Basketball fans are constantly debating on which Draft class has been the best in history, as some of them have been incredibly stacked with talent and future Hall of Famers.
While some classes have been deeper than others, others have had some of the best players in the history of the game, so finding a balance between one thing and the other has never been easy.
Even so, the classes of 1996 and 2003 are a perfect example of that. On one hand, the 1996 class was as deep as everybody would expect, while also featuring some of the best players ever, while the 2003 class isn’t as deep as the other, but some may argue that had better players.
Today, we’re going to put an end to that debate and break down the 7 game series everybody would love to watch. Who you got?
Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal
Bench: Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Marcus Camby, Kerry Kittles, Derek Fisher, Antoine Walker, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, David West
Bench: Kyle Korver, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, Boris Diaw, Josh Howard, Matt Bonner, Zaza Pachulia
Steve Nash vs. Dwyane Wade
When it comes to running an offense, few players have been able to be as influential as Steve Nash. Nash completely changed the way the Point Guard spot was played, being a pass-first kind of playmaker like John Stockton, adding a sweet scoring touch from deep. While Wade was one of the best two-way guards in the league during his prime, just a few players could have the upper hand against Nash at the point. But, because Dwyane Wade could play at the point guard position as well, and he lead Miami Heat against the Mavericks, I will give him edge versus Steve Nash.
Edge: Dwyane Wade
Allen Iverson vs. Carmelo Anthony
People tend to forget how much of a dominant scorer Carmelo Anthony was from all three levels, but, once again; just a handful of players would have an upper hand against Allen Iverson. Iverson featured some of the deadliest moves and handles ever, and was a guy that no single defender in the world could ever stop (just ask Michael Jordan). When in need of a bucket, you just put the rock on Iverson’s hands.
Edge: Allen Iverson
LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant
There’s always been a huge debate on who’s better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and truth to be told, we just couldn’t choose one over the other. On one hand, Bryant’s killer mentality, scoring ability, determination to win and ability to lead make him one of the best players in the history of the game, but James’ unique skill set and legacy have made him the most dominant and influential player since being drafted in 2003.
Peja Stojakovic vs. Chris Bosh
We just don’t talk about Peja Stojakovic enough. Stojakovic was a deadly scorer and one of the most consistent sharpshooters in the league a couple of decades ago. Still, Chris Bosh’s skill set, two-way influence and ability to embrace a lesser role after being his team’s go-to-guy made him one of the most underrated players ever. Bosh could stretch the floor or play below the rim, and it’s a shame he’s unable to suit up now as he’d be a perfect center for today’s game.
Edge: Chris Bosh
Jermaine O’Neal vs. David West
There was a couple of years were Jermaine O’Neal surged as one of the league’s most feared defensive big men, but his prime was pretty short, to be honest. On the other hand, David West was able to constantly be a factor in both sides of the court for every one of his teams. He was a master of the mid-range shot, a pesky defender, and a very physical player. O’Neal was great, but West was a superior ball handler and scorer.
Edge: David West
When it comes to the second unit, the 1996 Superteam has a huge upper hand. Not only they feature standout scorers of the likes of Allen and Marbury, but big men of the likes of Marcus Camby and Ilgauskas to protect the rim.
Superteam 2003, on the other hand, doesn’t offer much besides some lights out shooting from Kyle Korver and Matt Bonner, and some guys that are way more physical than talented in Collison, Howard and Pachulia.
1996 Superteam: Scoring
Superteam 1996 features some of the greatest scorers in the history of the game. Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant playing off the ball while Nash runs the offense is just something we dream of watching. Stojakovic is a light out shooter and if that isn’t enough, you can just bring Marbury and Ray Allen off the bench.
2003 Superteam: Balance
While they don’t have a true point guard, they have one of the best playmakers ever in LeBron. Also, Wade, Bron and Bosh are all solid defenders when locked in, not to mention West’s grit. If they’re in need of a bucket, Carmelo Anthony is the team’s go-to-guy, let alone LeBron and Wade and the chemistry they showed during his Miami Heat era.
1996 Superteam: Defense
Other than Kobe, Jermaine O’Neal, Camby and Ilgauskas, Superteam 1996 doesn’t feature good defenders. Yes, Nash has quick hands and was deadly in passing lanes, but wasn’t able to stay in front of quicker guards. Iverson wasn’t committed in defense, and they could be easily lit from three-point territory.
2003 Superteam: Depth
While Superteam 2003 features one of the most talented starting fives ever, they don’t have much to turn to in their second unit. Neither Hinrich or Bonner could consistently lead a team’s offensive role, and an injury may be lethal for this kind of short squad, especially if we’re talking about a 7 game series.
Having said all of this, I do believe Superteam 1996 has an upper hand on a 7 game series thanks to their depth. Yes, they’re going to struggle to get stops, but they’re also going to have a lot of firepower and offensive weapons to make up for it. Superteam 2003 will rely too much on what LeBron is capable of doing, and Kobe Bryant was ruthless when guarding him. Also, a 1-2 punch of Iverson and Bryant can’t lose. It just can’t.