USA Basketball 2012: Comparing This Year's Team to the 1992 Dream Team

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2012

USA Basketball 2012: Comparing This Year's Team to the 1992 Dream Team

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    The official roster for the 2012 USA Basketball team has been released. The players who will be representing this great nation at the London Olympic Games are Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, Andre Iguodala, Blake Griffin, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and James Harden.

    This team is stacked with some of the greatest players of all time, but how do they compare with arguably the best team ever assembled in any sport?

    USA Basketball's squad for the 1992 Games came to be known as "The Dream Team" and featured 11 players who are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

    That roster read: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner.

    A matchup-by-matchup comparison is problematic because all star teams like this feature very deep rotations and a wide variety of lineup configurations. Even still, I'll attempt to match up the players who are most easily compared...


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Christian Laettner and Andre Iguodala

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    Age in 2012: 28

    Stats Up to 2012: 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game


    Age in 1992: 22

    Stats Up to 1992: N/A


    I said at the outset of this article that comparing these teams matchup by matchup is problematic. Both squads cause matchup problems across the board and I've basically lined these two up by default as the closest thing to 12th men on each of their teams.

    Iguodala is a better athlete than Laettner was in '92 and is more versatile. He may be the 2012 team's best perimeter defender, and he may be the second best point forward in the league right now behind LeBron James.

    Edge: 2012

Patrick Ewing and Tyson Chandler

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    Age in 2012: 29

    Stats Up to 2012: 8.9 rebounds, 8.6 points and 1.4 blocks per game


    Age in 1992: 29

    Stats Up to 1992: 23.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game


    Chandler is the only true center on the 2012 roster and would be in big trouble against either center from the 1992 squad.

    Ewing is an inch smaller than Chandler, but has the advantage in basically every other aspect of the game. 

    Edge: 1992

Clyde Drexler and Russell Westbrook

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    Age in 2012: 23

    Stats Up to 2012: 19 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game


    Age in 1992: 30

    Stats Up to 1992: 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game


    This is another matchup problem, but it's not as big a stretch as Iguodala and Laettner. Let's face it, Westbrook is a scoring guard in a point guard's body anyway.

    This matchup is actually very difficult to call. The stats are pretty similar. It's hard to give Westbrook an outright edge with his explosiveness because of Drexler's length and vice versa.

    Edge: Push

David Robinson and Blake Griffin

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    Age in 2012: 23

    Stats Up to 2012: 21.7 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game


    Age in 1992: 26

    Stats Up to 1992: 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game


    In his first two seasons, Blake Griffin has taken the league by storm with his insane athleticism and desire to dunk on everyone in sight. He's been able to dominate with little more than his physical gifts.

    If Robinson wasn't as athletic as Griffin, he was extremely close (and I'm sure someone could offer a convincing case that Robinson was superior athletically than Griffin). On top of physical gifts, Robinson was a well-developed all-around player and a very mature one as well.

    Robinson was a force on both ends of the floor and would be a nightmare for Griffin on either.

    Edge: 1992

Larry Bird and Kevin Love

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    Age in 2012: 23

    Stats Up to 2012: 17.3 points, 12 rebounds and 37 percent three-point shooting


    Age in 1992: 35

    Stats Up to 1992: 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game


    This matchup would actually be a lot closer than you might think. Love is nowhere near Bird in terms of career legacy (I have Bird No. 2 on my list of greatest players of all time), but factoring in the ages makes this one interesting.

    Love is the better rebounder and is actually comparable as a three-point shooter (he's just one percentage point below Bird in career three-point percentage).

    Bird is better in every other aspect of the game. He was more intelligent, a better defender and passer (although Love's passing skills are quietly solid).

    He didn't play a ton of minutes or have a crucial role for the '92 Games because of his age and the poor health of his back, but Bird still would have gotten the better of Love based on pure skill and veteran savvy alone.

    Edge: 1992

Chris Mullin and James Harden

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    Age in 2012: 22

    Stats Up to 2012: 12.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game


    Age in 1992: 28

    Stats Up to 1992: 22.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game


    As we all know, the stats don't tell the whole story with James Harden. So, this matchup is a lot closer than the numbers would suggest.

    Harden and Mullin are similar in size and build and both can flat-out score. Both are capable of doing so inside and away from the basket.

    Much like the Larry Bird and Kevin Love matchup, the 2012 player has the edge in terms of athleticism but the "Dream Teamer" wins out based on intelligence and experience.

    This one is extremely tough to call.

