We all remember where we were on that fateful night in early July when LeBron James, Jim Gray and a crowded room at a Boys and Girls club in New York put the sports nation on the edge of their seats. We had all heard the speculation that he was almost certainly going to the Heat, but we all tuned in anyway. When the words "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" left his mouth only Heat fans were able to celebrate, and celebrate they did. The way that Miami introduced it's big three led everyone to believe that they had already won not just one championship, but several.
The only problem however is that you don't get titles for having a good July. In fact, it was clear right away that James made the wrong decision.
Now that the season is a month old it's becoming clearer and clearer whom LeBron should have picked. Chicago is 9-6, just played a tough seven game west coast road trip and came out of it with a respectable 4-3 record. This season, Derrick Rose is averaging 26 points and 8 assists per game, good for second and eighth respectively. Joakim Noah is putting up a double double a night, averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds, good for second only behind Kevin Love. Overall, the Bulls are in or near the top 10 in the NBA in almost all of the offensive categories and rank second in rebounding, and all of it coming without their prized off-season free agent signing, Carlos Boozer.
Meanwhile, Miami's problems are well documented and well publicized. Their defense is playing well at times, but they are having a very hard time scoring. This, coupled with the fact that they are near the bottom in assists shows just how mediocre their offense has been to start the season.
Their only presence in the paint, Udonis Haslem, is out for the season and none of their three point guards are getting anything done in the half court. It's becoming clear that Wade and James play too similar a style to co-exist, which makes them an easy team to defend, especially with no outside shooter. Don't get me wrong, the Heat are going to have some serious blow out victories but against the league's elite they will struggle. This fact is already evident.
Miami's 2-6 start against teams with winning records shows how the better teams have figured out how to defend the "big three." Pounding the NBA's bottom dwellers is nice, but Miami won't be playing teams like Charlotte or New Jersey come playoff time.
This brings it all back to LeBron James. He doesn't look happy in Miami and one has to wonder if he's beginning to regret his decision. His bump with head coach Erik Spoelstra, whether an accident or not, didn't help dispel any rumors that he and his coach are not getting along. According to an article by Chris Broussard on ESPN.com, a player source feels that maybe Spoelstra has been too hard on James by calling him out in front of the team for not being "serious enough." It seems the expectations in Miami may have been too much, at least for right now.
Had James picked Chicago, he'd have at least two huge advantages over the Heat. With the Bulls, James would be playing with one of the best young big men in the game in Joakim Noah. Noah doesn't have the best shot, he's not the biggest guy down low, but what he does have is more intensity and drive than anyone on the court.
That is, except maybe for Derrick Rose, the other advantage the Bulls have over the Heat. Derrick Rose is easily a top five point guard and is well on his way to being at least the best at that position, if not the best player in the NBA.
It's pretty obvious that if the Bulls had been able to land LeBron, that Rose's point totals would be lower. However his assists would be through the roof. The beauty of having Rose is that he doesn't care how the team wins and doesn't need to score to be effective.
It can almost be guaranteed that had James come to the Bulls, they would be already be one of the elite teams in the league. The starting lineup of Rose, James and Noah would be unstoppable regardless of who filled out the roster at power forward and shooting guard.
Unfortunately that's not how things panned out. For the Bulls, however, it was not a loss that doomed them to futility. They were able to pick up Boozer, who is going to compliment an already potent roster. The pick and roll game between he and Rose is going to give opposing coaches nightmares and with Noah pulling down 13 boards a game, the Bulls should be pretty unstoppable. Add all of this to a bench that is going to have a sixth man of the year candidate in Taj Gibson at it's disposal and the league's most dangerous three point shooter in Kyle Korver and what you have is a championship caliber team.
While it still may be a little too early to predict anything in the league, the trends are starting to show. The Heat are struggling and the Bulls are getting better and better. LeBron James will probably never play in Chicago, leaving us only to guess at how good he and Rose would be together. However, one thing is for sure, the Bulls are beginning to roll while the Heat in South Beach appears to have gone cold.