Published On: Sun, Aug 21st, 2016

Could America's best in 2016 beat the '92 Dream Team?

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What if the United States’ best basketball players all made the trip to Rio?

Not just the best group of players USA Basketball could muster from those willing to make the journey, but the true best of the best.

No one too hurt to play. No prior engagements. No invitation refused. The best the United States has to offer. Would that be the best basketball squad the United States has ever assembled? And how would that team – the optimal 2016 lineup – fair against the ’92 Dream Team?

Could America’s best in 2016 beat the ’92 Dream Team?

John Chick: Yes, the current “optimal” U.S. lineup could beat the ’92 Dream Team. It’s worth pointing out the Dream Team wasn’t all these legends in their primes. It was the last competitive basketball Larry Bird played before he retired because of back problems, and Magic Johnson had retired for the first time eight months earlier.

Gino Bottero: A couple guys had some years on them, but each of the 10 other players on the team were 30 years of age or younger, including 29-year-old Michael Jordan fresh off his first two NBA titles. It was a team made up of 11 Hall of Famers and a kid coming off one of the greatest college seasons ever.

Chick: Not to go too far down the MJ-vs.-LeBron rabbit hole, but that matchup is a virtual wash. Defenders would be caught off guard when Stephen Curry launched from 35 feet. Russell Westbrook‘s ball of rage game could be considered a smaller, more athletic guard version of prime Charles Barkley. Off the bench, players like James Harden vs. Clyde Drexler, or Paul George vs. Chris Mullin? This isn’t a Dream Team blowout by any stretch of the imagination.

Bottero: The Dream Team knows blowouts, having won its eight games in Barcelona by an average margin of 43.8 points – none by fewer than 32 points. On defense, it limited opponents to a .365 clip from the field. If Steph jacking up threes from 35 feet isn’t enough to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers, it won’t even be enough to make a group of 11 Hall of Famers sweat.

Chick: Keep in mind the best team they played was a Croatian squad led by Toni Kukoc. This modern-day team would easily be the toughest competition they’d face. It’s also where eras come in. Sure, the Dream Team bigs would clog up the lanes, but players like Magic and John Stockton weren’t used to chasing shooters around and out. The Dream Team may outmuscle them, but I’m not sure they’d outfinesse them.

Bottero: Chuck Daly can run a 12-deep rotation to ensure fatigue isn’t an issue. He did a terrific job of managing those players and getting everyone to buy into the team concept – not an easy feat with a group of 12 megastars. And the era argument may favor the ’92 squad – who wouldn’t love to see Michael Jordan drive through the lane unmolested, without the threat of some Charles Oakley-type clubbing him in the chest?

Chick: Have faith in LeBron’s ability to go up against Jordan, Magic, or even switching to the 4, and checking Barkley or Karl Malone. It would be a cakewalk for Draymond Green guarding the likes of Scottie Pippen, Bird, and Mullin. The modern squad would very much need DeMarcus Cousins to be effective in the post, but it’s not like Boogie would be a pushover against the likes of David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.

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