For what seems to be an eternity now, LeBron James has skated through the eastern conference to the NBA Finals doing figure eights.
The east has simply been a graveyard compared to the west, and chock full of teams trying to climb out of droughts through rebuilding stages.
Now, perhaps for the first time in a decade, the east has a few squads prepped to potentially trounce the reigning NBA champions and reclaim what was once a versatile conference.
The largest opportunity to dethrone James and the Cavs will come via the Chicago Bulls, though, who revamped their roster this past offseason and pose as definite title contenders.
A reclamation project that could sway in favor of the Bulls, Michael Carter-Williams, Robin Lopez, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade were added to Chicago’s lineup, which spells a well-balanced opponent capable of performing exceptional this season.
And, of course, there’s Jimmy Butler already stationed.
While a lot of eyes will certainly be on the New York Knicks with all their additions they made over the summer, Chicago is, in a way, flying unnoticed, and that’s a good thing for Fred Hoiberg’s group. It spares them the publicity.
Butler, who will be a huge factor in the Bulls’ hardware chances, says the “sky is the limit” for this Chicago team, and that the inclusions of both Rondo and Wade will propel them into championship competitors.
“We all know how great of a player he (Wade) is,” Butler said. “[How] Hall of Fame worthy he is, and when you bring what he’s brought to the table—the championships—with Rondo and their will to win, I mean I don’t think there’s a better city to embrace that than this one right here.”
And he’s right.
Accompanying Butler with the likes of Rondo and Wade is a recipe for inevitable success—pending health, of course. With all the accolades those two have, they’re going to in turn chain react Butler into that type of player. Wade’s influence probably more so, and he was asked that.
“For sure,” he said. “[A] better leader, better player, better probably in every aspect of this game because he’s been around a lot more than I have. So many years in the league. All the stuff that he’s accomplished while being in the league, I was sitting back and I was taking notes.”
Wade’s taught plenty of NBA players how to achieve greatness, including James. People forget that Wade was a champion long before James had joined his Miami Heat squad, and it took Wade’s camaraderie to show him his first title. Yes, James is the best player in the league, but Wade helped shape that.
That’s what’s compelling about the Bulls’ chances this year, given the pivotal moves they made over the summer and what they could potentially do. Normally, teams that are built like Chicago’s are out west. Almost as if the Bulls, having locked up Butler for the long run, wanted to ensure both his growth as a player and had a win-now attitude with their latest signings.
It’s why they’re the most intriguing team to watch this season, because of their well-composed roster. Let’s not forget about rookie Denzel Valentine or Doug McDermott contributing off the bench, along with Taj Gibson, etc. It’s a team that has the juice to knock off the Cavs, who are currently, with ease, the east’s No. 1 team.
As aforementioned, the Knicks will arguably receive the brunt of the attention, but questions are abound with that team. With the Bulls, you have players who’ve been there done that, and who can push this group through the Cavs’ threshold.
They got to stay healthy, but Chicago’s odds are apparent.