Open Letter to LeBron James

Dear LeBron,

You’re in a great position. You’re still the game’s best player. You’ve shown your acumen transcends the court to the business world. You’ve won two titles. Your resume already puts you among the very greatest NBA players in history. But we know that you want to be the Greatest of All Time. By some measurements, you’re already there, but in "Greatest of All Time" conversations, two championships are fairly weak. Right now you trail your older peers Duncan, Kobe, Shaq and even your teammate, not to mention Bird, Magic, Jordan and Russell. So while playing with your friends near the beach is fun, it’s time for you to move to a team primed to win now and to sustain that success. That’s the way to win several championships. Pat Riley will sell a reboot and Doc Rivers will offer Chris Paul and a different set of beaches. Chicago’s offer won’t come from such a respected pitchman, nor with warm winters, but it’ll still give you the best chance at immorality.

To win multiple titles, you need hungry and talented teammates. No team plays hungrier than the Bulls. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler bang and grab through every possession. Derrick Rose never complains or promotes, he just works on his game. Tom Thibodeau is relentless, even crazy. Noah, Gibson and Butler scratched their way to 48 wins with a thrice discarded point guard, a soon to be amnestied power forward and two bench players thrust into the starting lineup. This is a group that focuses on winning and ignores individual accomplishments, the kind of focus and mentality that creates the opportunity for multiple titles.

Of course hunger is insufficient by itself. The Bulls are surprisingly talented given their reputation. Last season they lacked a player who could create for others, that’s obvious. Still despite playing in cramped spaces, Noah showed off his court vision, dishing 5.4 assists per game. Gibson developed a nice post game. Butler’s shoot seemed broken almost all season, but he hit 43% of his corner threes. They admirably stepped up on offensive, but they’ll all be more efficient playing off Rose, not to mention you.

Moreover, you know that talent isn’t just about scoring. Noah, Gibson and Butler have the awareness, anticipation, footwork and savvy to squash drives and snatch passes. Put you with Rose and those three and you’ll be part of an incredibly good defense and not just for stretches, but possession by possession and night by night.

That’s an awesome starting lineup. At the start of the season, Noah and Gibson will be 29, Rose 26 and Butler 25. Everyone is still on the young side of thirty. The bench also has some youth, with 22-year-old Tony Snell showing flashes (a player who should thrive with better spacing and more experience) and 23-year-old Greg Smith having playing well in Houston before his injury. 34-year-old Mike Dunleavy provides some balance and shooting. Won’t it be refreshing to not rely on players contemplating retirement?

That hasn’t even gotten to the young talent the Bulls will acquire over the next couple off-seasons. They pick twice this draft, have the rights of Nikola Mirotic, control a future 1st round pick from Sacramento, a possible 2015 pick swap with Cleveland and extra 2nd rounders. Whether these assets are used to replenish the roster with young talent or to add veterans to fill holes, this is a team with the flexibility to improve over the next several seasons. That’s the way to build lasting success. The Bulls won’t need Hail Mary pickups to work out for them.

The X factor of course is Derrick Rose’s health. There aren’t any guarantees about the future. As you know, the NBA is now littered with stars with health and particularly knee concerns. For you though, this might not be as great a factor as it is with another player. The maximum salary is so much lower than your value that you’ll be able to command the maximum salary next season or two seasons from now so you don’t need to rush into a four year deal. Your best option is to sign a one year, 11.3 million dollar deal with the Bulls with an additional player option for insurance purposes. Then one championship later, you opt out again and resign on a max contract. If Rose doesn’t return to All-Star form, you have another chance to survey the field for the best situation.

You’d lose 9 million right off the bat and a bit more each additional year. But increasing your chances of winning titles also increases your off-court earnings potential. Winning a few more titles will make you marketable through when your children can enter the NBA. (If you really need to, the Bulls can open up as much as 17M in cap space without touching the Rose, Noah, Gibson, Butler foursome, but that would leave a shell bench. Given how much you love to win and love to set your teammates up, I figure you’d rather keep Dunleavy, Snell and some talented rookies around)

Winning those titles is the whole point. The Bulls have that critical mix of hunger, current talent, coaching and future assets which makes putting together a dynasty possible. Not to mention it’d be other stars taking hard "not basketball play" fouls in the United Center.

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