It has been a whirlwind 2021-22 season for the Chicago Bulls thus far. Despite numerous injuries and absences to key guys, they still find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference as we head into the All-Star break. With a record of 38-21, the Bulls are already having their best season since 2016-17 (the 3 Alphas year) and are on pace to win 50 games, which would be the most since 2014-15.
There have been numerous memorable moments so far through the first 59 games. DeMar DeRozan is having a historic season and had those back-to-back buzzer-beaters, and the numerous alley-oops we have seen thrown up to the likes of Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., and Zach LaVine have made the Bulls so fun to watch. Now that there is a bit of break from basketball, which the Bulls desperately needed to rest and get healthy, it’s time to not only reflect on the campaign so far, including where we thought the Bulls would be at the start of the season, but look ahead.
Examining the Best, Worst, Most Likely Case Scenarios
In the SB Nation season preview for the Bulls, I wrote the following on what the best-case scenario would be:
The offense clicks as expected with the additions of DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball adding a huge boost to Chicago’s scoring threat. Zach LaVine takes a leap in overall play as well. The defense is better than expected and thanks to their offense, Chicago leaps into the 4th seed in the East.
Then, here were my thoughts on the worst case:
The offensive fit is a bit wonky and the new additions don’t live up to their potential. The defense turns out to be a big issue as it leaks points and is a major weakness. Chicago struggles to crack into the top eight of the East and finishes in one of the play-in spots.
Finally, this is what I predicted would most likely happen:
This team looks really fun on offense, especially in the fast break. The defense looks fine. Nothing great but serviceable. Lonzo really helps with the ball movement and DeRozan thrives with the spacing Chicago offers him. LaVine plays like a guy who is going to get a max contract and the Bulls finds themselves in the middle of the East playoff standings.
As you can see, the expectations were very tempered coming into this season when it came to the Bulls’ success. I was a believer in the offense and loved DeMar’s fit with all of the spacing provided. That addition has surpassed expectations in a big way. Lonzo Ball when healthy has provided much-needed playmaking and his shooting has been excellent. However, I was skeptical about the defense due to the big three of LaVine, DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic all not being plus defenders. However Alex Caruso and Ball have been exceptional helping make the system click on that side of the court. Their perimeter defense has been stellar and has caused havoc for opposing backcourts when healthy, though obviously the defense has dipped of late because of the injuries.
Ultimately, it’s safe to say that I am excited for the rest of the season, especially if this team is healthy. We have seen just how good they can be when everyone is playing. The Bulls fly up and down the court, forcing turnovers which lead to highlight alley-oops on the other end. The offense is obviously no issue as they can score with the other best teams in the league. Defensively, a boost will come as guys return from injuries.
As things stand, Chicago projects to be hosting Game 1 of a first-round series, which they haven’t had in a long time. It has been an amazing season thus far and when fully available, they’ve showed that they can be a tough out in the playoffs. There is no reason not to be excited about the remaining two months of the season.
Revisiting and Updating Win/Loss and Seed Prediction
I had predicted the Bulls to finish 46-36 this season and finish as the sixth seed in the East. They should easily reach that win total, so it’s time to update both of these predictions.
New predicted record: 54-28
New predicted seeding: No. 2
The Bulls do have a tough schedule coming up, especially right after the All-Star break. Chicago plays the Bucks, Sixers, Grizzlies, Heat, and Atlanta twice. It’s going to be a brutal stretch, but after that there are more winnable games. The Bulls will also be getting guys back after the ASB and mid-March will help them in these tougher games. They certainly have an opportunity to reach 50 wins and even higher if they are able to string some winning streaks together to end the regular season.
As far as seeding goes, the East has proven to be a very congested conference in terms of the standings. Just five games separate Chicago from seventh-seeded Toronto. Miami, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia aren’t going to go away, and I expect one of them to finish above the Bulls in the standings. I predict Chicago finishes with the No. 2 and plays the No. 7 seed in the first round after the play-in tournament.
Odds to look for
As far as the projected over/under goes, Chicago is almost certain to best the 42.5 win total. If you want to bet on the possibility of a Bulls NBA title, they are currently listed at +3000 at DraftKings. In terms of winning the East itself, Chicago is being given +1600 odds.
You can also find odds for certain Bulls winning NBA awards as well. DeRozan is listed as +2200 to win Most Valuable Player and Ayo Dosunmu is +6000 for Rookie of the Year, while Billy Donovan is +700 to win Coach of the Year. All of these odds are available to see using this link.