By Mark Schremmer
With the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, they are the first team in NBA history to win 73 regular-season games. The Warriors eclipsed the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10.
Even though Golden State Warriors finished with the better records, the question of which team is better remains. It is a generational battle. Fathers will tell their children about the greatness of Michael Jordan and how current teams couldn’t even compete. Today’s youth will believe those claims just as much as the tales of their father walking to school in the snow and uphill – both ways.
These are questions that will never be answered. But that doesn’t mean asking the questions isn’t entertaining. Let’s break down the two teams to see which squad is better.
Chicago Bulls: Ron Harper
Harper wasn’t a true point guard, but it didn’t matter in the Bulls’ offense which would have Harper, Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc all bring the ball across half court. Harper, who previously averaged more than 20 points per game in several seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the L.A. Clippers, was a role player for Chicago. He averaged 7.4 points for the Bulls in the 1995-96 regular season.
Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry
Curry is as dominant of a shooter as anyone in NBA history. After leading the Warriors to an NBA title last year, he picked up where he left off. Through 81 games, Curry has made 392 three-pointers and averages 29.9 points.
There’s no contest on this one. Curry is already establishing himself as one of the best players of his generation.
Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan
Known by most as the greatest player in NBA history, Jordan was his typical dominant self in 1995-96. He averaged 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals. By this time in his career, Jordan was a complete player. He could still take the ball to the rim, but he also developed a great jump shot as he hit 42 percent of his 3-pointers that season.
Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson
Thompson is Golden State’s second-leading scorer at 22.2 points per game. He’s connected on 272 three-pointers, making 42 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
While Thompson is good, there’s no competing against his “Airness.”
Chicago Bulls: Scottie Pippen
A perfect complement to Jordan, Pippen was also a complete player. At 6-foot-8, he was still versatile enough to direct the offense. Pippen averaged 19.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes
Barnes is one of four Warriors who average in double figures, scoring 11.7 points per game. He plays an important role for a team that is vying for consecutive championships.
Pippen was an original member of the Dream Team and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players.
Chicago Bulls: Dennis Rodman
The Worm wasn’t a scoring threat (5.5 ppg), but his defense and rebounding skills were unparalleled. Rodman averaged 14.9 rebounds per game, including 5.6 offensive rebounds.
Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green
Green has been a consistent force for the Warriors. He leads the team in minutes, games played, rebounds and assists. Green averages 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Rodman is one of the best rebounders of all time, but Green earns the slight edge as a more complete player.
Chicago Bulls: Luc Longley
The 7-foot-2 big man from Australia was limited offensively (9.1 ppg), but Longley did provide a presence in the middle with 1.4 blocks per game.
Golden State Warriors: Andrew Bogut
A fellow 7-foot Aussie, Bogut was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. While he may never live up to the hype of being the top pick, Bogut is an important member of the Warriors. He averages 5.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
This may really be a push, but Bogut wins with a slightly better skill set than Longley.
Chicago Bulls: Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington, Dickey Simpkins, John Salley, etc.
Kukoc was a complete player off the bench who could play multiple positions. Kerr was a great jump shooter with a knack for hitting the big shot. Wennington and Sally were big men who could eat space and log minutes.
Golden State Warriors: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush, etc.
When healthy, Iguodala is a great lift off the bench. Livingston has great vision and versatility. The 6-foot-11 Ezeli gives the Warriors another athletic big man.
So there you have it. Technically, the Warriors win 3-2-1. However, it certainly isn’t a decisive victory. The Warriors appear to have the more “complete” team, but the Bulls still have the best player.
Who wins? Too bad we’ll never get to find out for sure. Let the debate rage on.
Mark Schremmer has been a sports reporter since 2000 and has covered games at the professional, college and high school levels for The Topeka Capital-Journal and The Joplin Globe.
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