Team USA vs The Dream Team, By The Numbers

 

August 12, 2012

By Jonathan Gordon

 

The matchup of your dreams. 1992 Dream Team of the past against today’s 2012 Olympic team. NBA legends, analysts, the majority of the public, and President Obama all seem to give the ’92 team the edge.  Even the beautiful, city (Vegas) has them listed, in a hypothetical game, as 6-point favorites.  This will give you the stats and numbers, both basic and advanced, for both teams. This will not focus on matchups. Going by the numbers will be the preferred route.

 

And nowwwww, ladies and gentlemen…..your staaaartiiiing lineups!

 

                  

          1992   

         2012

PG

MAGIC JOHNSON

CHRIS PAUL

SG

MICHAEL JORDAN

KOBE BRYANT

SF

LARRY BIRD

KEVIN DURANT

PF

CHARLES BARKLEY

LEBRON JAMES

C

PATRICK EWING

TYSON CHANDLER

 

*Note: Magic Johnson did not play in 1992. The fans voted him out of retirement to play in the game.  His stats are approximate measures, based on his performance in ’91 and ’90 and the fact that he took a year off.

 

Before diving into the numbers, a quick point: the Olympic teams of this year (2012's competition) are much, much better than the teams of the past.  This is not looking at which of these two teams would dominate the Olympics.  Likewise, this will not be using Olympic stats for comparisons because the eras are much too different.  Rather, this will compare NBA stats and analyze a game played solely between these two teams.

 

The legends on the 1992 team are some of the best to ever play the game.  The number of All-Stars, Hall of Famers, World Champions, and MVPs on that team are too high to count. However, an All-Star appearance in 1980 is not representative of how a player performs in 1992.  Likewise, for a young player just entering the league, the MVPs in 2000 do not represent his ability in 1992.  Because of all this, it is important that we look at the 1992 season and their performances then; not the (great) accolades of these players’ careers.  Let’s get crunching.

 

There is much being said about the ’92 team being more fundamental.  For every advantage in “fundamentals” the ’92 team has, there is an advantage to the ’12 team for their athleticism.  Today’s players are simply freaks of nature.  Both of these may be true, but it doesn't matter how the team gets the ball through the hoop.  These are two subjective advantages, neither of which can be measured.  Two points equals two points.  Let’s take a look at points. (And rebounds and assists).

 

 

1992

2012

PPG (5)

112.4

114.1

BENCH

138.6

107.7

RBG (5)

42.8

   33.2 

BENCH

46.6

39.6

APG (5)

26.2

   24.3

BENCH

36.6

29

 

Right away, the ’92 bench has an extreme edge on the bench. Part of this results from injuries to Howard, Rose, Aldridge, and Wade, all of whom are absent from this year’s team.  However, we are not here to “what-if”.)  Back to the numbers.   Unfortunately for the ’92 team, your bench is exactly that—your “bench.”  Because these players are not on the court, the greater significance will be placed starting five.  ESPN analysts have all shown the total numbers for these teams, obviously giving the Dream Team an edge.  However, they have failed to recognize the split numbers between the starting rotations.  Basketball is not played 12 on 12.  The bench does provide some valuable relief, however this effect is lessened because all these players are used to playing all, or close to, 48 minutes per game.  Fatigue is less of a factor, especially given the athletic nature and condition of today’s players.  Barring any extreme foul trouble (let the boys play!), the ’92 advantage on the bench is not as great as it seems.  While this effect is lessened, it is still too great to ignore.  The ’12 team (especially the starting five) proves to be slightly better at putting that round ball through the net.  The ’92 team gets the edge in rebounds and assists.  While these are not greatly effective at measuring success, they still count for something.  Though these effects are not as great as they may appear, this combination of a deep bench, rebounding, and assists favors the Dream Team.

 

 

For a more advanced stat, let’s look at offensive and defensive rating.  These are estimates of points produced/allowed per 100 possessions.

 

 

1992

2012

oRATING

580.1

592.5

BENCH

705.8

670.4

dRATING

517.6

  507.1

BENCH

616.1

624.8

 

Here are the 2012 starting five scored more points per 500 possessions and allowed less points per 500 possessions (we added the total ratings).  Once again, the '92 bench reigns supreme.  (Bench totals are based on 7 players/700 possessions.) The '12 team starting rotation takes the edge in both offense and defense.  Because the starting rotation holds greater value than the bench, an edge is given to the '12 team. Win Shares (WS) is a statistic based on the number of wins estimated to be contributed to by that player.  This is a combination of both offense and defense, seemingly providing the best/easiest evaluator for individual performance. For the 2012 team, a projected Win Shares was used, based on the number of wins the player would have contributed to if this season had a full 82 games.

 

 

1992

2012

WS (5)

60

68.457

BENCH

78.7

55.661

 

This statistic also gives the 2012 starters an edge over the ’92 starters.  However, the ’92 bench is still greatly superior to this year’s team. Once again, more significance is placed on the starters.

 

An important aspect to also look at is the nature of the game. How has the game evolved?  What is the difference in scoring, etc.?  Compared to ’92, scoring is WAY DOWN in ‘12.  In 1992, the leading defense held opponents to a shooting percentage of .452.  In 2012, 16 TEAMS had a lower field goal percentage than that.  The leading defense held opponents to .419.  In 1992, the top defense allowed 96.9 points per game.  In 2012, 16 TEAMS gave up fewer points per game.  The top defense allowed only 88.2 points per game.  This all means the top defense in 1992 would simply put up average, middle of the league numbers in today’s league.

 

This makes the ’12 team’s offense even more remarkable.  Pitted against a weaker defense from the ’92 season, these players would put up video-game points…and likely more points than the Dream Team.  Because of their insane ability to score, especially in an era where scoring is at a premium, and their stronger defense, the overall, conclusive edge will be given to the 2012 Olympic Team

 

In a recap, the '92 bench was reward advantages in, rebounding, and assists.  2012 holds the edge in starting rotation, total offense, and total defense.  Because rebounding and assists are not greatly effective measures of success, and because '12 holds the advantage in more important (and statistically advanced) categories...today's winner is....the 2012 Olympic team.