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Everybody knows that this years’ Warriors are a complete powerhouse. They’re on their way to win their third championship in a row. But that has led to recent talks about whether the Lakers of the early 2000s, another three-peat team, could take them on.
The style of basketball played back then is completely different as compared to now. The Lakers were dominated by big man Shaquille O’Neal, while today’s game is more of a run-and-gun 3-point shooting style. Both have their strengths, but which team would come out on top?
At the point guard position, we have 2x MVP Steph Curry versus Derek Fisher and Ron Harper. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out who wins this battle. While Derek Fisher was a tough player and brought lots of leadership to the Lakers, he’s no Steph Curry. Ron Harper was a fantastic player back in the day, but during this era of Laker dominance, he was near retirement and didn’t bring the same game he used to.
Shooting guard is a battle, but the win goes to Kobe Bryant. Klay Thompson is a great defender and one of the best spot-up shooters in the game, but Kobe does it better. Kobe plays fantastic defense and can score from anywhere on the court. While Klay is great, Kobe is better. Kobe is one of the best.
Small forward battle goes to Warriors on this one. Rick Fox was a great defender as well, but he can’t guard Kevin Durant. Nobody is gonna stop KD from scoring. The man’s length, height and speed combination makes him so deadly and that’s why he goes down as one of the greatest scorers in history.
The power forward position is sided towards the Warriors too. I’m gonna have to give it to Draymond Green. Although much smaller than Horace Grant, but Dray has proven time and time again in the past that he can defend bigger players than himself. Plus, with a fast-paced tempo offense, a smaller player is a big advantage. Another advantage Draymond has over Horace is age. Horace Grant was a great player but his stint with the Lakers was toward the end of his career and he was in no way the same player he used to be. Draymond would run all around Horace, and Horace wouldn’t be able to move around enough to make an impact against an excellent defender.
Center is a great match up, but the Lakers win it. DeMarcus Cousins is a fantastic player, but he doesn’t beat Shaquille O’Neal. Boogie can shoot, board and is a tough player, but Shaq is a TOUGH player, and can bully anybody in the paint. Lakers win this matchup easy.
For an in-depth look, here are their individual stats (Warriors stats are taken from the year before)
Steph Curry: 26.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 49.5/42.3/92.1%
Klay Thompson: 20.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 48.8/44/83.7
Kevin Durant: 26.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 51.6/41.9/88.9%
Draymond Green: 11.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 45.4/30.1/77.5
DeMarcus Cousins: 25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 47/35.4/74.6%
Derek Fisher: 11.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 41.2/39.7/80.6%
Kobe Bryant: 28.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 46.4/30.5/85.3%
Rick Fox: 9.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 44.4/39.3/77.9%
Horace Grant: 8.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 46.2/0.0/77.5%
Shaquille O'Neal: 28.7 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 57.2/0.0/51.3%
While stats aren't everything, they sure do tell a lot, and the Warriors are full of high-volume scorers with great effective shooting percentages.
The Warriors have great role players off the bench, such as Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, and Jordan Bell, while the Lakers do to such as Robert Horry, Tyronn Lue, Ron Harper, and Isaiah Rider, but in the end, I give bench power to the Warriors. Shaun Livingston is a fantastic back-up point guard and Andre Iguodala is a great leader for that second unit. There’s a reason he was inserted into their death lineup a few years back and won Finals MVP. He may be old, but his IQ, defense and court vision are great.
Steve Kerr is a great coach. Since taking the Warriors helm, Steve Kerr has boasted one of the BEST winning percentages in history, with a little over .800, and 3 rings over 4 years. A lot of people don't give Kerr credit saying he took over a team that was already one of the top. I don't buy it. Mark Jackson did a great job coaching the Warriors and developing talent such as Steph, Klay and Dray, but Steve Kerr took it another step. He turned Klay and Dray into first-time All-stars and he turned 1x All-star Steph Curry into a league MVP the very next year. Steve Kerr is a fantastic coach.
But in the end, Phil Jackson goes down as one of the greatest. And Phil has 11 championships rings to prove it. He won three three-peats. Two with Jordan and the Bulls and one with the Lakers, along with back-to-back championships a few years after that too. Jackson's famous triangle offense goes down as one of the best gameplays of all-time. Steve Kerr is great, but Jackson has the edge in this one.
Now the biggest thing is that these two teams play a very different game. The Lakers-era NBA was dominated by big men who could bully their way into the paint, while today’s NBA is a more fast-paced sharpshooting league. The Lakers had the best big man at the time with Shaq, and the Warriors have the best 3-point shooters in the league with Steph, Klay and KD. Shaq would punish his way into the paint against Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins, but I don’t think they could keep up with the fast-paced Warriors. With a slow-paced game and time to set up defense, the Lakers could win it, but Shaq and Horace Grant would not be able to keep up with the smaller, quicker lineup that the Warriors possess. There is a reason that they were originally called the death lineup. The smaller and quicker lineup was unorthodox, but it was so effective, that the entire league has changed its whole game plan to match with them. In the end, I think that the Warriors run-and-gun game defeats this Lakers team. The Warriors play great defense too with players like Klay, KD and Draymond. While they can’t contain players like Kobe and Shaq, they will still make an impact. Another fact is this: 3 points are worth more than 2, and the Warriors make a lot of 3s.
Here are team stats (Warriors taken from the 2017-18 season).
Warriors: 58-24, 113.5 PPG (1st), 107.5 Opp PPG (18th), 113.6 Offensive Rating (3rd), 107.6 Defensive Rating (11th)
Lakers: 56-26, 100.6 PPG (3rd), 97.2 Opp PPG (23rd), 108.4 Offensive Rating (2nd), 104.8 Defensive Rating (21st)
In a seven-game series, I give it to the Warriors 4-2.