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A pithy Eastern Conference preview and prediction: Bulls playoff bound or play-in around?

how is everyone feeling heading into this season?

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Happy Bulls opening night, everyone! This will be, personally, my 20th opener ‘observing’ the Bulls online. I want to guess that most seasons have started out with a feeling of dread and depression, but perhaps that’s an exaggeration and it’s merely more than half.

This one is kinda...meh? In getting excited for the NBA season and listening to a lot of national podcasts, it is noticeable how little the Bulls are talked about. I don’t think it’s any preconceived bias towards the franchise or team, as much as a factor of their offseason: they didn’t do shit to address weaknesses, talked about ‘continuity’, and have showed that terms of injuries (hell, Zach isn’t back??!?).

As has been implied: the Bulls will only spend for a contender. They didn’t spend, so they must not think they’re a contender. So I just don’t think it’s that exciting to talk about the Bulls as they look to be mid, regardless, without a lot of potential variance outside of a Lonzo Ball return that goes way better than usual knee surgery returns.

The preseason was actually a bit encouraging, though. Maybe even in diminished state they can recreate a similar fun and successful style of play through forcing turnovers and running. Maybe the new guys aren’t so old. Maybe continuity does work out for important pieces like Nikola Vucevic. And all that goes well they’ll still not sniff home court advantage, so I get the overall unenthusiasm, but it’ll be a lot more pleasant to watch.

Here’s a quick half-assed preview and prediction of how I see the Eastern Conference regular season going, and where the Bulls perhaps slot in:

  1. Bucks - I really like Brook Lopez, and think the damage done by his absence was almost on par with the loss of Khris Middleton later in the season. All these non-Giannis guys are on the downside, but they won’t be getting back surgery. I think they’ll win 60.
  2. Sixers - Won’t flip off of opening night. They’ll either look a lot better to start the season, or they won’t and their front office will do something about it to improve.
  3. Celtics - Won’t flip off of opening night. I find their second half surge into that unexpected Finals run to be like a hot baseball team, it won’t sustain. I’m biased because in games against the Bulls Jason Tatum will shoot 28%
  4. Cavaliers - Find them to be relatively loaded, depth (or even top-end talent) on the wing won’t matter if there’s Mobley+Allen to anchor the defense, they were successful last year with friggin’ Lauri at the three.
  5. Heat - By contrast, not deep at all. But Jimmyball wins games.
  6. Bulls - I was more down on the Bulls chances before preseason, where I was reminded there is only 1 Alex Caruso, and 5 Javonte Greens out there. The lack of three point shooting is going to be maddening, and they will get torched defensively on some nights when the opponent isn’t bogged down by the schedule. But there will be more than enough close games where the Bulls DAWGS will out-work opponents on the margins, and then they have 2 of the best tough-shotmakers in the league for the late-and-close times. They may have a .500 or worse point differential and get quickly bounced in the playoffs but will stay up in the playoff standings.
  7. Nets - Simmons is lost, Durant will get several minor injuries, and they’ll trade Kyrie Irving. But Irving low-key sucks, so that will improve things and they’ll look dangerous heading into the play-in and I’ll hold my breath worried about Durant playoff magic (and then exhale when he chokes).
  8. Hawks - I ‘want’ to put them higher but I feel they’ll wildly fluctuate game to game based off of how Trae Young is feeling that day, and there’s nothing consistent holding them to being competitive every night. They will beat the Bulls by 35 points one time this season, then lose the other games.
  9. Raptors - Sorry to say (I hate that expression) but offense wins. This offense will stink. I suppose this is my wildest prediction and Toronto historically beats the odds, but they could be an opportunistic seller at the deadline.
  10. Knicks - Defense wins, too, but even with Thibs this one won’t be good enough. [Though these last few teams are in the play-in, I actually find them to be pretty good and won’t be walkovers and also wouldn’t be surprised if any of them leap ahead of the Bulls. Someone alert FreezingColdTakes!]
  11. Wizards - This team will be a walkover, once Beal and Porzingis get hurt (November 1st)
  12. Pacers - These last few squads are interchangeable, Pacers have some interesting players for now, and players don’t tank, organizations do.
  13. Hornets - An organization that isn’t tanking intentionally, but will be because of injuries+arrests.
  14. Pistons - I’ve seen the ‘frisky’ label applied to them, but they’re just way too young.
  15. Magic - Excited to read Bulls Twitter exalting Wendell Carter putting up 18 and 9 with one top-of-the-key three pointer while his team is down 24.