The last time the NBA went through a labor mess like this was 1998. Not that long ago. in fact, a few guys who went through it back then, are going through it again.
So we got to thinking and wondered which group of players was better. What if we took a group of players from the season that had just ended before the lockout, made an All Star team, and matched them up. Who would win?
Well, let's break it down:
1998 Starter: Gary Payton
"The Glove" averaged 19.2 ppg, and 8.3 apg in 1997-98 and upped those numbers to 24 ppg and 7 apg in the playoffs. The Sonics suffered a second round playoff loss to the Lakers after a 61 win season. 1st Team All-NBA, 1st Team All-Defense, and an All Star that year.
2011 Starter: Chris Paul
CP3 dropped 15.9 ppg and 9.8 apg last season. In six playoff games, he averaged 22 and 11.5, as well as 6.7 rebounds. The Hornets lost in six games in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Lakers after a 38 win season. 3rd team All-NBA, 2nd Team All-Defense, and an All Star that year.
1998 Back Up: Rod Strickland
Led the league with 10.5 assists per game, and added 17.8 ppg. His Washington Wizards did not make the playoffs and managed to win 42 games. He was fourth in the NBA in assist%. 2nd Team All-NBA. He did not make the All Star team.
2011 Back Up: Derrick Rose
Rose averaged 25 ppg and 7.7 apg last season. In the playoffs, he averaged 27.1 ppg and 7.7 apg. The Chicago Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat after a league best 62 wins. Rose was the MVP last season, 1st Team All-NBA, and an All Star
Rod Strickland is underrated as a point guard, and GP was an All-Time great. But so is Chris Paul and Derrick Rose off the bench is WAY too much for Strick to handle. I started Paul because I see him as a better overall point guard but even if you want to start D-Rose, it's no matter. This is the golden age of point guards for a reason. I could have gone Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo and still had a better PG tandem. Huge edge: 2011
1998 Starter: Michael Jordan
The GOAT led the league with 28.7 ppg and added 5.8 rpg and 3.5 apg. In the playoffs, he averaged 32.4, 5.1 and 3.5 as the Chicago Bulls won the NBA championship after a 62 win season. Jordan was the MVP that season, the Finals MVP, 1st Team All-NBA, 1st Team All-Defense and an All Star
2011 Starter: Dwyane Wade
Wade averaged 25.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 4.6 apg. In the playoffs, he averaged 24.5, 7.1 and 4.4 as the Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals after a 58 win season. Wade was 2nd team All-NBA and an All Star last season.
1998 Back Up: Reggie Miller
Miller averaged 19.5 ppg, on 47.7% shooting, including a career-high 42.9% from 3. In the playoffs, he averaged 19.9, 1.8 and 2.0 as the Pacers lost to the Chicago Bulls in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miller was a 3rd team All-NBA selection and an All-Star
2011 Back Up: Kobe Bryant
Kobe averaged 25.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 4.7 apg. In the playoffs, he averaged 22.8, 3.4 and 3.3 as the Lakers were swept out of the semifinals by the Dallas Mavericks. Bryant was a 1st-team All-NBA and 1st team All-Defense selection. He was also an All Star.
Just look at what Michael Jordan did that season. A champion, 1st team all-everything, MVP and Finals MVP. DWade was awesome, but he's not Jordan. And if anyone would get into Wade's grill on D, it's MJ. Kobe's a better back up, but we know he didn't deserve that All-Defense nod and Miller could shoot it. In the end, I'll never vote against MJ. I'm calling this matchup Even.
1998 Starter: Grant Hill
Grant averaged 21.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 6.8 rpg. The 81 games he started is tied for most in his career and the 21.1 was his second highest career average. The Detroit Pistons won 37 games and missed the playoffs that season. Hill was a 2nd team All-NBA selection and an All Star.
2011 Starter: LeBron James
LeBron averaged 26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 7.0 apg. His 51% from the field was a career high. In the playoffs, he averaged 23.7, 8.4 and 5.9 as the Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals after a 58 win season. LeBron was 1st team All-NBA, 1st team All-Defense and an All Star.
1998 Back Up: Michael Finley
Finley averaged 21.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 4.9 apg. The 21.5 ppg was his second highest single season scoring avearge for his career. The Dallas Mavericks won 20 games that season.
2011 Back Up: Kevin Durant
The Durantula averaged a league-high 27.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 2.7 apg. In the playoffs he averaged 27.7, 8.0 and 2.7 as the Thunder lost to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. Durant was 1st team All-NBA and an All Star.
