Members of Detroit’s last championship basketball team have been making headlines recently. First, former Piston forward Tayshaun Prince said the Pistons of the mid-2000s era could have won four titles if they had drafted Carmelo Anthony over Darko Milicic with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Former teammate Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton decided to see Prince’s hypothetical and raise him one more. What if the 2004 Pistons would have played against this year’s Golden State Warriors squad that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green?
“It would be no comparison. We can guard every position. Every guy from our point guard to our five, can guard any position. We were big. We were long.”
Whether somebody thinks the Pistons or Warriors would win (the Warriors would), is irrelevant to the insulting additive “it would be no comparison”. I fully understand Hamilton is going to always side with the team he won a championship with, as he should, but to think it wouldn’t be close is an insane stretch. The ’04 Pistons were superior defensively, no question, but there’s also no doubt that this Warriors offense blows the Pistons out of the water, and it can be argued that the Warriors defense is better than the ’04 Pistons offense, giving the Warriors the slight edge overall.
Another point that can’t be ignored when dealing with hypothetical in sports is that evolution of the game. Basketball is not only played faster today, but the flow of the game and the offenses is much more open. There’s also not as much aggressive play that’s tolerated by the officials today as there was in 2004. An important caveat Prince threw into his support of Hamilton’s claim:
“It depends on what the rules are. Because back when we played, we could play hands-on, physical. As you can see from the Pacers rivalries and all of the rivalries we had back in the day, we were scoring in the high 70s, low 80s. We were physical. So now if you play this style of play, where they’re running and gunning and touch fouls and things like that, all of sudden we would start getting in foul trouble because back when we played, we were very, very aggressive on defense.”
It’s impossible to compare eras in any sport, and it’s mind-boggling when former or current athletes try to do so. Interesting enough though, the current crop of Warriors, and the mid-2000s Pistons teams do have some similarities. Both won titles after years of climbing the hill to get there, went back to the Finals to attempt a repeat, and lost in heartbreaking fashion in Game 7.
The only reason this hypothetical hurts so much is not because we will never get to see the offensive juggernaut of the Warriors go up against the defensive juggernaut of the Pistons, but rather because the basketball world gets robbed of the inevitable Draymond Green/Rasheed Wallace altercation that would take place every single time down the floor.