Ranking the Players from the 1992/2012 USA Olympic Basketball Teams
By now you might have heard that Kobe Bryant has said that this year’s Olympic basketball team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team (for the record, Bryant said that this year’s squad could beat the Dream Team, not that they were better… big difference) Instead of discussing which team is better, two of our writers decided to do a power rankings of the 24 players.
-These rankings are based on the player’s ability at the time. For example, we are judging Larry Bird in 1992, not during his peak.
-These rankings reflect how these players play under international rules, not NBA rules.
24. Christian Laettner
Vinny Ginardi: I think this is a relatively easy choice. While Laettner was a superb college player, he had very little impact on the Dream Team’s success. As the roster’s only player lacking NBA experience, Laettner is kind of seen as the team’s outcast (if you watched the NBA’s recent documentary, you saw that he wasn’t even included in the team’s most competitive game: a scrimmage against one another). When I look at Laettner’s presence, I can only think of how the Dream Team’s legacy would be even more impressive had they chosen Shaq instead.
23. Anthony Davis
Mike Aurigemma: Davis falls under that same category as Laettner in my opinion. He is an unproven rookie who could definitely use a year of experience. When looking at Anthony Davis, you can definitely see how he could be a force on the defensive end as a help defender, but I think some more muscle would do wonders to help him progress. Obviously Davis got thrown into this role and as a rookie I could not see him having a huge impact on the games.
VG: Doesn’t even make the team if it’s not for the injuries sustained at the guard positions. Harden is only 22 years old so there is plenty of time to grow. He is above average shooter from the outside and can also get to the rim, but it’s tough to rank a player who is known for his offensive abilities and has never averaged 17 points a game any higher than this.
21. Andre Iguodala
MA: When looking at Iguodala he definitely has the tools defensively to be a force on that side of the court, but unfortunately his offense is really lacking. We saw last postseason that he can make some big shots, but his career mark of 33 percent from beyond the arc just would not cut it in the international game. Iguodala is an all-star caliber talent, but unfortunately for him among these 24 he would be the last small forward of the bunch.
20. Tyson Chandler
VG: A great defensive player (which makes him a nice fit for this team) but like Iguodala, he doesn’t offer much on the offensive side of the ball. Also, 11 players from the 1992 are in the Hall of Fame and the 2012 squad has plenty of potential Hall of Famers. Chandler, on the other hand, hasn’t even made an All-Star team in his 11 year career.
19. Russell Westbrook
MA: I am a huge Westbrook fan, but when looking at his style of play I just do not see it fitting in with the international style. He really only has one gear in him and that is at full speed for the entire game. You just do not see that with the other point guards here like Stockton or Paul. He could definitely be that spark plug off that bench that is relentless on both sides of the court, but it is his decision making that hurts him here. We have already seen him get too trigger happy on a team with arguably the best scorer in the game right now and if he were to have that same mindset with some of these players around him it could be a detriment to the team.
18. Chris Mullin
VG: Chris Mullin was a perfect fit for the Dream Team. He was in his prime (averaged 25 points the year before) and gave the team a reliable shooter from three (he shot 53 percent in the gold medal run). He was one of five players to average more than 10 points a game, but his lack of a more well-rounded game prevents him from a higher ranking.
17. Kevin Love
MA: I have heard so many people say how great of a fit Kevin Love is for international basketball and I do agree to an extent. With that being said I think the performances from Barkley and David Robinson have put the idea that a big man needs to be a good shooter to perform well in international competition to rest. Love can stretch the floor and rebound the ball with the best of them, but he would not be able to impact the game at both ends of the floor like so many of these other players on this list.
16. Larry Bird
VG: Yes, this might seem out of place given that Larry Legend was one of the top five players ever. But we can’t forget that the 1991-92 season was his last (he still almost averaged 20-10, but only played in 45 games). Not taking anything away from Bird here, but at 35 years old and constantly battling injuries, he was on his last legs.
15. Carmelo Anthony
MA: Many of the reasons Kevin Love was not higher on the list also apply to Anthony. He just does not seem to get it on the defensive end at this point in his career. It sometimes looks like that competitive drive is not there on that end of the floor and some players, like John Stockton, competed harder on defense even if they did not have the tools to be a great defender. On the offensive side of the ball Anthony could be as dominant as they come in international ball as we saw in the 2006 FIBA Championship where he averaged 19.8 points per game and led the team in scoring. That kind of vanished in the last Olympic games as he averaged 11.5 points per game on a very pedestrian 42 percent from the field. He has the capability, but we are still looking for that consistent fire in his stomach to compete on every single possession.
14. Deron Williams
VG: Another player here for the 2012 team that is in his prime. For the 2008 team, Williams averaged eight points and nearly three assists per game. Williams is likely to see more minutes this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him increase upon those averages. Williams has good size for his position, but he’s not as good of a distributor as John Stockton and doesn’t have the defensive presence of Chris Paul.
13. John Stockton
MA: Stockton’s time with the Dream Team was cut short by an injury and after averaging 13.7 assists per game in the 1991-92 season, I can only imagine what he would have been able to do with this cast around him. People may look at Stockton as a liability on the defensive end of the ball, but in that same season leading up to the olympics he averaged a career high 3 steals per game. Him being in this spot is not really a slight on him, but more of a testament to the rest of these players.
