Although it is far from certain that LeBron James is heading to the Bulls next year, the rumor is picking up steam so I figured I would beat everyone to the punch and present the hypothetical matchup between the 1990-1991 Chicago Bulls vs. the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls after signing LeBron James.
I'll break down the bench as a whole, and the starting five, position by position. I won't break down coaches, because although I can already put LeBron in a Bulls jersey, I'm not ready to definitely put Calipari as the coach.
The new Bulls have a few very valuable guys coming off the bench. Luol Deng is definitely the highlight of that as I would see him getting equal minutes to Hinrich. I think Luol makes them more dangerous on offense, but more susceptible on defense. Brad Miller is also solid for a backup big man. They've got some hot-cold guys like James Johnson, Jannero Pargo, and Hakim Warrick. And then they've got some worthless pieces of shit, highlighted by Flip Murray.
The old school Bulls bench is built on depth. John Paxson is probably the best guy coming off the bench, but everybody can contribute. They can put in a lot of solid big men with Stacey King, Scott Williams, and Will Perdue. Craig Hodges was one of the best pure shooters in the league at that point, and Cliff Levingston and Dennis Hopson knew their roles. Nobody hurts you on this bench, but nobody is a game changer either.
The old Bulls can't match up with the top parts of the Bulls bench, but they make up for it in their depth as nobody was dead weight on that bench. Depth balances out the top half talent for a push.
Center - Bill Cartwright vs. Joakim Noah
Noah is a tough matchup for just about any big man, because he's quick, and he's got nonstop hustle. He is quickly turning into a force down below, because nobody with his height is moving around like he does. Everybody wants to hate him, because he looks so goddamn stupid, but when you watch him play, you either love him if you're a Bulls fan, or you respect him, because you wish he was on your favorite team.
Cartwright is (I will talk in present tense as if this team had traveled to the future to play this game) a crafty veteran who has ten years of experience. He's a guy who doesn't move around quite as well as he used to, but he's still able to get to his spots, and he's got a few tricks up his sleeve that present problems for younger athletes. He'll likely frustrate guys with subtle elbows to the ribs when going for rebounds.
Cartwright does have experience, but a guy like Noah is going to be a big problem for him. They're built fairly similar with Cartwright just having a couple inches of height on him, but Noah's hustle is going to be too much for the veteran, and this is an advantage for the New School Bulls.
Power Forward - Horace Grant vs. Taj Gibson
Gibson is a hustler, but not to the extent of Noah, he shows a solid mid-range game for a guy his size, and he does a great job on the offensive glass. He isn't going to blow anybody away with his scoring, but he's not going to hurt you when he's out there, and that's really all his job is going to be for the Bulls.
Grant is a tough inside presence. He'll battle for any rebound, and he is a good third scoring option for a team. He's got enough post moves to give people problems, especially someone as inexperienced as Gibson. He runs the floor well, so hustling isn't going to be a factor in his matchup against Gibson.
Basically, Grant is better than Gibson in every way. He's going to have his way with him all night long, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was the Bulls second leading scorer in a series between these two teams.
Guard - BJ Armstrong vs. Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich is a pesky guy who can occasionally hit shots, and occasionally not be able to hit the broadside of the barn. He won't explode for points like Ben Gordon did, but he can be a solid contributor when he's on. His biggest asset is going to be his defense, and I see him playing defense on Jordan throughout a lot of the game, because he is a good perimeter defender, and it won't kill the Bulls chances if he gets in foul trouble.
BJ can be summed up in the word solid. He's going to go out there, play solid defense, put up about ten points a game, dish out a few assists, and just be above average in every aspect of the game. He's not going to stand out, but he made Jordan happy, so that's a very valuable asset for this old school Bulls team.
These are two solid players where there really isn't going to be a huge advantage for either one of them in any aspect of the game. Definitely a push.
Guard - Michael Jordan vs. Derrick Rose
Rose is awesome. Just an incredible player who I remember having to argue with people about, because they thought Beasley would be a better player for the Bulls. Somehow, none of those people seem to remember ever preferring Beasley over Rose. Morons. Anyway, everybody expected Rose to completely dominate coming out of the gate this year which led to a lot of disappointment for people when he got off to a slow start. He was battling injuries early on, so it is completely understandable. When it looked like the Bulls were basically going to have to win out to make the playoffs, Rose did something peculiar...he fucking destroyed everyone in sight until his team was in the playoffs. Him and Noah are the reasons LeBron is coming.
What can I say about Jordan that you don't already know? He's the greatest basketball player ever. I really can't add anything that hasn't been said a million times.
Derrick Rose is great, but he ain't even close to Jordan, big advantage for the old school Bulls.
Small Forward - Scottie Pippen vs. LeBron James
LeBron is the most talented player to ever play basketball, I really don't think there's an argument to be made there. He's most effective when he's driving to the rim, but he will occasionally get in a mode where he'll start throwing up deep jumpers. And that's the key to containing him. Make him shoot outside shots, and he can be contained, but he is in no way a poor shooter. He's still good at that, but not nearly as dominant as he is when he's taking the ball to the rim.
Pippen is a good offensive player, and a phenomenal defensive player. For this 90-91 team, Pippen's offense hadn't reached what it had become, but he was already a top five defender in the league. He was the ultimate number two guy to Jordan as he didn't need the spotlight with Jordan there, and they fed off of each other. Pippen also was the first guy to really take over as the point forward where he would be the catalyst for setting up the offense. He's one of the fifty best players in NBA history, so yeah, I'd say he's pretty solid.
This is the most interesting matchup on the court, because Pippen is LeBron's kryptonite on defense, but he's still LeBron James, so he's going to make an impact on any game that he's in. Still Pippen is a long, quick defender who should be able to prevent LeBron from consistently driving to the hoop. Although Pippen playing the point forward position would be a problem for most guys of LeBron's size, James has the necessary quickness to play defense on Pippen no matter what role he is in. Pippen's great, but the advantage still has to go to King James in this matchup.
On paper, this is a series that goes down to the wire in most every game, but you put in the Jordan factor and the LeBron Bulls just can't keep up. With Pippen guarding LeBron, he won't be able to get any huge streak going. Rose is great, but Jordan will be playing mind games with him, and Noah isn't going to carry a team past the Old School Bulls. LeBron may be the most talented, but Jordan's still the best. Old School Bulls take the series 4-1, just like they did against Magic's Lakers in 1991.
The reason that I put this team against the 1990-1991 Bulls, despite them not being the best Bulls team during Jordan's tenure is that I felt this was a great matchup. Plus, if the Bulls are able to do a sign and trade using Hinrich or Deng and 2 first rounders to get Bosh, we'll have to do this all over again with the 95-96 Bulls.
P.S. I bet Tim Tebow soaked half the school after this.