Last year, when Golden State Warriors broke the 72-10 regular season record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team, comparisons were drawn between the two eras. Defenses and offenses have become far more sophisticated in today’s game, while the rules of the NBA allowed for a more physical competition in the 90’s. In an article written by John Starks, shooting guard of the New York Knicks, to the Player’s Tribune, he details the 5 toughest players to guard in the 1990’s.
- Mitch Richmond
A combination of power and finesse, Mitch Richmond would overpower smaller guards in this era. His post-up game, along with a 6’5, 220-pound frame, made it very difficult for a smaller John Starks to guard him. Starks had to use his quickness to cut him off while playing physical to try and deny Mitch the ball.
2. Steve Smith
A tall 6’8 guard with a smooth shooting stroke, Steve Smith’s game is similar to the game of a player in the modern NBA. Although he had a decent post-up game, Smith preferred to play off the perimeter. However, with the hand check rules back then, Starks was able to somewhat slow Smith down by playing tight, physical defense.
3. Clyde Drexler
An athletic freak, Clyde Drexler was nearly impossible to slow down when there was a lane. However, he often preferred certain spots over others. He relied on certain scouting reports, such as one that said Drexler often goes left but rarely pulls up. To guard Drexler, Starks would often close him out and force him left into a jumper.
4. Michael Jordan
According to Starks, Michael Jordan is actually the easiest to guard on this list. While this may sound preposterous, it does have some reason to it. Jordan’s game, in his prime, was often filled with isolation. Jordan didn’t need to outrun or use screens to beat a defender – he was simply too good for this. Because of this, Starks never exhausted too much energy while guarding Jordan. Although he failed many times trying to guard Jordan, Starks is glad he had the opportunity.
5. Reggie Miller
The hardest to guard on this list, Reggie Miller had quite the rivalry against Starks. Reggie is by no means the strongest or fastest player on this list, but he is arguably one of the most dominant off-ball players the game has ever seen. Starks often had to chase Reggie the entire game, going through hard screens and trying to cover lanes. Additionally, when Reggie gets hot, he is nearly impossible to stop.
Read Paul Pierce’s version of the 2000’s here: http://popularplaybook.com/nba/nbas-5-toughest-players-guard-according-paul-pierce/