1992 vs. 2012 in men's hoops: Who's golden?

July 30, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein and Bryan Crawford | For RedEye

Barring a major upset, the U.S. men's hoops team should bring home Olympic gold in London. In the meantime, the debate about a hypothetical showdown between the 1992 Dream Team and 2012's Redeem Team II has raged for weeks. Let's see who has the edge.

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MICHAEL JORDAN VS. KOBE BRYANT

Since Kobe's the one who ramped up all this comparison business, let's get this one out of the way:

Jordan, 1992 Olympics: 29 years old, 8 starts, 23.1 minutes per game, 14.9 points per game, 19 rebounds, 38 assists, 33 steals, 4 blocks.

Bryant, 2008 Olympics: 29 years old, 8 starts, 23.5 minutes per game, 15.5 points per game, 22 rebounds, 17 assists, 9 steals, 4 blocks.

Now add four years to Kobe's age. OK? OK.

EDGE: Dream Team

GUARD PLAY

Much has been made of 2012's blinding speed, and yes, it's fantastic. But there are two problems. First, their quickest guards—Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams—are defensive liabilities against '92. Second, if Paul attempts to exploit his offensive advantage over Magic Johnson, he faces David Robinson and Patrick Ewing at the rim and nullifies Kevin Durant and LeBron James as playmakers. The Dream Team guards have size, speed, shooting, defense and ball handling as well as Jordan, the biggest tiebreaker of all time.

EDGE: Dream Team

DO-IT-ALL OFFENSIVE TALENTS

2012's biggest advantage is one of evolution: players such as James and Durant simply did not exist 20 years ago. The Dream Team has only one player (Scottie Pippen) who definintely can guard James or Durant, and if Jordan steps up to the challenge, that puts Clyde Drexler on Kobe. Yuck.

EDGE: Redeem Team II

PERIMETER SHOOTING

Although Larry Bird and Chris Mullin were outstanding shooters, today's players simply shoot more 3s. Couple that with the shorter 3-point line and 2012 has a nice shooter's edge. But 2012's biggest edge is that their best shooter, Durant, also is their best shot creator, meaning no standing around in the corner like Bird waiting for a teammate's slash-and-kick.

EDGE: Redeem Team II

LOW POST PLAY

This is where the Dream Team destroys 2012. Yes, big men play low minutes in international games, but the foursome of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing is simply unguardable.

EDGE: Dream Team

DEPTH

Because this is a theoretical matchup, what if it's also a seven-game series? Depth would be a problem for Redeem Team II in a single game, and in a series they would have to ride LeBron, Durant, Kobe, Paul and Carmelo Anthony to extreme degrees. 1992's second five of John Stockton, Drexler, Mullin, Malone and Robinson could compete with 2012's starters.

EDGE: Dream Team

DEFENSE

The advantage goes to 1992 because while the Dream Team has five defensive standouts who also can score, three of 2012's best defenders are offensive liabilities: Tyson Chandler, Andre Iguodala and Anthony Davis. And while both Robinson and Chandler enter this matchup as Defensive Player of the Year, Robinson blocked 4.5 shots per game. Chandler? 1.4.

EDGE: Dream Team

THE LEBRON FACTOR

Only one name has turned up in every category so far: LeBron James. 1992 never saw a player like himKing James, and in this series he’ll need to handle the ball, score, defend everyone from Magic to Malone and play upward of 35 minutes a game. It will be the biggest test of his career, one that could, potentially, turn the tide for the ’12 team.

POTENTIAL EDGE: Redeem Team II

BEST PLAYER

Don't let the low Olympic scoring average fool you: '92 Jordan will be the best man on the court, coming off a season in which he was league MVP, scoring champ and first-team all-defense. Meanwhile, one of Redeem Team II's biggest weaknesses would be its unclear top man. James is the best player in the world, but Durant's offensive skill set is best suited to the international game, while Kobe would be so amped to prove his worth against MJ that he probably would demand the ball on a final possession—to his team's detriment.

EDGE: Dream Team

SINGLE-GAME PICKS

Jack: Dream Team 116, Redeem Team II 100

Bryan: Dream Team 124, Redeem Team II 106

7-GAME SERIES PICKS

Jack: Dream Team in 5

Bryan: Dream Team in 6

Jack M Silverstein and Bryan Crawford are RedEye special contributors. Say hey @ReadJack and @_bryancrawford.

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