The Chicago Bulls are making believers out of people. The most recent converter appears to be Hall-of-Famer and NBA on TNT personality Charles Barkley.
On a recent episode of the show, Barkley said he thinks “the Bulls had a hell of a summer,” referring to their offseason acquisitions of players like DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. I still like the Bulls better. After being briefly interrupted by Shaquille O’Neal, who is one of the few who has gone on record to praise what the Bulls did in the offseason, Barkley put a period on his statement, saying: “The Chicago Bulls will finish ahead of the Heat.”
That’s an interesting concept for sure. It should be noted Barkley said this on opening night, which means it was before the Bulls reeled off four wins to start the regular season. Because of that, he deserves a few more points for being an early bird.
Is Barkley going to be correct? Who knows at this point? There are some major questions we still have to have answered before we can even say if things are trending in the direction to prove Sir Charles right.
The Bulls Have a Crucial Stretch Coming Up
Through the first four games of the season, the Bulls have beaten the Detroit Pistons (twice), the New Orleans Pelicans (without Zion Williamson) and the Toronto Raptors (without Pascal Siakam). To the Bulls’ credit, they held 30-point leads in multiple games, won fairly easily sans almost blowing the Monday’s contest against the Raptors late.
They have beaten the teams on their schedule and that’s all you can ask of them. That said, the road is about to get bumpier for Chicago and it starts on Thursday night when they host the New York Knicks at the United Center. Following the scrap with the Knicks, the Bulls have the following games next:
- vs. Utah Jazz
- at Boston Celtics
- at Philadelphia 76ers
- vs. 76ers
- vs. Brooklyn Nets
- vs. Dallas Mavericks
- at Golden State Warriors
- at L.A. Clippers
- at Portland Trail Blazers
- at Denver Nuggets
- vs. New York Knicks
- vs. Indiana Pacers
When this stretch is done, even though the Bulls still won’t have faced the Miami Heat for the first time, we should have a better idea of whether they can finish ahead of Jimmy Butler and Co.
The Heat’s Defense Will Carry Them
From top to bottom, I’m not sure there is a team with a better group of defensive players. There are some soft spots with guys like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, but the ability of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to guard multiple positions is almost invaluable. Miami has been far more battle tested early in the season with a 42-point win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, an 11-point overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers and a 17-point win over the Orlando Magic.
Miami’s next game is a marquee Eastern Conference matchup with Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat could be .500 by the end of the week which would likely mean Barkley is correct for now, but ultimately, the schedule will even out and the Bulls will have some serious tests to pass.