12. Clyde Drexler
VG: For almost no reason at all, I am a big Clyde Drexler fan. I even have his Dream Team jersey. He has a similar all-around game to Jordan, only to a lesser extent. In 92, Drexler was also toward the end of his prime (but still in it) and was one of the team’s better all-around players, averaging over 10 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals per game.
11. Patrick Ewing
MA: This spot really came down to Ewing or Robinson for me as they were both two amazingly skilled big men. Ewing put up some amazing numbers throughout his career and was in the midst of some astounding seasons. He was someone who could impact the game in so many ways and constantly made those around him better. He was almost able to carry some pretty weak New York Knicks teams to a couple of titles and really showed how skilled of an athlete he truly was.
10. David Robinson
VG: In the 1991-92 season, Robinson averaged 4.5 blocks per game and won the Defensive Player of the Year award. He is one of the better defensive big men to ever play the game. For the Dream Team, Robinson averaged nine points, four rebounds, and a 1.5 blocks per game, but there is no doubt he would have averaged more had this team not been loaded with big men.
9. Chris Paul
MA: Paul had the chance to match the talent of Magic Johnson and it would have been remarkable to have seen his career grow if he did not suffer some injuries that robbed him of some of his athleticism. Paul led the league in assists two years in a row before he had to have arthroscopic surgery, which led to a decrease in his play, but it is clear that he can still play with the best of them. Finally we have seen what Paul could do with some talent around him as he is now paired with Blake Griffin. If it was not for that knee injury we could be talking about who the greatest point guard ever is. What could have been.
8. Karl Malone
VG: Malone was a monster for the Dream Team, averaging 13 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Malone was another player that was in his prime (28 years old), and although he wasn’t quite as skilled defensively as Ewing or Robinson, he was one of the most dominant scorers the NBA has ever season (averaged 27 points or more in eight different seasons).
7. Kobe Bryant
MA: I cannot believe that I am putting Bryant outside of the top 5, but at this stage in his career it is tough to have him ahead of guys like Pippen or Barkley who were in their primes. It is tough to say that he is slipping as his numbers barely dropped last season, but his field goal percentage was the lowest of his career since his 1997-98 season. Now, Kobe is clearly one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game and is in my opinion the closest player to Jordan’s level. His swagger and fearlessness are two of his best attributes as he carries himself on the floor and almost always gives him an edge over his opponent. If there was one person in the world up to the task of going head to head against Jordan it would have to be Kobe. I mean really there are not enough words and numbers to show how great of a player he was and still is to this day.
6. Magic Johnson
VG: My biggest take away from the Dream Team documentary was how much this all meant to Magic. Johnson revealed to the world that he had tested positive for HIV and retired from the game of basketball immediately. He returned for the Dream Team and seeing his expressions and demeanor during the documentary, you could just feel wide range of emotions he was going through. That aside, Magic was slightly past his prime in 1992 (but not as much as people think, he averaged 19/12/7 in 1990-91), which isn’t why he isn’t in the top five. He still totaled 33 assists in six games.
5. Charles Barkley
MA: The leading scorer of the Dream Team was not Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, but instead Charles Barkley, who was in the midst of his prime years. One thing people tend to use against Barkley is his lack of athleticism, even though he was still pretty athletic for a big man, but anything that he lacked in that category he easily made up in others. On a team with so much talent it was amazing to see the performance that Barkley put on during the 1992 Olympics. And for all of the talk about needing big men to be great shooters. Well, Barkley was able to do that exceptionally well as he connected on seven out of eight attempts from downtown. Just a completely balanced player.
4. Kevin Durant
VG: This was probably the toughest choice for me to make. Durant is already one of the best scorers in NBA history at age 23. He’s a three-time scoring champion and can put the ball in from anywhere on the court. I’d be surprised if anyone other than Durant led the team in scoring this summer. That being said, the Finals showed us that he still has some areas that he can improve on (strength to get to his position being one of them). Hey, he’s only 23. If we look back at this in a few years maybe we could put him in the top three.
3. Scottie Pippen
MA: Well VG helped make this selection easier for me as Pippen has to be here on this list for me. He was just entering the prime of his career and as many people look for the next Jordan, I would love to see the next Scottie Pippen. I do not think that we will ever see a 6’8 player be able to handle and distribute the ball like Pippen. You really cannot find a weakness in his game at all as he was a fantastic rebounder for his position, amazing passer, could score if necessary which was not a lot as he played with Jordan for the greater part of his career, but maybe his best attribute was his lock-down defense. He is arguably the best defender we have ever seen play the game. If there was one player that would have a chance to slow Jordan, LeBron or Durant it would have to be Pippen.
2. LeBron James
VG: Three-time MVP. In his prime. Can get to the hoop at will. Coming off his first NBA championship. Knows how to get his teammates involved. Can play/guard every position if needed (and the 2012 team might need him to). He’s been the best player in the league for at least the past four years, and now everybody knows it, including LeBron.
1. Michael Jordan
MA: Vinny was able to give me another layup on this last choice as well, but really this was a given from the start. In my opinion the greatest basketball player to ever play the game was Jordan and you really cannot make an argument against him. Championships? Check. Make that six times. MVPs? Check. Check that one off five times. Finals MVPs? Check. Mark that one down for six. Scoring Titles? Check. Only put a 10 in that column though. Defensive Player of the Year? Check. Only one for that section, but he was NBA All-Defensive First Team a modest 9 times. Really I could go on and on with this forever and still never capture how great he was.