Writing on ESPN’s Media Zone Water Cooler, Daugherty, now an ESPN NASCAR analyst, said, “It’d be very difficult matching up and defending LeBron, much like the problems we had to guard Michael Jordan. LeBron continues to groom his outside shot, being able to make 15- to 18-footers, and that’s what’s making the difference in him being the player he is today as opposed to the player he was three years ago.
“If we played them, and he started making 18-foot shots consistently, he’d be a problem. But I think we could have altered some of his shots, and we could have thrown a couple of really top-notch defenders at him. Larry Nance could guard out on the perimeter, he could guard a 3 or a 4, and Hot Rod Williams was an excellent defender. When you got past them to go to the basket, the game was still on because they could come from behind you and block your shot.”
Daugherty, the No. 1 pick in the 1986 draft whose career was cut short by a back injury, thinks he and Mark Price would have given the current Cavs some problems, running their perfect pick-and-roll, which would have drawn center Zydrunas Ilgauskas away from the basket.
But he said Ron Harper would have been the X-factor.
“Ron was a very, very difficult opponent for anyone,” Daugherty wrote. “You can ask Michael Jordan. When we traded Ron, Michael said that’s the best thing we could have ever done for the Bulls. Ron was very good at moving and defending the basketball, he was a good rebounder, and he could score at different angles, outside or inside.
“LeBron offers all kinds of problems for anyone who has to guard him, but I think with our basketball team, especially if we had Ron Harper, there’s just no way that they could have matched up with us to stop our offense because we were too efficient.”
Here’s the thing, I’m sympathetic to Brad’s argument. Nance and Williams protecting the rim, the Price-Daugherty pick-and-rolls, Harper wrecking havoc on both ends… that’s a nice team.
But I do believe he’s wrong.
Part of the problem is, that Cavs squad wasn’t together long enough to become a great team. The team that won 57 games in 88-89 and lost on The Shot would’ve lost to this Cavs team (they were too young). The 91-92 team (also 57 wins) would fare a little bit better, but by that time they didn’t have Ron Harper (as I punch myself in the face) and Price was coming off major knee surgery.
You keep that core (Price, Harper, Nance, Hot Rod and Daugherty) together and lord knows what they do or how far they go. But they were never in their primes with each other. Harper got booted and both Price and Daugherty got hurt.
But yes, a healthy, in their prime core of Price, Harper, Nance, Williams, Daugherty and Ehlo would give these Cavs a run. Hell, they’d give anyone a good run, that’s what makes that era so bittersweet, those nagging “what might’ve beens.”
But I don’t see current squad losing to either the 88-89 or 91-92 teams. First off, there’s LeBron. There’s no answer for that dude. This squad also much better defensively and they’d make Price and Brad expend some energy on the defensive end by chasing around Mo and following Z out to the 3pt line. Plus, the current Cavs could stick Delonte on Harper and let LeBron coast against Mike Sanders or Winston Bennett (or whoever Lenny Wilkens would start so Hot Rod could come off the bench).
All that being said, I would give up major body organs to be able to watch a seven game series between these two squads.