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Golden State Warriors

Rosen | How Warriors match up against 1995-96 Bulls

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr speaks during the NBA basketball team's championship rally Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Oakland is celebrating its second championship in the past three years. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Here’s what Andre Iguodala said after the Golden State Warriors won the last game of the season: “We’re going down as one of the best teams ever.”

To either support or challenge Iguodala’s boast, here’s the first installment of a series that will match the Warriors against some of the most dominant teams in the history of the NBA.

Today’s fantasy opponent in a theoretical seven-game series is the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, which concluded their regular season with a record of 72-10, and then went 15-3 on their way to the championship.

BACKCOURT

Golden State’s starters are Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark coming off the bench.

Chicago started Ron Harper at the point. Despite some leg woes that diminished the super-quickness of his earlier career, Harper still had the size, the strength, and the savvy to significantly impair Curry’s effectiveness. Even so, Harper would do a much better job playing opposite Thompson.

That would leave Michael Jordan to counter and lock down Curry. At the other end of the court, Harper would function as a facilitator while MJ would simply destroy any of the Warriors’ guards.

Steve Kerr backed up Harper. A reliable long-range shooter and feisty defender with a high basketball IQ, Kerr would nevertheless be unable to contain Curry.

Scottie Pippen also spent a few emergency minutes at either guard spot, and would lock up whomever he was defending

Neither Livingston nor Clark would have much of an impact.

SMALL FORWARD

For the Warriors, Kevin Durant is their go-to scorer, with Iguodala backing him up.

The matchup of Scottie Pippen, one of the best defensive players ever, and KD would be especially intriguing.

Pippen specialized in denying his man the ball, and then playing spider-like man-to-man defense. He had the length, the speed and quickness, plus the total dedication to reduce Durant from superstar status to merely a run-of-the-mill star.

At the other end, Pippen’s mastery of the triangle offense would create many optimal scoring chances. Even though KD would take more shots, their respective points scored would be roughly equal.

Behind Pippen was Toni Kukoc, a 7-footer with shooting guard skills. Only because he had more scoring responsibilities and opportunities, Kukoc would be more of a factor than Iguodala.

FRONTCOURT

The Warriors field Draymond Green and David West at power forward, and Zaza Pachulia and either Green or West at center.

The Bulls would counter with Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, John Salley, and Bill Wennington.

Rodman would totally make Green and West non-factors. Longley was a terrific passer with a modest post-up game who would send Pachulia to the bench in a hurry. Salley would do the same. Wennington’s mid-range jumpers were a perfect fit in the Bulls’ triangle offense.

Also, Rodman would certainly spend some time guarding Durant—which would have been one of the all-time spectacles in the entire history of basketball.

TEAM DEFENSE-OFFENSE

The Bulls’ big guards, not-so-small small forwards, and power forwards would be able to switch on any and all screens set by the Warriors without suffering any mismatches.

There’s no way the Warriors could hope to contain His Airness.

Chicago’s elite defense could disrupt Golden State’s powerful offensive attack. The Bulls would take advantage of the discomfort both Thompson and Curry exhibited against the Cavs when they were subjected to full-court pressure.

The Bulls’ versatility would also have no trouble handling the Warriors’ small-ball lineups. That would be Harper, Jordan, Pippen, with Kukoc at the 4-spot and Rodman playing center.

The triangle offense would control the pace of the game and force the Warriors to play station-to-station half-court ball.

It should also be noted that, although the 3-point shot was considered to be merely an adjunct of a team’s offense, the Bulls shot 40.3 percent from downtown.

THE COACHES

The masters (Phil Jackson and Tex Winter) versus the student gives the Bulls an edge in between-game as well as in-game adjustments.

PREDICTION

With the 1995-96 bump, hold, and bang defensive roles in force, the Bulls would sweep the Warriors.

With the modern no-touch defensive rules in effect, the Bulls would win in five games.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. ron johnsonite

    Jun 19, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Jordan was just about as quick as Curry. Stockton was also an excellent shooter and was 6-1 compared to Curry at 6-3. Not much of a disparity. Stockton was better than Curry guys. The Sonics won two games against the Bulls when they were down 3-0, big deal.

    Thompson couldn’t push Jordan off the block,stop it. Didn’t you hear Charley? The triangle will slow the pace and limit GSWs running chances. Rodman would be unstoppable on the boards and was just as quick as Draymond. And like Charley said, their wouldn’t be much running.

