Given how dominant the Warriors have been – they’re 14-0 in the playoffs and have won 29 of 30 overall – many people wonder how Golden State would have fared against Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams from the 1990s. After all, those were some of the best teams in NBA history, and the Warriors, assuming they win a championship, will rank right up there as well.
So, which team would win that hypothetical series? To find out, Gio and Jones asked B.J. Armstrong, who won three NBA titles with Jordan and the Bulls from 1991-93.
“I never try to compare eras because it’s so hard (with) the way teams were constructed due to the rules and the eras that you played in,” Armstrong began diplomatically on CBS Sports Radio. “That era in the ’90s was a very physical era. There was hand-checking, the rules of the game was different, there wasn’t as much emphasis on the three-point shot, and clearly the physicality was a different game. So I think that (Bulls) team was constructed for that era.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, are clearly constructed for this era.
“Golden State, they’re a machine offensively,” Armstrong said. “They really can take advantage of the rules of today’s game. They get up and down, they play with the proper spacing, (and) they play the game at a pace where it forces you to play (their style). If you shoot a 2, they’re going to shoot a 3 – and this team can shoot as well as anyone I’ve seen as far as a group. I don’t think you can really compare because if that team or those teams played in today’s era, they weren’t constructed to play that way the game is played today. But I also don’t think the Warriors (were) put together to play in the ’90s.
“So I think it would be a very interesting matchup,” Armstrong continued, “but again, I think it would be very tough for either one of those teams to play in the different eras. And saying all of that, this Warriors team is as good as I’ve seen. They are a very, very good team – and not (just) offensively. Defensively is the place where I start with a team. They’re very consistent. They don’t get enough credit for what they do on the defensive end because offensively they’re so high-powered. But defensively, they play the right way, they rebound the ball, and more importantly, they share the ball with one another. Their star players are some of the best passers on the team, which makes them even that much more potent to play and play against.”
Armstrong then went down the line analyzing the match-ups.
“I’ll be very clear: I don’t think that that Bulls team could play in this era,” he said. “I really don’t. I don’t see the match-ups. Look, Jordan is going to be Jordan in any area you put him in, but he’s going to be occupied guarding Klay Thompson. Jordan is going to have to stay at home and not wander around defensively against Klay Thompson because Klay Thompson is an explosive scorer and he’s a catch-and-shoot guy, which is one of the hardest, more difficult guards because he’s constantly in motion.”
Then there’s Scottie Pippen versus Kevin Durant.
“If you put Scottie Pippen (on) Kevin Durant, I like that matchup,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think that is a matchup (in which) Scottie can just dominate Kevin Durant because Kevin Durant is 7-foot over there.”
Then there’s Steph Curry against…Armstrong? Ron Harper?
“Steph Curry against Ron Harper or myself or any other guard that was playing with the Bulls – no one’s figured out how to guard him now,” Armstrong said. “Why all of a sudden am I going to figure it out? Or anyone else? I think that is a tough matchup.”
And then there’s the battle of the bigs.
“You got Draymond Green and Dennis Rodman or Draymond Green and Horace Grant,” Armstrong said. “I like that matchup. I like it. And then you got Luc Longley and (Zaza) Pachulia or Luc Longley versus an athletic JaVale McGee. I don’t see that as just a dominant matchup for anyone.”
Ultimately, the outcome would likely hinge on Jordan and just how dominant he could be.
“The X-factor is clearly Jordan,” Armstrong said. “But Jordan was shooting 2s, those guys are shooting 3s, and by my count, three is more than two. So I don’t think this is something where we’re just going to crush them. No, that would be a very difficult matchup because of the way they play. They shoot more threes than any team I’ve ever seen or played against – and they make them. So it’s going to force those teams or that era to defend a different way. You don’t close out to Steph Curry; you have to run him off the line – and that is very difficult. I don’t see Bill Cartwright switching out on Steph Curry, okay? I don’t see that.
“So I really don’t know,” Armstrong continued, “but I will say that (Golden State) provides a lot of problems to defend, and I don’t think those teams in the ’90s had seen someone play like this. I think it would be a very difficult game. Clearly you have a guy like Jordan, but I don’t think Jordan shoots enough threes by today’s standard to really counter what Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are doing on the offensive end.”