It's on posters, in the stands, on T-shirts and hoodies, it's even on Twitter. No this isn't a Dr. Suess riddle, it's the message that the Chicago Bulls are sending to the rest of the NBA.
The Bulls are one fierce marketing machine and I'm buying every bit of it, and so are a lot of other people including NBA analysts. I look at the lineup the Bulls have put together this summer and I feel a lot like I'm watching the '91 Bulls, and we all remember what that team did... Three times. The only exception is that this team doesn't have a Michael Jordan, or does it? Michael won more MVPs than D.Rose can probably ever dream of winning, however does that mean that D.Rose can't lead and inspire this team like Michael did of the '91 Bulls?
Let's look at the history of these teams. The starting five of the '91 Bulls was:
PG: John Paxson
SG: Michael Jordan
SF: Scottie Pippen
PF: Horace Grant
C: Bill Cartwright
Now let's review the current Bulls' starting five as expected on opening night if everyone was healthy:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Ronnie Brewer
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
The one advantage the '91 team has over the current Bulls is that it had the most incredible player of all time, in Michael Jordan. So now that I've made that obvious observation, does this mean automatically that '91 Bulls would dominate the current Bulls? No. It doesn't. In fact, I'm going to show you that the current Bulls team, would actually beat the '91 champs! I'm not a statistician, I'm just a student of the game and so my comparison will be more of an observational type rather than a boring statistical summary. As we all know, games aren't played on paper and there are more things to consider than ppg's, apg's and lmnop's... Yes I made up the last one.
So let's do a direct comparison at each position and who would win the individual battles.
Paxson VS Rose – I don't see this as much of a battle. Rose is faster, more cunning and also a much more athletic player. Rose not only has the ability to drop 30 on a team, he is almost expected to do that on more than a few occasions this season. While Pax was a great three point shooter and passer, I think even he would be the first to concede this match-up. While D.Rose's defence has often come under fire, Paxson's game largely centred around the ability to get open for the three ball and even that's not a tough cover for Rose.
Jordan VS Brewer – Given how smart defensively Coach Thibs is, I know he wouldn't double Jordan so Brewer would have to play Michael straight up. Given this, I think Ronnie would get torched. Sorry Ronnie, however we are talking about the greatest player of all time here so it's a tough guard. While I don't think Mike would go off for a double nickle, I think we'd see Ronnie "hold" him to the high thirties. Brewer's offensive game is nothing compared to Michael's, so while I believe Ronnie would still score in the high teens I don't see him winning a battle against Jordan.
So far it's one all. So let's continue.
Pippen VS Deng – This is the match-up that interests me the most. Scottie was one of the most fierce defenders of all time, and yet with Deng's foot speed and additional height I think this is too close to call. Physically they are quite similar. As this was still relatively early in Scottie's career, he wasn't quiet as muscular in '91 as he was on say the '97 Bulls. Deng is at the peak of his career right now and I'd say Scottie was still a year or two from his peak, so while I give Scottie a lot of respect and still class him as the greatest SF to play the game... Deng wins this match-up. Deng is bigger, moves as well as Scottie and he has a more complete all around game than Pip did in '91. Scottie's best years were during the second three-peat in my opinion.
Grant VS Boozer – Yet another match-up that was very intriguing to think about. Grant at 6'10" and with those long arms was a defensive presence in the post, that no-one would wish to face. Boozer at 6'9" and the kind of complete offensive game most power forwards dream of, would be Grant's biggest test he ever faced. Grant battled the greatest power forward to never win in a ring in Barkley in '93, and he came out on top so is it that simple in this case? No. I think even Sir Charles would have to tip his hat at Boozer here. While Grant had an impressive defensive game, his offensive game is no match for Booz. While Boozer has never been known for his defense, his bigger stronger body and quick feet would be enough to cover Grant. While Boozer's offensive game would give Grant more than he could handle, with his elbow jumpers, post-up game and drop-steps to the bucket for the flush is as much as Barkley offered in '93 and Boozer is taller and stronger.
Which brings us to the final match-up, the man in the middle.
Cartwright VS Noah – Noah wins. Game over. Jordan hated the trade of Oakley for Cartwright, and I agree. I do however concede that to win you need a big man, so I also agree that management made the right move to get the rings. However losing a body like Oakley was a tough one. Noah wins this easily. He's too fast, too strong and too energetic for big Bill to even compete with. Cartwright was an ample shot blocker however I don't rate his offensive game higher than Jo's, and defensively there is no question that Noah is far more important in the middle.
So there it is folks, the current Bulls would win at four out of five positions. As I said from the start, the obvious exception is Jordan. MJ would try, as always, to get his teammates involved and I think Pippen certainly would respond. The edge however would go to the current Bulls as they seem to have the '91 Bulls covered in every position except the 2 spot. My keys to victory for the current Bulls would be how well Boozer and Rose played the pick and roll game. Given Rose's speed over Paxson and Noah's ability to keep Cartwright out of the lane, the '91 Bulls would have no choice but to defend without committing a double team in fear of being beaten off the dribble by Rose. If the '91 Bulls decided to lag off of Brewer to double Rose at the top of the key, they run the risk that Brewer knocks down the three or drives and kicks to Deng, Noah or Boozer. While the '91 Bulls were a very strong defensive unit, I know they would be seeing red with the current Bulls.
I know there will be much debate over this, and that's why I chose this topic. I am as loyal a Bulls fan as you will find, so to actually take the time and think about these match-ups was almost as much fun as it would have been to actually see them play. I think the Pippen/Deng match-up will bring the most chatter, however I am very interested to see all the comments and opinions that follow.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my articles and if you have any questions or suggestions feel welcome to hit me on Twitter @AUBullsFan.
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