Shaquille O'Neal made waves Wednesday when he claimed the Warriors would be a "six or seven seed" in his era. This came in response to Draymond Green's comments that he and Steph Curry would have worked The Big Diesel in the pick-and-roll.
O'Neal's claim is peak old man yells at young people while trying to win a sports debate. "Look at all the all-time great teams and Hall of Famers I played against, there's no way the new greats could have won as I did."
Look, debating across eras is a tough and subjective exercise that leads to mind-numbing debate. But, for the sake of Shaq's point, let's do a quick look at how the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, led by O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, would matchup against the 2016-17 Warriors.
From a pure talent and playing style standpoint, there's little doubt Curry, Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson eclipse the historic greatness of Bryant and O'Neal. Those Lakers are one of the greatest teams in NBA history, but, like most great teams of yesteryear, there is a big talent drop-off after the dynamic duo of O'Neal and Bryant.
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Regardless, let's take a look:
Starting Five and key rotation players
G Steph Curry
G Klay Thompson
F Kevin Durant
F Draymond Green
C Zaza Pachulia
F Andre Iguodala
F Matt Barnes
G Shaun Livingston
G Derek Fisher
G Kobe Bryant
F Rick Fox
F Horace Grant
C Shaquille O'Neal
The Warriors' Shaq problem
As both O'Neal and Green noted, the Lakers legend would have eaten the Warriors alive.
O'Neal is one of the most dominant players in NBA history. During the 2000-01 season, O'Neal averaged 28.7 points and 12.7 rebounds. Firmly in his peak, O'Neal was an absolute force of will that only could be slowed down by his putrid free throw shooting.
At 7-foot-1, 325 pounds Shaq was nearly impossible to stop on the block and also was a fearsome presence on defense. When protecting the paint, that is.
O'Neal even went on "The Frank Caliendo Podcast" and said he would've "laid Steph Curry's little a-- out a few times" if the two teams had played.
Shaq thinks his three-peat Lakers would beat Steph's Warriors and MJ's Bulls squads.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 14, 2020
Facts or 🧢? pic.twitter.com/INmseeJPwV
That leads us to Part 2.
Shaq's Warriors problem
While O'Neal would obliterate the likes of Pachulia and Green down low, he would be played right off the court on the other end.
As Green noted, the Warriors going small and putting O'Neal in a pick-and-roll with either Curry, Thompson or Durant is certain death. O'Neal would've been flambeed on any switch and would have surrendered several open 3s to three of the best shooters of all time.
Couple that with Curry and Durant's ability to draw fouls and it's hard to see how O'Neal stays on the court for the 40 minutes the Lakers would need him.
Kobe was just becoming Kobe
The young Black Mamba was fearless in his fourth NBA season. Greatness was upon him. Everyone could sense it.
But like Luke Skywalker when he met Darth Vader on Endor, he was not a Jedi yet.
Bryant averaged 28.5 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting from the field, but he shot only 30 percent from beyond the arc. When O'Neal was out of the game, Bryant would take over, giving everyone a glimpse of the ascension he was destined to make.
While Bryant became an all-time great and the 2000-01 season was the beginning of his peak, he wasn't fully the Black Mamba. Much like when 23-year-old Durant put on a show in the Oklahoma City Thunder's loss to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012, Bryant would be going up against a pair of all-time greats at their peak while he was yet to reach his.
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Death From Beyond The Arc
The 2000-01 Lakers were an all-time great team. Kobe is a top-five player in my eyes with Shaq coming in not far behind. They went 15-1 in the playoffs and ran over everyone in their path.
All of that can be true.
But if the 2016-17 Warriors were teleported the court with those Lakers, playing the way basketball is played now, the Lakers would be in trouble.
During the 2000-01 season, the Lakers averaged 5.4 made 3-point field goals per game. That Warriors team averaged 12. That's a difference of 21 points (I know, I'm great at math).
To put the Lakers' issue further into perspective, Fisher led the Lakers in 3-point percentage at 39.7 with Fox close behind him at 37.3. After them, Robert Horry (34.6 percent) is the only player who averaged 20 or more minutes per game who shot over 34 percent.
Thompson (41.4), Curry (41.1) and Durant (37.5) have too much firepower for the Lakers to withstand.
The Slim Reaper
If the Warriors need a trump card in this debate, it's Kevin Durant. Who is going to guard Durant? Fox? George?
Even if the Lakers put Bryant, who was good on-ball defender when he wanted to be, on Durant, that still a matchup the Warriors would have the upper hand in.
Durant's arsenal is unstoppable in today's game and it's hard to see the Lakers finding an answer for a 7-foot assassin with silky handles and a quick trigger.
The Lakers were a great team, but sorry Shaq. This one's a wrap.
The Lakers might get one or two because of the greatness of Bryant and O'Neal, but it goes no further than six.