    Edge: 1992

John Stockton and Deron Williams

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    Age in 2012: 28

    Stats Up to 2012: 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game


    Age in 1992: 30

    Stats Up to 1992: 12.9 points, 11.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game


    Deron Williams is bigger, stronger and more athletic than Stockton ever was. But physical tools don't always win the battle, and Stockton proved that throughout his career.

    Not that he was some kind of slouch athletically, but Stockton's game was based more on intelligence, awareness and fundamental skills balanced with a touch of flair. He was better than Williams in those terms.

    Stockton was a tougher defender and fiercer competitor than Williams as well.

    Edge: 1992

Karl Malone and Carmelo Anthony

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    Age in 2012: 28

    Stats Up to 2012: 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game


    Age in 1992: 28

    Stats Up to 1992: 25.9 points and 10.9 rebounds


    Due to the 2012 team's lack of size, Carmelo Anthony will likely spend a lot of time in the frontcourt, where he would have to deal with the likes of Karl Malone and Charles Barkley.

    Malone and Anthony are two of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and neither one would be able to do much to stop the other.

    Malone is better in the post. Anthony is better on the perimeter. The real separation in this matchup comes on the boards, where Malone would eat Anthony up.

    Edge: 1992

Magic Johnson and Chris Paul

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    Age in 2012: 27

    Stats Up to 2012: 18.8 points, 9.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game


    Age in 1992: 32

    Stats Up to 1992: 19.7 points, 11.4 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game


    Chris Paul is arguably the best point guard in the game today. Magic Johnson is arguably the best point guard ever.

    Paul is quicker, faster and generally more athletic, but Johnson's court vision, passing ability and basketball IQ were superior to that of anyone playing the position today. As good as Paul is in those departments, he's still not quite at Magic's level.

    Both bring extreme competitiveness to the court as well.

    Edge: 1992

Scottie Pippen and Kevin Durant

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    Age in 2012: 23

    Stats Up to 2012: 26.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game


    Age in 1992: 26

    Stats Up to 1992: 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2 steals per game


    This is a very intriguing matchup. While Durant is a vastly superior scorer than Pippen was, you could argue that Pippen wins everywhere else.

    He certainly gets the nod on defense. The fact is, Pippen would get the nod on that against just about anyone. He's also a better passer.

    But getting back to the scoring. Durant's not only better than Pippen, he might be better than anyone I've ever seen.

    His combination of length (6'10" with a 7'5" wingspan), athleticism (he moves like a guard) and skill (he shot 42 percent from three-point range in his second season and 39 percent last year) make him unguardable. Legitimately, completely unguardable.

    Not even Scottie Pippen would be able to hold him.

    Edge: 2012

Charles Barkley and LeBron James

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    Age in 2012: 27

    Stats Up to 2012: 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game


    Age in 1992: 29

    Stats Up to 1992: 23.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game


    Aside from the obvious headliner that will come in the next slide, this is my favorite matchup. 

    In many ways, Barkley was the star of USA Basketball's run in 1992. He was loud, cocky and aggressive on and off the court, but he backed all that up with his performance. He led "The Dream Team" in scoring during the Olympics at 18 points a game.

    Despite being undersized at 6'6", Barkley would have the edge over LeBron in terms of rebounding, low-post game and competitiveness

    After that, it's all LeBron. The newly crowned NBA champion is arguably the most naturally talented basketball player of all time and perhaps the most gifted athlete we've ever seen in any sport.

    He has the body of Karl Malone, the athleticism of Michael Jordan and the well-balanced game of Magic Johnson.

    The sport has never seen another player quite like him and his unbelievable ability would give the 2012 team a chance in this battle.

    Edge: 2012

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant

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    Age in 2012: 33

    Stats Up to 2012: 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game 


    Age in 1992: 29

    Stats Up to 1992: 32.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6 assists and 2.7 steals per game


    There may be a few people out there more interested in seeing LeBron against Jordan, but let's face it, his game is a little more Magic and the only player who's truly comparable to MJ in terms of game and competitiveness is Kobe Bryant.

    That being said, Jordan's clearly the winner in this matchup. A lot of what Kobe does looks and feels like Jordan, but he's never been on his level in terms of efficiency and consistency. That's not a slight to Kobe. Nobody's on Jordan's level. He's the greatest player ever.

    Edge: 1992

Who Wins?

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    The 2012 USA Basketball team is loaded with phenomenal players. They're extremely athletic, versatile and skilled. They are overwhelming favorites to win the gold in London.

    But when you break it down, they're not quite up to par with "The Dream Team."

    The 1992 squad is better, but they wouldn't mop the floor with 2012's team. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant wouldn't allow that.

    In a seven-game series, the 2012 squad could win a couple games and possibly even take it seven.