As the Chicago Bulls march toward the end of February with a 27-33 record in tow, it would be no understatement to say this year’s team has massively disappointed when compared to last season’s rendition. Still, as long as there are games to be played, there’s hope the Bulls’ big three of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic can drag this franchise to the promised land of the NBA Playoffs.
Chicago certainly didn’t do itself any favors by dropping six consecutive games leading up to the All-Star Break, but there’s hope that the Bulls can turn things around. With the new addition of Patrick Beverley, that may not be too lofty of a goal either. The Bulls put on a statement victory in their first game with Beverley in the lineup, demolishing the Brooklyn Nets 131-87.
Beverley seems to have inspired newfound confidence amongst his teammates, but can the Bulls still even realistically make the playoffs?
Just 1.5 games back from the play-in tournament and with a direct matchup with the 10th-seeded team on the plate tonight, the Bulls have to be thinking their hopes of a postseason run aren’t over just yet. With the Nets appearing destined to freefall down the standings and Miami, Atlanta, Toronto, and Washington failing to distance themselves from the competition, there’s still plenty of room for Chicago to advance up the ladder during their final 22 games this season.
If the Chicago Bulls still aim to fight their way through the play-in tournament and qualify for the NBA Playoffs, they’ll have their work cut out for them.
If we extrapolate winning percentages across an 82-game season, this is what the standings would look like for the Eastern Conference teams outside of the top four. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect every team to hold the course from here on out — particularly in Brooklyn’s case — but it at least allows us to establish a baseline for what we may expect from here on out.
- Brooklyn Nets: (47-35)
- New York Knicks: (46-36)
- Miami Heat: (43-39)
- Atlanta Hawks: (42-40)
- Toronto Raptors: (40-42)
- Washington Wizards: (39-43)
NBA Draft Lottery Territory
- Chicago Bulls: (37-45)
- Indiana Pacers: (37-45)
- Orlando Magic: (34-48)
By extrapolating their season average, this projects the Bulls to go 10-12 to finish out the season. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable they can improve on that mark, perhaps substantially so. If the Bulls finish out the season 12-10, they’ll tie Washington’s projected 39 wins here. If they do radically better in the wake of acquiring Beverley, by let’s say achieving a 14-8 record to close out the season, they’d be in the driver’s seat to control their own destiny and qualify for the playoffs via the play-in tournament.
Qualifying for the playoffs outright is probably an unrealistic goal right now even with the Nets expected to fall in the standings. A surging Knicks squad right now would force the Bulls to pass up Miami for the sixth seed, and I don’t think the Bulls have enough time left to dig themselves out of their 4.5-game deficit. That being said, winning the play-in tournament is far from an impossible hurdle for this team to overcome
Even Las Vegas seems to agree that Beverley has an outside chance to replicate last year’s play-in tournament magic. Sportsbooks have the Bulls’ odds of weathering the storm and qualifying for the playoffs at +190, coming out ahead of Washington’s +330 and just behind Toronto’s +152.
If the Bulls can continue winning and demonstrate noticeable improvement over their last 22 games, that number is bound to go up. But it all starts tonight against another team jostling for play-in tournament position in the Wizards. If Chicago can take care of business and look good doing it, it’s only a matter of time before the fans hopeful for another playoff run come crawling out of the woodwork.