Yeah, I watched those two series, along with pretty much every series in the 1990s. I never got the impression that Malone choked in the clutch, or was overrated. Same thing with all the greats that lost to the Chicago buzz saw. Drexler, Barkley, Payton, Kemp... Those guys would have won titles in a lot of seasons. Same thing with some of those Knicks squads, the Pacers, the Cavs, the Heat. They were mostly worthy opponents who just weren't good enough.
I was disappointed with Drexler in that 1992 Finals. MJ dominated him. Drexler did not lead POR well in that series ... heck, he didn't lead them at all. He did his job but he didn't lead. He was one of the guys instead of THE guy.
Barkley played very well in 1993. The Suns just couldn't defend MJ.
Payton sucked in the 1996 Finals (only showed up after Seattle was down 3 zip and the series was over). It is a shame because he was the best player in the previous three series when they played against Mitch Richmond, Hakeem & Drexler, K Malone & J Stockton. But he sucked in the Finals. Payton benefited from playing against smaller guards in the West but the Bulls big guards took away his post game and he just wasn't efficient / effective enough as a scorer in the half-court outside of the low post to get the job done.
Kemp was awesome againt Chicago. He killed everyone the Bulls put on him. Unstoppable.
Karl Malone was so-so in 1997 and good in 1998. Stockton played fine but not well in 1997 and 1998, worse in 1998. Like Payton, Stockton struggled with the Bulls big guards. Those three 6-6, 6-6 and 6-7 perimeter players with long arms shrinking all the passing lanes made life tough for him. He did reasonably. Still, it broke my heart that he wouldn't shoot the ball more often because Hornacek was awful in both Finals. Hornacek couldn't cope at all with MJ or Pippen defending him. They really needed Stockton to step up and score more because of that and he didn't do it. I was an anybody but Jordan fan in each of those Finals.