When Scottie Pippen said that the Chicago Bulls would defeat the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty in six games, it got the wheels turning inside the minds of fans all around the world. These are two of the most prolific dynasties in NBA history. In a hypothetical world that the two would face off, the outcome in the NBA Finals is worth the discussion. We have the three-peat Bulls from 1996-1998 on one side and the Kevin-Durant era Golden State Warriors (2017-2019) on the other.
Pippen claims that the Bulls would take down the Warriors. Pippen was a member of the 72-win Bulls team in 1996, so naturally, his bias is going to be with Chicago. As for the Warriors, Durant joined a team that won 73 games the year before. Despite never breaking the record for wins in any of his years, Durant won two Finals MVPs in three championship appearances.
If these two teams got their chance to shine in the NBA Finals, could the Warriors dynasty take down the Bulls? Let’s take a deeper look.
Starting Lineups And Bench
Starting Lineup: Ron Harper, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman
Bench: Steve Kerr, Scott Burell, Luc Longley, Bill Wellington, Rendy Brown, Dickey Simpkins
The starting lineup for the Bulls comes from the three-peat teams from 1996 to 1998. That means that players like Horace Grant and Will Perdue were left off because they were from the three-peat teams from 1991 to 1993. You have Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, and Dennis Rodman in place instead of the likes of Grant, Bill Cartwright, and BJ Armstrong.
The bench features Steve Kerr, who was one of the best sixth men at the time. Luc Longley gets moved to the bench even though he was considered a starter back in the day. Scott Burrell and Bill Wellington are nice bigs that give the team more depth.
Golden State Warriors
Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green
Bench: Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, David West, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Patrick McCaw, James Michael McAdoo, Matt Barnes
At the time of the Warriors’ heyday, Iguodala was often coming off the bench, but he would start giving the team would employ a smaller lineup. This would move Durant to the power forward position, while Green would have to play center. This lineup was never uncommon as these five players often closed out games during their appearances in the Finals in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Green was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, while Durant was the Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018.
The bench was one of the best at the time. Shaun Livingston was a solid backup point guard, while Ian Clark was an underrated guard at times. Matt Barnes could score in chunks. Zaza Pachulia was the team’s starting center but was more of a bench player when the team played small ball. David West was towards the end of his career, but a solid veteran with All-Star experience.
Ron Harper vs. Stephen Curry
This feels like a major mismatch with Harper having to guard Curry. While Curry is not an All-Defensive player, he is not a terrible defender. Given the lack of offensive power that Harper has, this would be a matchup in Curry’s favor. In today’s NBA, Curry can go off for 40 points on any given night. With Harper’s offense limited in general, he would be a pure defensive workhorse against Curry.
Curry is the greatest shooter of all time. With the three-point line being his domain, Harper would have to play hard man-to-man defense to contain him. Getting six points out of Harper would be a bonus because chasing Curry down all night is surely going to wear him down.
Michael Jordan vs. Klay Thompson
This would be an interesting matchup. For the old-timers, this would have a feel of Michael Jordan taking on Gary Payton. Even with the Glove guarding Jordan, he was still a dangerous scorer. There is no reason to believe that Thompson would shut down Jordan. By the end of the game, Jordan is going to find a way to get at least 30 points.
The flip question would be how Jordan guards Thompson. Jordan was an All-Defensive player in his prime. Thompson would not be able to dribble past Jordan. He would have to rely on the three-point line. We saw Jordan contain the great Reggie Miller, so this feels like a mismatch in favor of Jordan.
Scottie Pippen vs. Andre Iguodala
Pippen is the better overall athlete and that is no disrespect to Andre Iguodala. Pippen is potentially the best wingman when it comes to all dynasties. Pippen can score, rebound, and defend. Pippen never won a Finals MVP only because he was playing with the greatest player in the history of the sport.
Could Iguodala slow down Pippen defensively? That is a very good question because that would be a tough defensive assignment. The Warriors would likely have to play Thompson on Jordan, which would leave their second-best defender on Pippen. Iguodala won a Finals MVP in 2015 for his defense on LeBron James. It would take an effort like that to slow down Pippen.
Toni Kukoc vs. Kevin Durant
Outside of Curry, the Warriors team would need Kevin Durant to play like the man that won the Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018. While Durant gets a lot of flack for joining that Warriors team, he was the best player during those years. Toni Kukoc can’t stop Durant defensively and there is only so much offensively you can do to break even the difference. Kukoc would be like a Kyle Korver on this team given the touches that Jordan and Pippen would need to satisfy their egos.
