totally unrelated note, I am only working a half-day today.)
Anyway, I know that there is a good chance that I may be proven crazy on this one, but here is my hypothesis: This year’s “Redeem Team” is BETTER than the Original Dream Team, making it the best basketball team ever assembled. Hold on one second and allow me to make a couple of points before you rip me apart for this.
1). I would never, EVER claim that if you take the players on the ’92 team in their prime against the players on this team in their prime, that this team is better. A big part of this argument will rest on the fact that guys like Bird and Magic were far past their peak years. I mean Magic was retired.
2). I will also not claim that the run that that the ’08 team is having through the Olympics even compares to the run through the Olympics that the ’92 team had. Yes, the Dream Team opened the Olympics with a 116-48 win over Angola. They cruised through the Olympics with a 9-0 record and an average victory margin of 44 points per game. Their closest game was the gold medal game against Croatia, where they won by a measly 33 points. They only trailed once in the entire tournament, and Coach Chuck Daly did not need one timeout in any of the nine games.
3). I have trouble believing that the Redeem Team would win a one-game, winner-take-all game between the two, even as they were constructed because the ’92 team had guys like Jordan, Barkley, Bird, and others that just would not lose. However, I still think that this year’s team is better–meaning that if the two teams played the same 100-game schedule the ’08 team would have more wins, and even if the two teams played each other 100 times, the ’08 team would win the majority of them.
Why? Let us start with personnel. I think that this team is considerably more athletic (remember, Magic, Bird, and Drexler were all in the back-ends of their careers). I think that this team is very well-constructed, in that they have a high-octane backcourt, with a lot of depth at the point (Paul & Williams off the bench), and they teamed that up with extremely athletic big men (Howard, Bosh, and Boozer). Secondly, and this may come as a bit of a surprise, I think that this team plays better defense than that team did–particularly at the point and transistion, full-court defense. Finally, I think that this team has even more scoring options than the ’92 team, which featured 10 of the 50 greatest players of all-time. I still have absolutely no idea how anyone could possibly figure out how to stop this team on offense. Not only do they have absolutely incredible scorers (LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, Wade, etc.), but they all pass very, very well, so these phenomenal scorers all get good looks. Then, you can bring a dead-eye shooter (Michael Redd) off the bench or let the offense run through a pair of point guards, who are not too shabby at scoring the ball either (Paul & Williams). Yes, they lack the back-to-the-basket scorer, but they are proving that that facet of the game is not as important in the up-and-down international game.
Finally, let us just look at results. Yes, as I stated above, the Dream Team won 9 straight by an average of 44 points per game. Yes, I know that they only trailed one time (25-23 in the first quarter of the gold medal game against Croatia, which they won by 33). But, I think it is inarguable that the level of play in these Olympics is astronomically better than it was in 1992. I am not saying that the Dream Team would not win gold if they were to play in 2008, but I think they would struggle–and this team is not. At least, so far.
Tell me I’m crazy…