So this is what NBA fans are going to spend their summer on: Creating Super Teams to challenge the Warriors (come on Boston, build something!) and listening to former players defend their turf and say their team could beat the 2016-2017 Warriors.
Q: Do you see any comparisons between the 2004 Pistons and teams today?
Wallace: “Oh, we’d run through them. Not even close. We play defense.”
Q: Mike Brown compared the defense of today’s Warriors and that Pistons team. Do you agree?
Wallace: “I’d agree to a certain point. But I think the Warriors’ defensive strategy is, I’ma put up more shots than you. And if you try to match that, then you assed out because they got exceptional shooters.
“So that’s their whole defensive thing. I don’t call it good defense if the man came down and he shot a jump shot or shot a three and missed it, and the Warriors went back down to the other end and scored it.
“That’s not good defense, and that’s what happens a lot in this game now. They’re not shutting nobody down. Even though you can’t shut a scorer down—you can slow him down.
“With the way that we played in Detroit, we’d lock [players] down. The things that we did in Detroit will never be done again.
“Our record of holding seven teams under 70 points will never be done again.”
Surely there are some folks out there who might equate this hypothetical matchup to when the New York Giants, riding an aggressive defense, throttled the mighty Patriots offense in the Super Bowl. A historic upset.
That wouldn’t happen here.
My push back would be that while those Pistons did indeed play great defense, they played in one of the worst down periods of modern NBA history.
In 2003-2004: Only two teams averaged over 100 points per game. Five teams averaged in the 80s. This year, 29 teams averaged 100+ points per game.
In 2003-2004: Only two teams attempted 20+ three-pointers a game. This year, all 30 teams did.
And then this one is big: 2003-2004 was a transition year among NBA stars. Look back just two years earlier: Prime Shaq (27-10), Prime Chris Webber (24-10) late-career Karl Malone (22-8), late-career Gary Payton (22-9).
By 2003-2004, the league had some awesome 25-and-under talents on the rise – Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James – but with the exception of Kobe, none of them got out of the 1st round of the playoffs (if they even made it).
This isn’t to denigrate those 2004 Pistons or their title, just to add context to the season. Their title was sandwiched between two Spurs titles. San Antonio was in the midst of a three-titles-in-five-seasons run.
As for on the court, the 2003-2004 Pistons did have many of their best players in their 20s, unlike the 1996 Bulls. Rip Hamilton was 25; their best defender, Tayshaun Prince was 23; Rasheed Wallace was 29; Chauncey Billups, a very good defender, was 27.
This won’t be a popular opinion, but a team with LeBron/Kyrie/Kevin Love doesn’t have the offense to beat these Warriors, how would that Pistons team? This isn’t similar to the Bulls case – different hand check rules! – and I think the Warriors would sweep them.