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Early NBA power rankings aren’t friendly to the Chicago Bulls

No better than last season

Charlotte Hornets v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We’ve been discussing how well the pieces may fit, but how many actual wins will the Bulls get next season? Since there’s almost nothing else to talk about in regards to the NBA, some way too early power rankings have popped up around the web.

ESPN has the Chicago Bulls at No. 25 in their power rankings. Last season the Bulls posted the 25th-best record in the NBA, meaning ESPN doesn’t think they will improve at all standings-wise. Nick Friedell provided the blurb:

The Bulls hope they’ll be able to score lots of points -- but will they be able to defend? The Bulls have an interesting young core in place...but it remains unclear if they have a core that can win lots of games this season. There will be a great deal of pressure on fourth-year coach Fred Hoiberg and his staff to find ways to make this group jell and succeed on the defensive end.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann performed a similar exercise for the likely-laughable Eastern Conference next season. He has the Bulls way towards the bottom at No. 12, and not just focusing on one side of the ball:

Will the Bulls’ fourth season be their fourth straight season in the bottom 10 on offense? Overall, they were one of three teams (the Warriors and Sixers were the others) that ranked in the top five in both player movement (they were first in distance traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and ball movement (they were fifth in passes per 24 minutes of possession) last season. They were more efficient offensively for the two months that they had Zach LaVine, but still ranked 27th offensively over that stretch and LaVine clearly stifled the ball movement.

Now they’ve added another guy -- Jabari Parker -- who can be a ball-stopper and Lauri Markkanen should be the primary option. LaVine and Parker should both be better now that they’ll be more than 18 month from their ACL tears, but the only player on the Bulls’ roster who had a true shooting percentage above the league average (55.6 percent) last season was Cristiano Felicio, who did it on 215 shots. Markkanen (55.2 percent) was close on 862.

The Bulls offense is going to be clunky with all the ball-dominant players struggling to coexist, and as ESPN notes the defense is going to be miserable. That isn’t a recipe for success next season. CBS’s Chris Barnewall also did power rankings, and it’s remarkably consistent with what his industry counterparts predict, here having the Bulls at No. 26.

Chicago will probably still not be good next season which is fine, but the Bulls put a lot of money into a core of Zach Lavine, Jabari Parker, and Lauri Markkanen. It’s nice to believe in their young players, but that’s a lot of faith in an unproven group.

To me, the Bulls will be bad, but the Eastern Conference is going to rival them in awfulness. When you talk it out, it’s difficult to find eight teams that seem poised to beat the Bulls and make the playoffs.

The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors are tier one. The Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, and Indiana Pacers are probably going to be better than the Bulls too.

That’s six...who else do you have as locks to beat the Bulls out for the playoffs? The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets are meh. The Detroit Pistons never seem to be able to figure things out. The Brooklyn Nets are moving in the right direction, but seem like they are still a few years away.

In my own way-too-early power rankings, the Bulls will finish No. 7 or No. 8 in the Eastern Conference next season. With far fewer truly-bad teams in the West, that’d put them overall closer to No. 20 than to No. 25. Ultimately, a return to basketball purgatory, but hopefully their stay there isn’t an extended one.