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NBA History: A stat geek's look back at the USA Basketball 1992 Dream Team

Their greatness were the stuff of legends, but time may have made some forget just how great they were -- at that period in time.

Jonathan Daniel

Sometimes I can't believe that it's 2013 right now. It makes me feel old when I think about all of the basketball I've seen; all of the seasons I've gotten my hopes up for; all of the lockouts I've lived through; a most of all, all of the players I've seen come and go and retire, and now get into the Hall of Fame. When I look at myself in the mirror and shave I guess I've earned all the grey hairs in my beard because of all the late nights that have come and gone with me watching the game I love. Of course, when I was a pre-teen falling in love with the game I watched the game in a completely different way. Today? With all of our scouting methods, stats, replays, and spreadsheets . . . today I watch the game in an absolutely foreign way than I did back in the 1980s. It's different. It's good. But it helps me better understand where we've come from.

I don't think anyone has done this, and if they have -- then I pity them for having the same crazy mental disability that I have that makes them stay up at night filling in data in Microsoft Excel instead of going to bed. But with all the tools we have now, all the new ways of looking at the game, I've gone back and calculated by hand (well, by computer) the NBA careers of the 12 Dream Team members -- to where they were in their careers after the 1991-1992 NBA Season and Playoffs.

The image of who these guys where back then is highly inaccurate because the image of who these players are today is steeped in myth and legend. We judge them not as who they were in '92, but on their full careers. For people in their 30s this is a fun experience and trip down memory lane. For people in their 20s, people who did not watch the Dream Team live, this may be interesting for them too. (The more I think of it, I really was lucky to watch Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner at their peaks)

Because I'm a huge nerd now I went and calculated the normal-ish stats that we use today for each of these players. I do not know how to calculate PER perfectly so I left it out. Additionally, I was not going to adjust things for pace, or try to figure out the ORTG and DRTG for these guys either. I'm a stats guy, but I also do have other hobbies in life . . .

I did include GO Rating because it really shows that for the most part, each of these guys were absolutely dominant offensive players at this point in their careers. They gave it all up for the greater good, and the lead scorer in the Olympics only scored 14 ppg. For me, personally, it gave me a better appreciation for Michael Jordan, whom I despised; and David Robinson, whom I also felt wasn't as good as his numbers indicated.

So, here are the stats -- and these are CUMULATIVE stats for their regular season games and playoff games combined. (I don't see why the NBA doesn't already do this -- it's really dumb to keep those stats separate -- if you play a lot of playoff games those numbers should count for your all-time totals; you earned it.)


Note: This image opens up in a new window. And wow, some of these guys were really good. These are not their 1991-1992 season stats, these are their full career stats up to the 1991-1992 season. John Stockton almost had a 4:1 assist to turn over ratio, three guys went to the line 9.4 times a game (for every game in their career up to that point), no one was a big three point shooter except Larry, and that really shows you how ahead of the game he was compared to the 'next generation' that came after him. Of course, this was when Magic and Larry were on the downsides of their careers (far from their peaks), and as a result, Malone was better than Magic -- Magic on his way down and Malone at his peak -- in terms of Gestalt Offensive Rating (Go Rating). Jordan? Way better than everyone else, and truly a monster. And yeah, he's precisely 3.5x better than Scottie was on offense.