With the World Basketball Festival commencing last night, and the World Basketball Championships just around the corner, I’ve been looking at this year’s USA roster and comparing it to years past. While the original Dream Team takes the cake as the best USA team ever, the 1996 team wasn’t bad either. While looking at the ‘96 Olympic team, I thought it would be interesting to match them up to the 1996 NBA Draft Class, widely considered one of the best ever. I put a roster together from that Draft to compete against the Olympic team, and then picked a winner. Here we go:
Note: When figuring out who would win, I used the skill-level of players in their prime, not in 1996.
1996 Dream Team
PG: John Stockton
SG: Reggie Miller
SF: Scottie Pippen
PF: Charles Barkley
C: Hakeem Olajuwon
Bench: Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, Gary Payton
1996 NBA Draft Class
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Allen Iverson
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Jermaine O’Neal
C: Ben Wallace (undrafted)
Bench: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Stephon Marbury, Derek Fisher
While this would be a really close game, I’d have to pick the Olympic team to win. I think the Olympians have too much inside firepower for the ’96 Draft Class to handle. With Shaq, Hakeem, The Admiral, Malone and Barkley manning the post, the Olympic squad could just pound the ball inside relentlessly. While Camby and Wallace are excellent interior defenders, the other big men on the roster like Ilgauskas, J.O., Abdur-Rahim and Walker are not top-tier defenders. Dream Team III has front court guys that are great players on both ends, but the ’96 Draft has a little bit of an offense-defense rotation up front.
Another reason I think the Olympic team prevails is because they have excellent perimeter defenders who could lock down the plethora of scorers on the ’96 Draft squad. Hill, Payton, Stockton and Pippen are all guys who can shut down the opposing team’s best player. Even though the Draft team is more skilled offensively on the perimeter than the Olympic squad, their scoring advantage is negated by the defensive prowess of the Olympians.
This game would be close, but I’m a big believer in defense and post scoring. And in both areas, the Olympians possess an advantage. That is why they prevail.
What do you think?
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