Durant would take advantage of this mismatch and be able to equalize the points that Jordan would get on the other end. Durant is a three-time scoring leader with the possibility of winning his fourth this year. The scoring battle between Jordan and Durant would be must-watch television.
Dennis Rodman vs. Draymond Green
Are there enough technical fouls to give? These are two of the most boisterous personalities in the history of the game. Dennis Rodman and Draymond Green would find a way to get into a fight within minutes of this game. Maybe, not a fight, but the two would be superior trash talkers, so the two would have to be mic'd up.
This battle is very close to being equal, but Rodman would get the advantage. The Warriors would employ a small lineup, which means Green would have to play the five. Rodman is the superior rebounder, while Green is the better overall player. With Green’s ability to shoot a midrange jumper, it would also force Rodman out of the paint to open up more in the middle. This physical battle is a true war we wish we could have seen today.
Isn’t it obvious? The Bulls have the greatest player in the history of basketball playing for their team. Any time Michael Jordan takes the floor, your team has a chance no matter who you have. These Bulls won a then-record 72 games together. The combination of Jordan and Pippen rolled through some of the greats in Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone. A lot of that came from Jordan, who is a perfect 6-0 in the Finals.
The other advantages include their size. Pippen, Kukoc, and Rodman are all solid bigs. The mismatch in rebounding with Rodman over Green will cause problems for Golden State. Their defense helped them play uptempo and these Bulls are not careless with the ball. With Rodman’s ability to keep Green off the boards, the Bulls are more likely to play at a faster pace because of their ability to outlet the ball and get down the floor.
The scoring tandem of Curry and Durant is better than Jordan and Pippen on paper. While Jordan is a true closer, Curry and Durant are the two leaders in today’s scoring race. The two own a combined six scoring titles. While Jordan is a 10-time scoring champion in his own right, we are talking about tandems and these two are a better 1-2 scoring punch than Jordan and Pippen.
The other advantage is their outside shooting. Curry is the future all-time leader in three-pointers. Durant owns a solid outside shooting stroke. Thompson is a member of the Splash Bros, who revolutionized the three-point shot. Iguodala isn’t terrible, while Green shoots over 30%. Green will force Rodman out to guard him, which could open up more opportunities inside the lane.
Bulls In Six
Pippen said it first, but we have to agree with it. For starters, if you are relying on Iguodala and Green to hit outside shots, then you are relying on too much. Realistically, the Bulls team would allow both players to shoot those shots because it forces Iguodala and Green to beat them and not Curry and Durant. That would allow Rodman to stay and rebound, which would allow the Bulls to win this series in transition.
The Warriors would steal Game 1 because egos and cockiness would take over in Chicago. Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman would believe they were the better team. Instead, Curry and Durant would combine for 70 points and the Warriors would take advantage of an off-shooting Jordan team. The Warriors would win 100-91 and it would ignite fire into the Bulls team.
All it would take is one loss for Jordan to return to his greatness. Jordan then makes Thompson look like a JV defender and scores 45 points in his revenge game. Rodman scores just two points and pulls down a game-high 22 rebounds. It’s an intense fiery matchup, which results in Green getting his first technical foul. Pippen adds 20 points and the Bulls take Game 2 by a score of 112-89.
The Bulls then win Games 3 and 4 with a vintage performance from Jordan and Pippen on offense. Jordan scores 38 points, while Pippen adds 29. Harper scores zero points but holds Curry to 3-of-12 shooting from behind the arc in a dismal 15-point effort. In Game 4, Green’s emotions get the best of him and he gets thrown out. Rodman has his first double-double of the series with 10 points and 18 rebounds. The Bulls outrebound the Warriors as a team and win 98-82.
The Warriors can stave off elimination with a 106-103 thriller. After leading the majority of the game, Curry and Durant lead a comeback by Golden State. Heading into the fourth, the Bulls lead by seven points. In the final four minutes, Curry and Durant scored all of the team’s points, including the go-ahead three-pointer by Curry with seven seconds left. Jordan can get off a potential game-tying shot but is denied by Thompson on a deflection.
In the end, the Bulls close out the Warriors. Jordan scores 41 points, while Kukoc has his best game of the series with 21 points, including seven-three-point shots. Thompson tries to match Kukoc, but Jordan slows him down to a 2-of-11 shooting night behind the arc. The Bulls proved to be the greatest dynasty of all time and prove Pippen’s point that they would win in six.
Final Result: Chicago Bulls vs. Golden State Warriors 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan