Before the trade deadline, after the trade deadline, and even now amidst a three-game losing streak; the Chicago Bulls have been adamant about making the playoffs.
But with 19 games to go, and the team now 22-31, their window for the postseason is shrinking.
A berth via the NBA’s new play-in seems most likely, but can Chicago hold onto the 10th seed?
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A Bold Prediction
In his latest for Bleacher Report, In Or Out? Predicting Postseason Fates for Fringe NBA Playoff Teams, Grant Hughes was pessimistic in his forecast for the Chicago Bulls.
He cited the team’s supporting cast as one of the larger reasons for their current struggles:
The Bulls should be pleased that their new starting five–Zach LaVine, Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, and Patrick Williams alongisde Vooch–has solidly outscored the opposition. Unfortunately, Chicago’s other player groupings have given back that advantage and then some.
But also gave them credit for having played nine of their last 10 on the road, kind of:
With just one of their past 10 games coming at home, the Bulls’ lackluster recent performance has to include an asterisk. Then again, Chicago has a higher winning percentage on the road then at home (both are under .500) so…/shrug emoji.
Hughes thinks Toronto will make a run. They’re currently two games back of the Chicago Bulls in the standings:
The Bulls are three games back in the loss column from the increasingly healthy ninth-seed Indiana Pacers, which makes a move up the standings unlikely. And at the risk of spoiling things, there’s a certain 2019 champ lurking beneath Chicago that I think will make a better run down the stretch.
For what it’s worth, any and all prediction generators have the Raptors remaining schedule as the toughest in the Eastern Conference, with the Bulls’ schedule third behind them and the eighth-seed New York Knicks.
Are There Pros to Missing Playoffs?
Yes, the Chicago Bulls want to be competitive now.
And yes, it’s likely best they make the playoffs ahead of their extension talks with Zach LaVine.
But what’s the ceiling on this team if they get there? Are the Bulls winning a first-round series?
Unlikely. Chicago’s move for Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline was one of desperation, and it cost them two first-round picks. But that’s not set in stone just yet.
The 2021 first-round pick the Bulls sent the Magic is top-four protected.
So, if Chicago misses the playoffs, they could have a shot at keeping their upcoming pick. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, given the obvious limitations of this roster as constructed.
Not to say that a mid-level first-round pick is a terrible price to pay for making the playoffs, but the Chicago Bulls have a window around the core they’ve assembled.
It started closing as soon as Vucevic touched down in the Windy City.