Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The ’95-96 Chicago Bulls v the Golden State Warriors

For me it’s the Bulls. Which is hard for me to say because I never liked the Bulls, and I love this year’s Warriors team.
When we’re talking about a Bulls team that won 72 out of 82 regular season games, and a Warriors team that will win either 72 or 73 games, we’re talking about teams of roughly the same level of ability and achievement. Despite what former Bulls’ Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant say, either team could win a hypothetical seven-game series.
The Bulls have the slightly higher point differential; +12 more points per game than their opposition, compared to the Warriors’ +11. The Bulls’ point differential is more impressive when you factor in that less points per game were scored in 1995-96.
But what underlies that differential? I don’t buy the argument that the Bulls were better simply because they had Michael Jordan. Stephen Curry this year has been pretty much as good as Jordan ever was. His shooting is considerably better than Jordan was in his ’95-96 season, with a true shooting percentage of .67, compared to .58 for Jordan. His rebounds per game are slightly lower, but his assists per game are higher. Jordan’s defense is generally considered as better; he did win Defensive Player of the Year once, whereas Curry has never generally been considered as a candidate for that award. In sum, Curry shot better and Jordan probably made his opponents shoot worse, but overall Curry’s 2015-16 season could be considered about as good as Jordan’s 1995-96 season.
Where the Bulls have the edge for me is Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The Warriors’ Draymond Green is a fantastic all-around player, but Pippen I think surpasses him because his shooting efficiency was better. And there was never a better rebounder in the NBA than Dennis Rodman. Curry's fellow guard Klay Thompson is a great shooter, but Rodman’s value is to me significantly more. Which again hurts to say because I never liked Rodman on the Bulls.
The Warriors do have more depth. Outside of Curry, Green, and Thompson, the Warriors have several productive players in Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, and Harrison Barnes depending on which metric you use. For the Bulls, outside of Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman there was Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, and Steve Kerr, and that was about it.
But that higher point differential, and the Pippen-Rodman combination, still tips it towards the Bulls for me. I do love the current Warriors though, and I hope they break the Bulls’ record tomorrow night. Jordan still has enough records anyway.

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