With the 2012 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team starting their exhibition games, much comparison has been placed between them and the 1992 “Dream Team”. Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was criticized for stating that the current team “definitely” would beat the ’92 team. He later clarified his statement, explaining that he meant the 2012 could at least win one game against the Dream Team.

Many have weighed in on this topic with some ridiculous assumptions on how a clash between these two teams would turn out. I chimed in early, but then took a step back to look at what both teams bring to the table.

After looking at a few key areas, I have my conclusion on who I think would be the victor.

’92 VS ’12: FOR OLYMPIC GOLD…..

1. POST PRESENCE

This, in my opinion, is one of the easiest categories to pick a clear advantage. The 2012 team has to rely on Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks), Kevin Love (Minnesota T’Wolves), and rookie Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets) to be their strength in the paint. Love definitely is their most versatile offensive threat between the three, and they all pack a pretty good defensive punch. But this one is easy. They would be going up against David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Charles Barkley. Each of these four are far more advanced OFFENSIVELY and DEFENSIVELY than the younger three. The veteran players would dominate the younger guys in the post. Not to mention, Barkley led the entire team with his 18.0 PPG, on 71% shooting, and 87 % from the 3-pt arc. Which means one of the 2012 team’s big men would be pulled out of the paint to defend him, spreading the court for their other offensive threats. ADVANTAGE: ’92 

2. PERIMETER GAME

This is probably the closest category to assess. Both teams have great shooters on their roster. The former had great scorers in Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, along with players at the PF position who had range. (Barkley, as mentioned before, and Christian Laettner) This year’s team has Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), LeBron James (Miami Heat), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) who could all easily drop 40+ points on any given game. Arguing which team has the greater offensive threat is almost pointless and would only lead to a dead-end. The only way to figure out which perimeter game would be more dominant is to look at the defense it would be facing. ADVANTAGE: NEITHER…FOR NOW

3. DEFENSE

The 2012 Olympic team has some good defenders on their roster. We all assume that Anthony Davis will be able to transform the defensive presence he showed at Kentucky into the NBA. We all know that Tyson Chandler can be a force in the paint. As far as defending the perimeter, Kobe has always been at the top of “All-NBA Defensive” lists, Russell Westbrook is probably one of the quickest, most persistent, on the ball defenders at the PG position, and James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder) is a defensive specialist. LeBron James is probably their best defender, but, in my opinion, there is no way you can put him on the other team’s best player. With Barkley’s dominance in the paint and on the perimeter, James (LeBron) would be the only one strong and savvy enough to defend him. On the other side, the ’92 team had some of the greatest defenders to ever play the game. Ewing, Barkley, and Robinson could hold the post down with no help. Then you have Jordan (great on-the-ball defender, who led the league in steals for many seasons), Pippen (one of the greatest all-around players and a great defender), and Magic (a long, smart defender) on the perimeter. And these guys were committed to defense, unlike the younger. You can replay the 2012 NBA Playoffs and see that the majority of these guys are only as good as the “help” behind them. ADVANTAGE: ’92….WHICH WOULD ALSO TRANSLATE TO THEM HAVING THE ADVANTAGE OF PLAYING AGAINST A WEAKER DEFENSE 

4. CURRENT FORM AT THE TIME

To reiterate Kobe’s point, two of the Dream Team’s greatest stars (Bird and Magic) were both at the end of their respective careers by 1992. They were both a former shell of themselves, which would benefit the 2012 team. The only thing that he (Bryant) left out is that he isn’t the same dominant player that he used to be either. Age and knee problems has reduced him from the slashing, high-flying, force that he once was. Chris Paul has been injury prone for the past 3 years and visibly not the same player, Carmelo Anthony seems to play more for himself than the team, Westbrook has times where he believes he is “Jordan” and tries to take over games, and I have lost all faith in Harden after his 2012 Finals DISappearance. As for the Dream Team, Kobe left out some key factors. The next NBA season (92-93) would be the year that Barkley single-handedly wheeled his team to the Finals, and continued his dominance throughout his career. Oh yeah, and one other minor detail. This was the summer after Jordan and Pippen’s second NBA Championship. They would go on to win 4 more, with the tragic death of James Jordan being the only thing stopping it all from being consecutive. In those 6 Championships, Jordan’s Chicago Bulls faced the Trailblazers (Drexler), Lakers (Magic), Suns (Barkley), Supersonics (Kemp and Peyton), Jazz (Malone and Stockton), and the Jazz (Malone and Stockton). In other words, Jordan was the player who kept many of his USA teammates and other HOFers from never winning a Championship. ADVANTAGE: ’92

5. MATCH-UPS

Here is where the “rubber meets the road”. How would the two teams match up? Magic would have a huge size advantage over Chris Paul, Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), or Westbrook at the point guard position, but they all would have a speed advantage. Jordan could switch up with Magic, depending on who is on the court at the #2 spot for the 2012 team. If it’s Kobe, Jordan is on him. Many would be dumb enough to try to put LeBron on Jordan, but it goes back to my original question, who is helping Chandler defend the paint? No matter who is at #3 and #4 (LeBron, Durant, Anthony, or Harden), Pippen and Barkley will have those assignments. And just in case you need the Finals as proof, Kevin Durant doesn’t defend anybody. Which leaves Chandler against either Ewing or Robinson. ADVANTAGE: ’92

I think it’s pretty clear who I picked as my winner between the two teams. Who do you have winning against this year’s USA Olympic basketball team and the original Dream Team?

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