The Bulls are healthy and (probably not coincidentally) rolling, currently on a 6-game winning streak that includes victories over fellow Eastern contenders Toronto and Washington.
Given their wins (and acknowledging a loss against Atlanta prior to the streak) I think it's reasonable to say the Bulls are currently playing the best ball in the East. It's yet to be reflected in the standings, but will that change soon?
These are the only 5 teams that matter, with apologies to...nobody, and kudos to the Hawks for being one that probably wasn't as readily identified preseason.
Let's take a quick look at everyone for the next 7 days, currently-top on down:
They've already started their West trip impressively with a weekend back-to-back sweep of the Clippers and Nuggets. But while this week is light on games, they're all toughies.
Atlanta waxed Cleveland a couple weeks ago on the Cavs home court, but it's obviously still a tough matchup. They then also hit the road, though get a bit of a break with the first of a back-to-back being in Utah.
Uh oh. The Wiz rebounded from their defeat to the Bulls with a couple gimmees against the East dregs, but they should fall at least 1 spot this week. That above is even more murderous than the Bulls circus trip.
Hey, that's us! I never bought the notion that the Bulls 'play down to competition', as whenever that's brought up it's reads more of an opinion that the Bulls should, like, never lose a game. I think ThibsBall actually has them less likely for letdowns than most NBA teams, but it doesn't make them immune to off nights. And it'll take an off night to lose more than a game this week. And since they've already lost to the Pacers and Nuggets this year, those probably won't be the ones. Motivation!
The Cavs are in another 'shit's going wrong' funk, starting with the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao. They did beat Orlando, but only while benching Kevin Love for the 4th quarter. And then got waxed by the Pistons. The Pistons! At home! As Tom Ziller said this morning, "there's time, but not that much time", and the Bulls are certainly looking like the more complete roster as we head into trade season.
If they have any pride they should get some revenge on the Hawks this week, and then the rest of their schedule isn't so bad. But this is a team that's more 'plays down to competition' than the Bulls. And it's less of a question of mindset as simply their poor defense.