How do the ‘96 Bulls and ‘16 Warriors matchup?

TJ Murbach, Staff Writer

In the 1995-96 season, the Chicago Bulls won a record 72 games. To date, it is the most wins by any team in a single-season in NBA history. After the Golden State Warriors’ astonishing start to the 2015-16 season, the two teams have drawn many parallels and it has raised a great deal of questions about who would win in a head-to-head, best of seven series.


Warriors Scouting Report:

Fueled by the league’s highest team three-point percentage at 42.8 percent, the Warriors have dominated the NBA by winning 45 of their first 49 games. Even though head coach, and Bulls guard during the ‘96 season, Steve Kerr missed the first 43 games of the season due to a back injury, he is still one of the top coaches in the NBA. Last season was his first year as a head coach, and he led the Warriors to a championship.

It is no question that their dynamic offense revolves around last season’s MVP, Stephen Curry. So far this year, Curry averages 29.8 points, 6.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. His all-around production is highlighted by his elite quickness and superb three-point-shooting. Curry and his backcourt partner, Klay Thompson, are ranked first and second respectively in the NBA in total three-pointers made.

To complement the sharpshooting backcourt, Golden State’s frontcourt is led by Draymond Green. Green is one of the most well-rounded players in the NBA, leading the league in triple-doubles with 10.

The x-factor in this hypothetical series for the Warriors is starting small forward Harrison Barnes. Depending on how the Bulls decide to match-up on defense, the 6’8” Barnes, who has almost a 7-foot wingspan, may have a mismatch versus the 6’6” point guard Ron Harper. I would assume the Bulls would put their best perimeter defenders, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, on Curry and Thompson, leaving Harper to guard Barnes. In games that the Warriors win, Barnes shoots 48 percent, but in games that they lose, he only shoots 32 percent. Barnes’ play may make or break the series for Golden State.


Bulls Scouting Report:

The historic 72-win season was dominated by the triangle offense formulated by legendary coach Phil Jackson. The Zen Master revolutionized the game when he popularized the triangle offense, which was centered around three Hall of Famers: Jordan, Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The triangle offense is based on spacing the floor and motion off the ball to generate scoring opportunities without calling set plays. This requires great chemistry and passing, which the Bulls definitely excelled at.

Playing in all 82 of the team’s games, Jordan won the eighth of his 10 career scoring titles, averaging 30.4 points per game. Along with a fluid offense, the Bulls had a stout defense. Three of the five members on the 1995-96 NBA All-Defensive First Team were on the Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman).

To compliment a six-game NBA Finals series win, the Bulls were highly decorated individually as well. Jordan won MVP, Jackson was the Coach of the Year, and Toni Kukoc was awarded Sixth Man of the Year. On top of that, both Jordan and Pippen were named to the All-NBA First Team.

The x-factor for the Bulls is Rodman, who is one of the grittiest and hardest working players of all-time. Rodman led the NBA in rebounding seven consecutive seasons, including ‘96, when he averaged 14.9 boards per game. He is known for keeping possessions alive with offensive rebounds, a stat he led the league in with 356 total in 1996. The Warriors are classified as a small team, so Rodman’s stellar rebounding can drastically swing the advantage in Chicago’s favor. On defense, Rodman will be matched up against Green, who is a triple-double machine. Rodman is an elite interior defender with great athleticism who is more than capable of shutting down Green. Often overshadowed by Jordan and Pippen, Rodman might be the game-changer for the Bulls.


How they match up head-to-head:

‘96 Bulls ‘16 Warriors
Coach: Phil Jackson Coach: Steve Kerr
PG. Ron Harper PG. Stephen Curry
SG. Michael Jordan SG. Klay Thompson
SF. Scottie Pippen SF. Harrison Barnes
PF. Dennis Rodman PF. Draymond Green
C. Luc Longley C. Andrew Bogut
BN. Toni Kukoc BN. Andre Iguodala
BN. Steve Kerr BN. Shaun Livingston
BN. Bill Wennington BN. Festus Ezeli


My Predicted Series Winner:

Although Golden State has an incredibly talented team, the ‘96 Bulls have an upper hand in a head-to-head matchup. While being interviewed in December on ESPN Radio, Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley said, “That Bulls team would kill this little team (the Warriors). Come on, man. Who is going to guard Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan? What about Dennis Rodman?”

The Bulls all-around offense, defense and rebounding would overwhelm the undersized, but unbelievably talented Warriors team. The bottom line is, the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan, would lead the Bulls to a 4-2 series victory.