Statistics tell us today's NBA teams would beat the 1996 Bulls
- The 1996 Chicago Bulls are considered the best NBA team ever.
- But since that era, players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled than ever before.
- They're statistically superior and more competitive, so teams today could beat the '96 Bulls.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Who do you think would win a game between legendary NBA champions the 1996 Chicago Bulls and 2019's worst NBA team, the New York Knicks? OK, the answer is pretty obvious, but the game could be a lot closer than you think.
Yes, the '96 Bulls are arguably the best ever. Michael Jordan was at his peak, and he was complemented by NBA all-stars Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman and 3-point-shoot-out champion Steve Kerr.
But there's been a lot of change in the NBA since then. Players are bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled than ever before. And, when you look at the numbers, current NBA teams could totally beat the '96 Bulls.
Let's first take a look at the stats. Offensive rating is how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. The '96 Bulls averaged an impressive 115.2 points per 100 times they had possession of the ball.
Defensive rating is how many points a team's opponent scores per 100 possessions. The '96 Bulls allowed an average of 101.8 points per 100 of their opponents' possessions.
Net rating is the difference between offensive rating and defensive rating. A positive net rating shows how many points a team is outscoring its opponents per 100 possessions, giving the Bulls plus 13.4. Let's compare this to three teams from 2019's NBA.
First up, the worst team in 2019, the New York Knicks. Offensive rating: 104.5. Defensive: 113.7. And their net rating was minus 9.2. A worse team, for sure. But the Knicks outperformed the '96 Bulls in three areas: free-throw percentage, rebounds, and blocks. The '96 Bulls are better shooters, but not by as much as you think. They're 4 percentage points better at overall field goals and 6 percentage points better at 3-pointers. We are talking about the best team of all time versus the worst team in the NBA last year. Statistically speaking, it shouldn't be nearly this close. Even worse for the Bulls, it was rumored by everyone, from Spike Lee to Coach David Fizdale himself, that the Knicks were purposely tanking last year to secure a better draft position.
Next, let's take a look at the Los Angeles Clippers. They just majorly upgraded their team by adding Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But in 2019, they were pretty average. Offensive rating: 112.4. Defensive, 111.5. And their net was plus 0.9. We're getting a little warmer here. The 2019 Clippers outperformed the '96 Bills in the same areas as the Knicks. The Bulls are better shooters, but barely. They're 0.7 percentage points better at field goals and 1.5 percentage points better at 3-pointers. All right, we've compared the '96 Bulls to 2019's worst team and an average team.
Now, let's compare them to the best. While the Toronto Raptors won it all in 2019, when it comes to offensive production, the Golden State Warriors were the best team in the NBA. They boasted an offensive rating of 115.9, a defensive rating of 109.5, and a net of plus 6.4. They outperformed the Bulls in just about every stat, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, and blocks.
So what does this all mean? The most important metric here is the net rating. While the '96 Bulls had similar offensive ratings to our three 2019 teams, their net rating was way higher. This means they were equally as productive on offense as the 2019 teams but were absolutely destroying their 1996 competition.
This stat could be read in one of two ways. Either the '96 Bulls were a timeless team, transcendent defenders and gods among men, or, more likely, their competition just wasn't as challenging as today's.
Scott Davis: Players are better today in the NBA than they ever have been.
Narrator: That's Scott Davis, a sports reporter for Business Insider. He doesn't take credit away from the '96 Bulls' accomplishments, but he does think the base level of talent is greater in today's era.
Davis: The player pool is bigger than ever before. You have teams going into the European leagues and the European systems and scouting from the time these guys are younger. The San Antonio Spurs were one of the first teams to do that, and now everyone does it. And now it's expanding even further around the world.
Narrator: For example, Pascal Siakam, who was a huge part of the Raptors' 2019 NBA championship run, is originally from Cameroon. He was found by the Basketball Without Borders program, which wasn't founded until 2001.
In addition to wider and deeper pools of players, it's the way basketball is played today that has produced more skilled individuals and teams.
Davis: The rise of analytics has changed what the best ways to score are, so that's 3-pointers, shots at the rim, and free throws. Teams are designing ways to get players their shots. So, in turn, the players are becoming a little bit more skilled because of that. Everyone has to be able to shoot now, and you don't have just big men learning to go in the post and post up, and that's all they do. They're spreading the floor, they're learning to cut and pick and screen and be able to pass. The whole game has changed from what it was. Players are more athletic, and their overall skill sets that's required are just greater.
Narrator: The '96 Bulls' offensive rating would put them in third place in today's NBA. But, if their competition more closely resembled today's, their offensive production couldn't have been as remarkable. But don't take it from me. Here's what one of the greatest players of all time had to say at 2019's NBA Awards.
Larry Bird: You know, the one thing that I see happens often is you see these old, broken-down NBA players talk about their era, and how great they were back then, and the players today are not as good as they were back then. That's crazy, man.