(CBS) A member of the Bulls’ first three championships in the 1990s, B.J. Armstrong has weighed in on a hot-button debate in basketball circles: Who would win a series between the dynasty-era Bulls and modern-day Golden State Warriors?
Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls won six championships in an eight-year stretch in the 1990s. Led by Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, these Warriors are seeking their second title in three seasons and have some believing they’re the best team in basketball history after a 67-win regular season has been followed by a perfect 14-0 start in the playoffs.
In Armstrong’s mind, the most crucial element when dissecting the hypothetical matchup is remembering the style of play and rules of each era. In his mind, each team has been built brilliantly for its era, but he also calls these Warriors “as good as I’ve seen.”
“Golden State, they’re a machine offensively,” Armstrong said in an interview on CBS Sports Radio. “They really can take advantage of the rules of today’s game. They get up and down, they play with the proper spacing, (and) they play the game at a pace where it forces you to play (their style). If you shoot a two, they’re going to shoot a three – and this team can shoot as well as anyone I’ve seen as far as a group. I don’t think you can really compare because if that team or those teams played in today’s era, they weren’t constructed to play that way the game is played today. But I also don’t think the Warriors (were) put together to play in the ’90s.
“So I think it would be a very interesting matchup. But again, I think it would be very tough for either one of those teams to play in the different eras. And saying all of that, this Warriors team is as good as I’ve seen. They are a very, very good team – and not (just) offensively. Defensively is the place where I start with a team. They’re very consistent. They don’t get enough credit for what they do on the defensive end because offensively they’re so high-powered. But defensively, they play the right way, they rebound the ball, and more importantly, they share the ball with one another. Their star players are some of the best passers on the team, which makes them even that much more potent to play and play against.”
Responding to the hypothetical matchup, several Vegas oddsmakers have said these Warriors would be favored over those Bulls. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook would peg the Warriors as 6.5-point favorites, their manager told ESPN.com.
It sounds like Armstrong might agree.
“I’ll be very clear: I don’t think that that Bulls team could play in this era,” he said. “I really don’t. I don’t see the matchups. Look, Jordan is going to be Jordan in any area you put him in, but he’s going to be occupied guarding Klay Thompson. Jordan is going to have to stay at home and not wander around defensively against Klay Thompson because Klay Thompson is an explosive scorer and he’s a catch-and-shoot guy, which is one of the hardest, more difficult guards because he’s constantly in motion.
“If you put Scottie Pippen (on) Kevin Durant, I like that matchup. I don’t think that is a matchup (in which) Scottie can just dominate Kevin Durant because Kevin Durant is 7-foot over there.
“The X-factor is clearly Jordan. But Jordan was shooting twos, those guys are shooting three, and by my count, three is more than two. So I don’t think this is something where we’re just going to crush them. No, that would be a very difficult matchup because of the way they play. They shoot more threes than any team I’ve ever seen or played against – and they make them. So it’s going to force those teams or that era to defend a different way. You don’t close out to Steph Curry; you have to run him off the line – and that is very difficult. I don’t see Bill Cartwright switching out on Steph Curry, OK? I don’t see that.
“So I really don’t know, but I will say that (Golden State) provides a lot of problems to defend, and I don’t think those teams in the ’90s had seen someone play like this. I think it would be a very difficult game. Clearly you have a guy like Jordan, but I don’t think Jordan shoots enough threes by today’s standard to really counter what Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are doing on the offensive end.”