People forget how NASTY Grant Hill was back then. And Michael Finley had a horribly underrated season. But that doesn't make this any less lopsided. LeBron James and Kevin Durant were both legitimate MVP candidates who, when all is said and done, will be lock Hall of Famers. There's no other way to put his. Huge edge: 2011
1998 Starter: Karl Malone
Malone averaged 27.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 3.9 apg. In the playoffs, he averaged 26.3, 10.9 and 3.4 as the Utah Jazz lost in the NBA Finals after a 62 win season. Malone was 1st team All-NBA, 1st team All-Defense and an All-Star.
2011 Starter: Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk averaged 23.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and 2.6 apg. His FG% of 51.7 was a career high. In the playoffs, he averaged 27.7, 8.1 and 2.5 as the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship after a 57 win season. Dirk was the Finals MVP, 2nd team All-NBA, and an All Star
1998 Backup: Tim Duncan
Duncan's rookie year ended with averages of 21.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2.5 bpg. In the playoffs he averaged 20.7, 9.0, and 1.9 as the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals after a 56 win season. Duncan was Rookie of the Year, 1st team All-NBA, 2nd team All-Defense, 1st team All-Rookie and an All Star.
2011 Backup: Kevin Love
Love averaged averaged 20.2 ppg, 15.2 rpg, and 2.5 apg. The 15.2 ppg was a league and career high. The Minnesota Timberwolves won 17 games last season. Love was an All Star last season.
There was some debate as to who the back up PF would be for this team. I could have gone with LaMarcus Aldridge, Amare Stoudemire, or even Zach Randolph. In the end, though, it doesn't matter. Malone and Tim Duncan are two of the best ever at that position. And remember, this was Duncan's rookie year. I love what Dirk did this past season, but this isn't even close. Huge edge: 1998
1998 Starter: Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq averaged 28.3 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.4 apg and 2.4 bpg. His FG% of 58.4 led the league. In the playoffs, he averaged 30.5, 10.2, 2.9 and 2.6. as the LA Lakers lost to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Finals after a 61 win season. Shaq was 1st team All-NBA and an All Star.
2011 Starter: Dwight Howard
Dwight averaged 22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 1.4 apg and 2.4 bpg. The 14.1 rpg was the second-highest season average of his career. In the playoffs, Dwight averaged 27.0, 15.5, 0.5 and 1.8 as the Orlando Magic lost in the first round of the playoffs after a 52 win season. The 15.5 playoff rpg led the league. Howard was 1st team All-NBA, 1st team All-Defense, the Defensive Player of the Year, and an All Star.
1998 Backup: David Robinson
The Admiral averaged 21.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.7 apg and 2.6 bpg. In the playoffs, he averaged 19.4, 14.1, 2.6 and 3.3 as the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals after a 56 win season. The 14.1 playoff rpg led the league. Robinson was 2nd team All-NBA, 2nd team All-Defense, and an All Star.
2011 Backup: Brook Lopez
Lopez averaged 20.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.6 apg and 1.5 bpg. The Nets won 24 games last season. Lopez won no post-season awards.
You can say Shaq and Dwight cancel each other out, which leaves this match up to be decided by the backups. And honestly, that just isn't fair. David Robinson is a Hall of Famer with ridiculous numbers who played in perhaps the golden age of big men. Just look at how stacked the front lines were back then. After Dwight, there's a huge drop off. There wasn't in 1998. Edge: 1998.
1998 Coach of the Year: Larry Bird
Bird led the Pacers to a 58-24 record, a 19-game improvement over the prior year. The Pacers were 4th in the leauge in offensive rating (108.4) and 5th in defensive rating (101.6).
2011 Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau led the Bulls to a 62-20 record, a 21-game improvement over the prior year. The Bulls were 11th in the league in offensive rating (108.3) and 1st in defensive rating (100.3).
We could have gone more subjective with this one, but it wouldn't have gotten us much further. Who do you pit against one another? Phil Jackson vs. Gregg Popovich? Doc Rivers vs. Jerry Sloan? You're not going to find a coaching matchup that swings this game no matter where you look. Edge: Even
So I guess it shouldn't be THAT surprising that pitting the best of the best against each other makes for an even matchup. In today's game, wing players dominate. Back then, big men did. And that's where our lines break down. A game between these two squads will come down to the 2-guards, it seems. Will Michael Jordan be able to elevate his squad, or will Kobe coming off the bench be too much to handle? I know the Mamba is deadly, but I just can't pick against Jordan. I see him draining a game winner somehow, from somewhere to win a triple OT game at the buzzer. So in the battle of Lockout vs. Lockout, I've got Jordan's 1998 team by the slightes of margins.
Do you think differently? Vote in our poll. And if you have a different player in mind for a position, lay out your case in the comment section.