1. Steph thinks the 16-1 Warriors would beat the 72-10 Bulls… in six
In a GQ video feature this week, the two-time MVP responded to a fan question on how he thinks the 2017 Warriors would stack up against Michael Jordan and the 1996 Bulls. Curry said he “absolutely” believes the Dubs would beat the Bulls. “Obviously, we’ll never know, but you put us on paper with them… I like our chances. I’d say Dubs in 6 too.”
Curry was part of the 2017 Warriors, so of course he’s a bit biased. He’ll probably give the same answer if you pit of any of his three championship teams against any team.
It’s a fun debate to have, but it was a much different game back then, with the Bulls taking only 16.5 three-point attempts per game compared to the Dubs’ 31.2. Then there are changes in the hand-check and illegal defense rules that favored more perimeter-oriented teams like Golden State.
I guess the question really is, which rules apply? If it’s 1996 rules, then the Bulls would smoke the Warriors. Fo-fo-fo. If it’s 2017 rules, then Curry may be right. Maybe the Warriors’ death lineup runs the Bulls out of the court. Maybe the Bulls, who only had Jordan averaging over 20 points, just do not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Warriors featuring KD, Curry, and Klay Thompson.
But retrofitting the 1996 Bulls team bus with a flux capacitor is still more interesting (than vice versa) because the Bulls would’ve had the personnel to defend the Dubs—Dennis Rodman would cover KD, Scottie Pippen would hound Curry, while Jordan took on Klay. On offense, Phil Jackson would probably start Toni Kukoc over Luc Longley to stretch the floor—and maybe Kukoc plays like the proto-Luka that he was in Europe.
I think Pippen on Curry would be pivotal and changes the complexion of the series; that and Curry’s history of choking in close Finals games. We’ll never know, but one thing is for sure: I’m never betting against apex predator Jordan.
You know one thing that this debate inadvertently answers, though? The GOAT discussion. Because you’ll never hear whether the 2012 Heat, 2016 Cavs or 2020 Lakers would’ve beaten any of Jordan’s title teams.
2. Hawks’ Cam Reddish trade may be prelude for bigger deals
The underperforming Atlanta Hawks traded their 2019 lottery pick Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill, and a 2025 second-rounder to the New York Knicks in exchange for a 2022 protected first-round pick and Kevin Knox.
Reddish and Hill played well in limited minutes during the Hawks’ surprising run to the conference finals last year, but the team hasn’t been able to build on that success and are currently sitting outside the play-in spots in the now-competitive East. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk seems like an aggressive dealer and is not content with waiting the season out, unlike the Blazers and the post-Danny Ainge Celtics.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger posited that the trade could be a prelude to a much bigger deal. What could that possibly be? Well, Marc Stein reported last week that the Hawks have emerged as a surprise suitor for Ben Simmons.
If it does happen, then it couldn’t get any more ironic. It was Simmons’s performance in Philly’s second-round loss to the Hawks last year that started the whole mess he’s in. He had a deer in the headlights look every time he touched the ball in the fourth quarter because he was afraid of getting fouled and going to the free throw line, which culminated in him infamously passing up a wide-open dunk in Game 7. This resulted in teammate Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers essentially throwing him under the bus, and precipitated the end of Simmons’s relationship with the Sixers and the City of Brotherly Love.
3. Pistons void Bol Bol trade
The Pistons agreed to a deal with the Denver Nuggets this week to acquire Bol Bol in exchange for guard Rodney McGruder and a second-round pick. But Detroit voided the deal because Bol did not pass the team’s physical.
Bol was a YouTube sensation but slid to the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft and never really broke into the Nuggets’ rotation. Curiously for the Pistons, this is the third trade they’ve voided due to a failed physical, according Keith Smith of Sportrac.
Among the trades that the Pistons voided involved former Rockets center Donatas Motiejunas, who was critical of the Pistons after news broke that the team once again voided a deal. He said that the Pistons were “destroying young players’ names and futures” and called on the NBPA to take action. Motiejunas played for the Pelicans and Spurs after the Pistons trade was nixed and now plays in Europe.
4. Kyrie loophole?
A possible loophole for the Brooklyn Nets to get Kyrie Irving to play in home games was floated this week. Basically, the team could just pay the fine of $5,000 every time Irving plays at home.
But Adrian Wojnarowski—the reigning, defending, and undisputed NBA Insider champ—was quick to douse the fire. He reminded everyone of the NBA’s memo before the start of the season that “teams must follow local laws and players who don’t comply won’t be able to play.”
This means that intentionally violating New York’s vaccine mandate and simply paying the fine wouldn’t fly with the league. The NBA’s position is a bit tenuous, given that the NBA and NBPA agreed that the league would not impose a vaccine mandate on players. Instead, the league has deferred to the discretion of the teams’ home cities. Since that’s the route the NBA chose, then those local laws should be allowed to operate as-is—loopholes notwithstanding. The NBA memo cited by Woj effectively operates as an indirect vaccine mandate which goes against the spirit of the agreement between the NBA and NBPA.
Listen, Vaccines are safe and effective, and Irving is a dumbass. But these authoritarian measures are becoming downright absurd and infuriating. I mean, just look at the Novak Djokovic fiasco.
5. Bad week for the Bulls
Fresh off a nine-game winning streak and being unanimously named as the best Eastern Conference team of the first half by our Ballers crew, the Chicago Bulls got shellacked in back-to-back games by legit NBA title contenders. They lost be 26 points to the Nets, then followed it up with a 42-point drubbing at the hands of the Warriors. So, yeah, not a good week for the “Bulls are contenders” crowd. To be fair, our first half picks were as of midseason and wasn’t a verdict on whether the Bulls are legitimate contenders (and I’m not convinced they are).
They also lost All-Star Zach LaVine early in the Warriors game due to a knee injury, but there is an encouraging update from the team. MRI revealed that there was no structural damage to his left knee and that he is not expected to miss significant time.
Ja Morant missed about a month after his non-contact knee injury early in the season, so LaVine could be looking at a similar recovery time.
6. Throwback video of the week
Bol Bol’s dad, Manute, was famous in the 80s to 90s for being one of the tallest players in the NBA, standing at 7-foot-7. He played in the NBA for 10 seasons and led the league in blocked shots twice. While not a full-blown unicorn, he also once hit six three-pointers in a half.