The Los Angeles Lakers are the second-winningest franchise in NBA history, and while they haven’t been able to replicate their past success over the last 5 seasons or so, its history has always made them a team every big-name free agent wants to play for.
Therefore, the Lakers have always found a way to put together some really strong rosters, and after some rebuilding seasons and a lot of struggles, Jeannie Buss and Rob Pelinka have assembled the latest Lakers Dream Team.
But, how could it fare compared to other great Lakers team? Like the 2000-01 squad that beat Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers 4-1 on the NBA Finals? Let’s break it down:
Point Guard: Ron Harper
Ron Harper was a tailor-made point guard for Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. He wasn’t a ball-dominant player and was really quick when it came to playing off-ball and was a solid defender as well. Also, he really made the most of the space the Lakers’ crowded frontcourt opened up for his drives through the lane.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Back in 2001, Kobe Bryant was just getting started, but he was already showing glimpses of greatness by taking a step forward as one of the league’s most dominant scorers. He could do it all and was playing like a veteran despite only being in the league for 4 years. Also, he had already tasted glory and wanted to win his second straight NBA Championship.
Small Forward: Rick Fox
Rick Fox played a major part on the Laker’s success during their three-peat, even though most people don’t seem to give him enough credit for it. He even hit the Championship-winning shot against the Pacers, and he was an incredibly accurate three-point shooter as well, leading the team in that regard.
Power Forward: Horace Grant
Horace Grant wasn’t asked to do much for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he brought his Championship experience from the Phil Jackson Chicago Bulls to California and his top-notch defense did most of the talking for him. Also, with Shaq there, he didn’t need to have many touches on offense as well.
Center: Shaquille O’Neal
And finally, the Lakers relied on the most dominant big man to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood, Shaquille O’Neal, who was still in his prime and torching opposing centers on both ends. Next to Kobe, they were the strongest 1-2 punch in the NBA since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Bench: Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, Isiah Rider, Tyronn Lue
The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t actually have the deepest team or the most talented second unit, but Phil Jackson put together a bench full of hard-working and quite smart players that really understood the game.
Robert Horry’s best years were already behind him but he was still an instrumental part of the team with his top-tier defense, while Shaw’s playmaking and Fisher’s and Rider’s shooting helped Bryant and Shaq get an occasional breather. As for Tyronn Lue, he was a solid role player, but most people remember him thanks to Iverson’s stepover.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo is no longer the lockdown defender he once was, but he’s a pesky backcourt stopper that can really get in his opponent’s head. Also, he’s still a pass-first kind of point guard and one of the craftiest playmakers’ ever, so having him running the point for your team is always a plus.
Shooting Guard: Danny Green
Danny Green is an elite backcourt defender and signing him was a huge move by the Los Angeles Lakers. Even when his streaky shot isn’t falling, he always finds a way to be valuable for his team, either with his passing, his rebounding or his great defense. He’s a prime 3-and-D player.
Small Forward: LeBron James
What can we say about LeBron James that hasn’t been said before? He’s the ultimate point-forward, and while he’s no longer committed in the defensive end of the floor, he could still play lockdown defense when he wants to. He does a little bit of everything and does it perfectly, and his durability and brains make him one of the greatest ever.
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has a lot to prove this season. He’s finally playing for a big market team, he’s finally got a top-tier supporting cast, so it’s time to back it up. He’s one of the best two-way players in the game and could be in the mix for both MVP and DPOY every year.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins
Talking about players that have a lot to prove, DeMarcus Cousins will also play with a chip on his shoulder during his first year with the Lakers. He’s got the determination to prove that he’s still an elite scorer and rebounder, and there’s no better stage to do so than the legendary Staples Center.
Bench: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee, Jared Dudley
The Lakers’ strength also relies on their depth, with Quinn Cook and Kentavious-Caldwell Pope at the backcourt, a duo that can get hot from three-point land in the blink of an eye, and can also hold their own on the defensive end.
Jared Dudley and JaVale McGee will lock down the fort while the starters get a breather with their great defense, while Kyle Kuzma will lead the way off the bench as their 6th man, and could even play as a small-ball center when needed.
Obviously, basketball has come a long way over this almost two decades, so with today’s rules and pace, it’s probable that the modern-day Lakers would have an upper hand over Phil Jackson’s legendary squad.
The point guard battle is almost tied, but Rondo’s playmaking gives them the edge, as well as the ability to have multiple ball-handlers on the floor at once with LeBron James also running the offense.
Kobe Bryant would definitely ask to guard LeBron James and he proved to be one of the few guys capable of containing him back in the day, so I wouldn’t dare to choose one over the other here.
When it comes to the frontcourt, we can bet our houses that we’d be seeing a blood bath between both teams, with Grant, Davis, Cousins, and O’Neal all being extremely physical players that could play finish through contact and protect the rim.
Both teams have really strong second units, but the modern-day Lakers are clearly more talented to Phil Jackson’s team, although the ladder proved to be more than capable of working as a whole and contribute to 3 Championships.
At the end of the day, we tend to believe that the 2000-01 team would take this game home by a slight margin, mostly because of Shaq’s and Kobe’s competitive nature. When locked in, both were completely unstoppable, and the modern-day Lakers just don’t have a big man capable of locking down Shaq’s drives and you know Kobe would do anything in the world to take LeBron down.