Where do the Bulls rank amongst Central Division teams?

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The last time the Chicago Bulls found themselves atop the Central Division, the year was 2014, a center led the team in assists, an energetic bench player named Jimmy Butler was promoted to the starting lineup, and the team’s leading scorer was Taj Gibson. So if you think it’s a crazy idea that the Bulls could retake the top spot in the division, I’d have to tell you that crazier things have happened.

Whether or not you think that’s a realistic goal for this team, they’ve certainly proven their name belongs in the competition. Holding down the top seed in the East through 60 games into last season, the Bulls are within striking distance and only need to make a small leap to join the tier of title contenders.

There’s certainly an argument to be had on how those Eastern Conference contenders deserve to be ranked, but I believe the Central Division hierarchy looks significantly more clear.

With the Central Division looking to be the most competitive it’s been for a long time, just how exactly do the Chicago Bulls fit into the picture?

5. Indiana Pacers

Although the Pacers have prided themselves on a consistent level of winning throughout the years, they’ll likely find themselves taking a nose-dive straight to the bottom of the Central Division this season. “Good, but not great” has practically been the Pacers’ motto in recent years, including a stretch of five consecutive first-round exits despite having the 11th best winning percentage in the NBA over the last decade.

Now that the Pacers have a true building block in Tyrese Haliburton, they can finally set their eyes on tanking for a top prospect in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft. Flipping Myles Turner for future assets is another way this team could improve their young core. Either way, I expect the Pacers to be truly terrible this season, and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing for them.

4. Detroit Pistons

Unlike the Pacers, the Pistons distinguish themselves here by having a positive trajectory rather than a negative one. They may still be a bottom-feeder like Indiana for now, but Detroit has their core worth developing already in place with promising pieces like Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Stewart, and Jalen Duren. There’s a lot to be excited about for Pistons fans, it will just take a while before it begins translating to wins.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

We take a massive leap in roster quality here by jumping from Detroit to Cleveland, as the Cavaliers are a bonafide playoff contender and will likely look even better next season with a healthy Jarrett Allen and the assumed return of Collin Sexton. An extra year of development from Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Isaac Okoro certainly won’t hurt things either. Cleveland also brought back Ricky Rubio after a season-ending injury last season and drafted one of the most NBA-ready prospects in Ochai Agbaji.

Despite all of those setbacks, Cleveland still finished with 44 wins, just two behind the Bulls. They’ll hold the #3 spot here until they prove they can beat Chicago — the Bulls won three of four contests last season — but I fully expect this young and hungry team to threaten the top Eastern Conference teams next year.

2. Chicago Bulls

After making incremental improvements across the board, the Bulls will run out largely the same roster 46-win we saw last season… At least, that’s what the narrative is. The simple fact of the matter is that Chicago was without four of their top six rotation players in Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Patrick Williams for over half of the season each. The 2022-23 roster isn’t the same, simply because we’ve never seen it running up to its full potential — besides of course the first four games of last season, all of which the Bulls won.

I also believe Andre Drummond may end up being a much bigger difference-maker over Tony Bradley than people expect, as Chicago has desperately needed a cure for their rebounding woes. Given a relatively healthy season, I have no doubt in my mind this team can push for 50 (or more) wins.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

As optimistic as I am about Chicago’s chances next season, there’s still no denying the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks are the king of this jungle. The Central Division has an apex predator, and until teams find a way to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo, that’s not going to change any time soon. As arguably the greatest player in the world right now, he’ll find a way to come out on top even if his fellow All-Star supporting cast is injured or just simply having a bad night. That being said, we saw during last year’s playoffs that DeMar DeRozan is capable of willing the Bulls to wins, even against teams like the Bucks. Now all he needs is his teammates to step up and help him cross that finish line if the Chicago Bulls are to retake the top placement on this list.

Predicting the Chicago Bulls' 2022-23 record. dark. Next