Carmelo Anthony is a very good player and precisely the kind of scorer the Bulls need to become a legitimate contender for the NBA championship next season and beyond.
But if I’m Bulls management, the player at the top of my free agent wish list right now is LeBron James, because he is a much better player and his addition would make the Bulls overwhelming favorites to win the title next season – and might lead to another three-peat.
I was surprised to learn Tuesday that James has decided to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I thought he would remain in Miami under his current contract for at least one more year and decide whether or not he wanted to opt out next summer.
The fact that he chose to do so now means that he’s seriously considering moving on and has doubts about whether the Heat can retool enough to win the title next season.
While few so-called insiders are mentioning the Bulls as a possible destination for James, I believe they are his best bet strictly from a basketball standpoint.
By joining Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, James would have a Big 3 in Chicago superior to trio he played with in Miami the last few years – plus the Bulls still would be able to retain enough role and complementary players to construct a deep and versatile roster.
The talents of Rose and Noah also are a better fit with James than Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were with the Heat. Rose is a pure point guard, meaning that James won’t have to handle the ball as much. With Noah (and probably Taj Gibson), James won’t have to focus on rebounding as much.
As a result, he wouldn’t have to work as hard as he did in Miami the last couple of years and should be fresher for the playoffs and at the end of games.
More importantly, all three can handle the ball and are superb passers. I envision the ball moving with a precision that would keep the defense on its heels constantly. We got a brief preview during the fourth quarter of the All-Star game back in February when James and Noah took turns setting each other up to lead the East rally.
From purely a basketball standpoint, none of his other most-likely destinations – the Heat, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers – are as attractive as Chicago. The only other possibility is the Los Angeles Clippers, but the only way the Clippers can make a play for James is through a sign-and-trade, so it’s unclear how much of the current roster they’d be able to retain.
There also has been a lot of talk today about a few teams are trying to get far enough under the cap to make a push for both James and Anthony, but I don’t see that option being attractive to James.
For starters, he and Anthony essentially play the same position, so James likely would have to play power forward most of the time. I also doubt that any team capable of signing both would have the point guard and big men to make it a complete team.
With that all said, I realize that James signing with the Bulls remains a long shot. One obstacle, perhaps the biggest obstacle, is Noah and Rose are not big fans of James personally. It won’t be a matter of three friends deciding to play together like it was when the Miami trio formed in 2011. But if Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen could accept playing with Dennis Rodman nearly 20 years ago, anything is possible.
Another obstacle is James would have to decide to take less money to join the Bulls. But at this point of his career, his salary is probably the least of his concerns because he makes so much more in endorsements.
Finally, there’s the fact that James may not want to play in Jordan’s shadow with the Bulls and he has to realize he’s not exactly popular in Chicago.
Then again, if Rodman could become a fan favorite here, I’m sure Bulls fans would be accepting of James in name of winning more championships.
Just as long as he doesn't schedule The Decision II on ESPN.
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LeBron James discussing his future last week:
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