    Jeyson, if you read Charley often you would know that LeBron isn’t a good man to man defender because his lateral movement is slow. Pippen was much better at man to man defense you have to admit. Utah used plenty of baseline cuts in the Malone/Stockton days. Relying on three point shots to win it seems unlikely dude.

  2. Alex mystogan

    Jun 19, 2017 at 6:05 am

    I’m sorry but have you seen steph’s impact on defense he’s literally a guard magnet factor in his dribble proficiency and Thompson’s quick release and Durant’s defensive area do you honestly think that they stand a chance in beating quite frankly the best offense?? Along with that dray’s improving every game…. Sure his airness can’t be contained but at the same time the chef cannot be stopped by the bulls defense and even if they do check it out the pg has every opponent’s eye on him freeing lanes like no other….. He is the greatest shooter of all time!! Let’s talk in terms of the mega death lineup the bulls would be outpaced on offense and would be expending too much energy….. And the warriors keep switching marks right so what happens if dray’s on Scottie? And Kev guards mj with curry running around? You have taken only one situation and said that gsw would lose to cb….. But that’s just a hypothesis…. Of course I just can’t see gsw losing….

    • ron johnsonite

      Jun 19, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Nah man Curry really can’t guard. Run him into hard screens or get him one on one and post him. He is giving up 3 inches to Ron Harper who would contain him like Charley said. Thompson’s quick release? He wouldn’t be able to get it off with Jordan in his grill. Durant is good helping but not one on one defense. That is pretty much a wash as Charley said. Drayman’s shooting is really shaky bro. Did you see him in the finals?

      Curry is one of the greatest shooters of all time. Seems a little premature to declare him GOAT shooter already. Did you hear Charley? The Bulls would always be controlling a slow down pace. Switching doesn’t matter when you straight up can’t guard your guy bro. I think Bulls win it in 6.

  3. Da Bulls1993

    Jun 18, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Get off Charley Rosen’s lawn!!!!! Chew on this grandpa: Let’s look at the 1997 Bulls, who played the Utah Jazz, who had a tiny little PG named John Stockton. Curry is taller, quicker and a better shooter. Stockton was able to average 15 pts in that series. The Warriors are way better then the Sonics and even they got two games. What you old farts never take into consideration is that the Warriors will run at every opportunity and play 10 deep. Jordan after his baseball stint had more of a post-up game, so Thompson does have the size to at least try and push him off the block. He’s not going to stop him, but you seriously think Jordan is as quick as Irving??? You Cray!!!! Rodman would be an offensive liability and will have to chase Draymond on every break.
    If they had a chance to time travel and play each other, I like the Dubs chances with either Luke Walton or Mike Brown as coach while Kerr suits up!

  4. The Heretic

    Jun 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    This analysis was a little one-sided, and not quite befitting that of a basketball historian.

    I’m pretty sure the Warriors were capable of beating those Bulls under today’s rules – provided that Curry went nuclear, stretching out the Bulls’ defense to its breaking point. Moreover, Kevin Durant is one of the very greatest scorers and shooters of all time. He would definitely outscore Scottie Pippen, largely because he was the number one option on the GSW offense, and he was long enough to shoot over the shorter Pippen.

    Sure, Dennis Rodman could neutralize Draymond Green, but he wasn’t a scorer. He was versatile enough to force Rodman away from his comfortable spots near the basket. I recall Rodman sabotaging the San Antonio Spurs in the 1995 West Conference Finals because he refused to stay on the perimeter to guard Robert Horry. Why would he suddenly do so versus Draymond?

    Under the older rules, the Bulls will win – mostly because they played with a shorter three point line. Something Mr. Rosen neglected to mention.

  5. Jeyson Retumalta

    Jun 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Are you serious? The 1995-96 Bulls have never swept anybody in the finals but the one time they do it is going to be against these Warriors? Scottie Pippen would reduce Kevin Durant? Scottie Pippen is obviously better than Lebron James right? No, and what did Kevin Durant do to Lebron James? Scoring on him effortlessly with a 60% fg percentage when Lebron James is on him. Also, when have the Bulls played a team that was this versatile on offense with cuts but also 3 point shooting as frequent and as deep as they shoot it? You nostalgic biased old heads are irritating.

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