Draymond Green is fresh off the high of winning his fourth NBA championship and has spent his offseason podcasting and…tweeting about 90’s basketball. He’s gotten himself into a bit of trouble with old heads when he shared Sunday night that the 2017 Golden State Warriors would wax the ’98 Jazz and Jordan’s Bulls, which bested Utah in six games. John Stockton and Karl Malone were a force to be reckoned with, but that Warriors squad was ridiculous, too. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on the other side beating Jordan’s Bulls, though? That’s a tough call to make. We have to discuss it.
“I’m watching the 98 Bulls vs Utah in the Finals…I can’t help but notice our 2017 team would’ve beat these Bulls by a dub and these Jazz by 40 if they’re going to play these brands of basketball. And that’s why it’s dumb to compare era’s,” Green tweeted.
I’m watching the 98 Bulls vs Utah in the Finals… I can’t help but notice our 2017 team would’ve beaten these Bulls by a dub and these Jazz by 40 if they’re going to play these brands of basketball. And that’s why it’s dumb to compare Era’s
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) July 25, 2022
First off, this is essentially a claim that the 2017 Warriors were the greatest team in NBA history. No one that watched old school NBA is forking over that crown to any modern day team because that’s just how things work. Players in 2035 could be dunking from half court and shooting from under the other basket and we’d still give the nod to Jordan’s Bulls or those 80’s Lakers or Celtics. Most often, the takes of being “better than Jordan’s Bulls” are laughable and premature, but Draymond at least has a case here.
It’s obvious how different the game was played in the late 90’s and how that style of play wouldn’t necessarily be effective matched up with today’s players. That doesn’t mean every player from the past stinks, it means style of play is usually adapting to what we learn is most conducive to winning over time. Analytics departments determined that spacing and efficiency are the most important factors to winning and that’s why everyone in today’s game works on shooting. Of course that leaves other aspects of the game uncared for, but they’re really just adapting their games to what’s most coveted by NBA GM’s.
Now imagine the ’98 Bulls or Jazz matched up with the 2017 Warriors for a second. Michael Jordan and that triangle offense wasn’t built to shoot the ball from deep — Phil Jackson and the rest of that coaching staff was focused on defense and helping “the other guys” (outside of Jordan) score the ball. Efficiency from all over the court was a priority, except the three-point line was largely ignored by players outside of Steve Kerr, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoč and Scott Burrell. Not a single player on the rest of the team averaged more than one three-point attempt per game. Noticeable on screen after watching modern baseball because space wasn’t yet a priority. To the naked eye, it appears far less skilled and beatable for today’s players.
This is why today’s basketball players and some coaches believe Draymond Green’s comments make sense. Doesn’t mean we do, but the idea is that outdated game plans will get a great team beat. Of course, you still need the talent to do so and combining four likely Hall of Famers on a team (the way the Warriors did following their finals loss in the summer of 2016) with a more useful strategy could lead to victory. And let’s not forget, Phil Jackson was hired to replace Doug Collins and help the Bulls “create space” around Michael Jordan. That space prevented double teams and made defenses pay by relinquishing offensive responsible from MJ and utilizing teammates to get over the hump. That’s what spreading the floor with shooters is all about today: preventing defenses from overloading on star talent by placing shooters all over the three-point arc. An ugly product that gets redundant, even when used correctly — yet it’s wildly impactful and ultimately what would made the 2017 Warriors next to unbeatable. They couldn’t miss anything from deep. Just way too much talent from beyond the arc for anything, other than injuries, to stop them.
We can’t say who was better between the Bulls and Warriors. Would make for one heck of a series, though. The Jazz, on the other hand? They’re probably getting rolled.