Despite the Golden State Warriors dominance over the past half-decade NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal isn’t convinced that they would beat his Lakers teams of the early 2000s. Shaq and Kobe won 3 titles in a row when they were together and were one of the best duos the game has ever seen.
“I think we’d easily win,” O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports. “Other people might feel different, they (the Warriors) might feel different. But we had one of the best teams of all-time in 2001 when we went 15-1 in the playoffs. We would’ve gone 16-0 but A.I. (Hall of famer Allen Iverson) went off on us and stepped over (former Laker) Ty Lue.”
You could say that Shaq was saying his team would win out of pride and competitiveness, but it’s definitely a good question to ask. Both teams we are comparing were easily the most dominant of their time.
Stephen Curry responds, says Shaq is wrong about his prediction:
“Oh, he’s dead wrong,” Curry said of O’Neal’s comment, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “Of course. We’d beat them. We can go back-and-forth all day.”
While explaining that the two teams are hard to compare (given the time difference), he just couldn’t let it slide.
“For me, I think it’s a tough conversation because I’ve always found it hard to compare eras to each other,” Curry added. “But in terms of having three banners up there and create parallels and comparisons to how they dominated the league through their run to what we’re doing now, I think that speaks a lot on its own. Just in terms of us accomplishing the goal and fulfilling the potential that we have.”
The oddsmaker Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s Jeff Sherman said that the Warriors would be 12.5 point favorites over the Lakers and I wanted to compare the 2 teams to see if I think that is correct.
Ok, so we first need to decide which teams we are using. For the Warriors, we will use the 2016/17 team that went 67-15 and 16-1 in the Playoffs. On the other side, we have the 2000/01 Lakers that went 56-26 and 16-1 in the Playoffs. The Warriors have Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green as their stars. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Obviously, the best player for the Lakers was Shaq. He was right in his prime at 28 and averaged 28.7 points and 12.7 rebounds with 2.8 blocks a game on 57.2% from the floor. During that period in the 00s, he was the most unstoppable force the game has ever seen. Shaq was 7 foot 1 and weighed 325 lbs. Nobody in NBA history could stop Shaq backing down in the post and slamming it down.
The best defender the Warriors have is Draymond Green and although he is very strong for his size and loves playing defense there’s just no way Green could stop Shaq. In a matchup between these 2 teams, Shaq would easily have his way with the Warriors and could score 40+ points on any occasion.
We also have to think about the young Kobe Bryant who in 2000/01 averaged 28.5 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists a night. Kobe had started establishing himself as a top 10 player in the league at that point and was a force to be reckoned with himself. There’s no doubt he would be good against the Warriors but the Dubs have 3 great wing defenders that would make life extremely difficult for him. Durant, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala are great defenders and they could take turns taking Kobe on defense.
For the Warriors, their 3 best players in Thompson, Curry, and Durant would be guarded by Kobe, Rick Fox, and Derek Harper. Kobe was a great defender in his time and Fox and Harper were no scrubs, but they wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the screens that would be set for Curry and Thompson.
The Splash Brothers are simply too good from the outside and would torch the Lakers on offense. With Durant only Horace Grant could have the right combination of size and speed by Grant was 35 at that time. Durant would run rings around him or shoot over him, whatever KD felt like doing.
The Lakers would also not be used to defending the 3 point line on the fastbreak meaning the Warriors would find ample opportunity there. The Lakers would try a much slower pace than the Warriors were used to which would equate to the Lakers having the advantage in a close game in the closing stages.
If the Warriors could push the pace so that Shaq was running back and forth all the time and get Draymond Green to hit a couple of 3s to force Shaq away from the rim the Warriors would definitely beat the Lakers. The advancement of the game plus the shooting from the Warriors would prove too much for the Lakers to handle.
The Warriors could let Shaq dominate in the paint and just defend everyone else. Kobe would have a hard time since the Warriors could throw 3 different defenders on him and the Warriors could make Shaq less effective by taking him away from the basket and forcing him to run to test his fitness.
Although the Lakers would compete the Warriors are definitely favorites in this matchup.