Coming out of the NBA’s All-Star break, the Chicago Bulls aren’t currently one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams. But one NBA insider has faith they’ll put it all together between now and May.
In the latest edition of ESPN’s Power Rankings, done by multiple members of staff, Eric Woodyard made the bold prediction that the Bulls would not only make the playoffs but finish with a .500 record.
Chicago hasn’t berthed the postseason since the 2016-2017 campaign, or more notably, since the Jimmy Butler trade.
The panel of analysts ranked them as the 20th best team in the NBA, which ironically, is four teams why of the 16 who are currently slated for playoffs. Chicago would be eligible for the play-in tournament, however.
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The Path to .500 Won’t Be Easy
Per Tankathon.com, the Chicago Bulls have the sixth-toughest remaining schedule in the entire NBA. And of the five teams ahead of them, only one is currently ahead of them in the standings: the New York Knicks.
So not only will the Bulls face a tough slate of games over the second half of this season, but their Eastern Conference competition will have an even easier go at things.
ESPN’s panel highlighted some must watch games over the remaining 38:
Thursday vs. 76ers: Prominent Bulls home games during the second half of the campaign include the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday and May 3. Joel Embiid put up a career-best 50 points versus Chicago on Feb. 19.
March 22 vs. Jazz: Utah is one of the hottest teams in the league. LaVine is a rising star and will have a chance to go up against another rising star in All-Star Donovan Mitchell. Should be a fun one.
May 11 vs. Nets: Chicago will face the Nets — one of the scariest opponents in the league — as it’s looking to fight for a playoff spot. Nothing will be easy.
Chicago will play in seven back-to-backs, with the most notable coming at the very end of the season: in Brooklyn against the Nets on May 15, and then home against Milwaukee on May 16.
It’s reasonable to think that neither of those teams will be at full strength and presumably already have clinched home-court advantage in the playoffs, but they’ll still likely be necessary wins for Zach LaVine and the Bulls.
They’ve also got two separate four-game road trips, separated by just one home matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, between March 27 and April 12. That stretch alone may determine the Chicago Bulls’ playoff hopes.
Coincidentally enough, that span of games comes two days after the NBA’s Mach 25 trade deadline.
Chicago’s Playoff Chances May Live and Die with a Trade
Few teams have been discussed more ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline than the Chicago Bulls.
They’ve received a number of calls about Thaddeus Young, likely Lauri Markkanen too, and have been linked to a number of different trade targets like 23-year old Lonzo Ball and veteran center Andre Drummond.
What they end up doing (or not doing) may not determine their playoff chances in the moment, but don’t doubt that it will be looked back to should they fall short of the postseason this May. Right now, the Bulls are a middle-of-the-pack team in almost every statistic, with no real identity to go along with their play on the floor.
Defensively, they’ve struggled in late-game situations. Ditto for the offensive end. It’s hard to pinpoint, especially when factoring in the reported names they’re interested in, just what they’re looking for in any trade.
The Chicago Bulls will resume their push for the playoffs on Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.