1. Cleveland Cavaliers (44-27)
Landing a first-round matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers would take a stroke of luck or two, but it’s actually not as unreasonable as it might seem. The Cavs are currently 7 games behind the first-place Bucks, and with 11 games left on the schedule for Cleveland, it’s unreasonable to expect them to cover that ground. That being said, they’re only 4 games behind the second-seeded Celtics squad that has dropped 5 of its last 8 games.
If the Cavaliers are able to leap into the second seed, they would undoubtedly be the most attractive potential first-round matchup for Chicago. But for that to happen, the Bulls must not only manage to win the play-in tournament — which is no small feat in and of itself — but also must secure at least the eighth seed before the end of the season. The Bulls are just two games behind the Hawks for that position, but the Raptors and Wizards are also in the hunt as well.
Not only would this matchup be advantageous from a strategic perspective, but Cleveland is also the ideal first-round opponent for Chicago simply because it would be a joy to watch play out.
No matter who the Bulls end up playing, they certainly wouldn’t be favored against any of these four teams. After all, Chicago dropped each of their four games against Cleveland this season. Still, the Bulls are 10-8 against the Cavaliers over the last five years, so a potential playoff matchup between these two teams who are now at their best over that span could help re-ignite a rivalry that’s lacked kindling for far too long.