NBA Eastern Conference Finals: What If Lebron James Signed with the Bulls?

Matt RyanCorrespondent IIMay 13, 2011

MIAMI, FL - MAY 11:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on May 11, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Derrick Rose was considered one of the NBA's best point guards heading into the 2010-2011 NBA season and and a rising star. Six months later, he's the NBA MVP and rivals Chris Paul as the NBA's best point guard.

Chicago entered the season with what appeared to be a competitive team, but one that could not stack up with the veteran Boston Celtics or the new look Miami Heat. It didn't help matters when Carlos Boozer didn't play until December, and sat out parts of January and March because of his broken hand. Joakim Noah was limited to only 48 games this season, after missing a two-month stretch from December to February.

Losing two players of that caliber would decimate most teams in the NBA. The Chicago Bulls didn't miss a beat with their star center and power forward out of action.

Instead, they finished first in major defensive categories such as opponents field goal percentage, three-point percentage and points per game. New head coach Tom Thibodeau helped turn around a mediocre defensive team from a season ago in to the arguably the league's best.

Going in to the summer of 2010, many wouldn't have been shocked if the Chicago Bulls finished atop of the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls seemed like the favorites to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh heading in to the most anticipated free-agent class in NBA history.

Instead, James and Bosh took their talents to South Beach, and Carlos Boozer went to the Windy City, along with Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Keith Bogans and C.J. Watson.

After all the success the Chicago Bulls had during the 2010-2011 regular season, one has to wonder how things might have turned out differently if James took his talents to the Windy City, along with another superstar, instead of South Beach.

In any scenario, the Bulls would not have been as deep of a team. Chicago would have to fill their roster the same way Miami did after the assembling the Big Three, by signing veterans and bough out players for the league minimum. Signing just Carlos Boozer still gave them enough cap space to pursue other free agents to improve their depth chart.

This what the Chicago Bulls starting lineup would have looked like on paper in mid-July had they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

C: Joakim Noah

PF: Chris Bosh

SF: Luol Deng

SG: LeBron James

PG: Derrick Rose

If the Bulls couldn't trade Luol Deng's large contract (a likely scenario), there's no way he would  have moved to the bench. Taj Gibson would still remain on the bench and would likely be joined by the likes of players such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Eddie House, who likely wouldn't end up in Miami without Lebron James.

Who knows, maybe James and Bosh sign smaller contracts, still giving the Chicago Bulls enough money to sign a player like Ronnie Brewer or Mike Miller.

That is arguably the best starting five in the league, but even with all this talent the Bulls may not have been able to match their current 62-20 record. In all likelihood, there would have been some on-court chemistry issues at the beginning of the season.

However, they probably would have still finished ahead of the aging Boston Celtics or Miami Heat, led by Dwyane Wade, Carlos Boozer and other free-agent signings. Derrick Rose's role on the team would have been reduced with LeBron James on the court with him. Rose could have still made the All-Star Game, but there's no way he'd be getting any MVP votes.

Even if they had been able to trade Luol Deng, it probably would have been for several role players with large contracts. It's extremely unlikely that the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat would have taken him as part of a sign-and-trade deal for Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade.

In this is pipe dream scenario, the Chicago Bulls would have entered the 2010-2011 NBA season with the most star-studded lineup in league history.

C: Joakim Noah

PF: Chris Bosh

SF: LeBron James

SG: Dwyane Wade

PG: Derrick Rose

However, despite what the Miami Heat accomplished their is still a difference between what can really happen in the NBA and franchise mode on your Playstation or Xbox.

Even with what could have happened this season and beyond had the Bulls been able to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Chicagoland area isn't complaining about the team they have right now. The Bulls are finally back in NBA title contention after their post-MJ collapse, the days of Elton Brand and Ron Artest, the Tyson Chandler/Eddy Curry experiment and the Scott Skiles-era that once seemed so promising.

The current team the Bulls has already exceeded the expectations of many, but this "what if" scenario will be one of the big headlines going into the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.