Finishing the season with a 40-42 record and with a loss to the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament, I doubt many Chicago Bulls fans would consider this season a positive one for the record books. Despite the silver lining of this being the second-most wins the Bulls have racked up over the last six years, it was a considerable step back from their 46-36 record and playoff appearance from last season.
Despite the poor performance, this year actually panned out better than many expected from the Chicago Bulls, believe it or not. I suppose that much is fair, considering the fact that although the Bulls achieved 46 wins last season, they finished the season on a horrendous 7-15 run (8-19 if you include the playoffs).
With no return in sight for Lonzo Ball, I can’t say I blame anyone for being lower on the Bulls than I was entering the season. Perhaps foolishly so, I was optimistic the Bulls would be able to bounce back with a deeper bench and improvements from the young core, pegging the Bulls to win 49 games this season, a +3 improvement over last year.
Obviously, that much never came to fruition, so maybe I should learn to trust Kevin Pelton’s win-projection model over at ESPN a little more in the future.
Despite a lackluster conclusion to their 2022-23 season, several statistical models suggest the Chicago Bulls actually overperformed this year.
Pelton’s model projected the Chicago Bulls to finish 12th place in the East with an average win total of 38.1, just 1.9 wins off of the real result — and let’s be honest, would have only been 0.9 off, if not for Dallas’ blatantly tanking the penultimate game of the season. Pelton cites Lonzo’s absence, an expected regression from DeMar DeRozan, and a negative point differential as reasons he expects the Bulls to slide. These all feel like fair assessments and proved to be true in the end, so it’s difficult to get too mad about it.
Pelton explains how his system works below:
"“[My projections] are based on a combination of my SCHOENE player projections for box score stats as well as three-year, luck-adjusted Regularized Adjusted Four Factors (RAPM) from NBAshotcharts.com. I estimate games played based on those missed over the past three years then make subjective predictions for playing time.The result is an expected wins total based on average health luck. Because some teams will have better or worse fortune, but we don’t know which ones, the average totals will inevitably be closer to .500 than the actual final standings.”"
Pelton wasn’t alone in his skepticism for Chicago this year. John Hollinger of The Athletic had them winning 40 games and finishing 9th (perfectly on the money, somehow), while the aggregated rankings at Power Rankings Guru had the Bulls winning an average of 39 games according to all recorded responses.
Still, I doubt this is any solace for Bulls fans who expected the team to make waves this season. You can include me among the many who had genuine optimism for this team, but in a year where Chicago’s All-Star trio remained relatively healthy and all played well, it’s hard to dig up any more excuses for this roster’s failure.
Vegas seemed to be higher on the Bulls than most analytical projections this year, as FanDuel’s preseason over/under win projection was listed at 44.5. Had the Bulls just barely crossed this hurdle with 45 wins, that would have been good enough to tie the Brooklyn Nets for the 6th seed — a tie that would have fallen in Chicago’s favor, as they won the season series 3-1.
However, it seems the Bulls’ over/under was boosted due to our high hopes for this team more so than the bookies’ genuine belief that Chicago would be a shoo-in for the playoffs. At this point, betting on the Bulls to disappoint feels like it would be the far more profitable (and less stressful) venture.