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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Which team was better the 1987 Lakers or the 2016 Cavaliers?

Which team was better the 1987 Lakers or the 2016 Cavaliers?

1987 Lakers vs. 2016 Cavaliers!
Publish Date: 03/05/2017
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa


How can you compare champions from different eras you might ask? Will today we will do just that and see when comparing the teams who would have won a 7 game series between these two great teams.


1987 Los Angeles Lakers-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

While it is true that during the 1987 season the Eastern Conference was tougher than the Western Conference the West still had some talented teams. The Dallas Mavericks finished with 55 wins and were led by a talented backcourt of Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper. Through in a front court of Mark Aguirre, Sam Perkins, and Detlef Schrempf you have a very talented team that won 55 games. The number two seed in the Eastern Conference in 2016 were the Toronto Raptors, the Raptors were a young and talented team that took the Cavs to six games in the conference finals. Both teams but tough teams in the Finals as the Lakers beat the Celtics in six games in 1987 and the Cavs beat the Warriors in a classic game 7.

EDGE- 2016 Cavaliers


Position by Position

PG: Kyrie Irving vs. Magic Johnson

Irving is a tremendous offensive talent who during the 2015-16 season averaged 19.6 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.7 apg. Irving’s not a very good defensive player and that maybe a big understatement. Plus at 6’3 he gives up six inches to Magic Johnson. Johnson was one of the most prolific offensive point guards in NBA history. Johnson averaged over 23 points a game during the 1987 season and also added 12.2 assists and over six rebounds per game. While Irving is a great player he would be no match for Magic.

EDGE-1987 Lakers


Shooting Guard: J.R. Smith vs. Byron Scott

Scott averaged 17 points per game in 1987 and was a very underrated player on that Lakers team. Smith put in a little over 12 points per game and had a solid season. I think there is very little to argue when comparing these two players.

EDGE: 1987 Lakers


Small Forward: LeBron James vs. James Worthy

This is not the mismatch most people would think. There was a reason that Worthy’s nickname was “Big Game James”. Worthy was one of the greatest clutch performers in NBA history. During the 1987 season, Worthy averaged just under 20 points per game he also averaged 10 rebounds per game. James is one of the ten greatest players in NBA history and I will give an edge to James here but it will not be by much. James averaged over 25 points per game in 2016, the reason this is close would be because of Worthy’s penchant for playing his best games in the biggest moments.

EDGE: 2016 Cavaliers


Power Forward: Kevin Love vs. A.C.Green

Love averaged 16 points and almost 10 rebounds a game during the 2016 season. Green in 1987 averaged 10.8 points and 10 rebounds a game. I will lean towards Love in this matchup.

EDGE: 2016 Cavaliers


Center: Tristan Thompson vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Jabbar had maybe the most undefendable shot in NBA history (Sky Hook) and even though he was getting up there in years this would be no contest.

EDGE: 1987 Lakers



Lakers: The Lakers were a team that was, for the most part, eight deep during their playoff run and two of those guys Mychal Thompson and Mychael Thompson averaged over ten points per game. The other player off the Lakers bench was a veteran power forward Kurt Rambis who averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds per game.

Cavaliers: The Cavaliers did go 9 or 10 deep at times, but they go nowhere the production out of their bench that the Lakers did. You had guys like Moe Williams and Matthew Delladova who were backup guards and contributed some solid minutes during the season. On the front line, the Cavs had center Timofey Mozgov, and Forward/Guard Richard Jefferson.

EDGE: 1987 Lakers


Coaching: Tyronne Lue vs. Pat Riley

This is as about as cut and dried as you can get, maybe someday Lue can be in the conversation, but we are a long way away from that day.

EDGE: 1987 Lakers


Conclusion: When you look up at the matchups between these two teams the things that stand out to me are who guards Jabbar and even Thompson in the post? Also, can the Cavaliers slow down the Lakers fast break? Maybe Lebron plays out of his mind and gets the Cavs a win or two, but I just do not see how the Cavs could win more than a game or two in this series.

Result: 1987 Lakers in 5 games.

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