Taking a big step back from a 46-win campaign in 2021-22, the Chicago Bulls looked worse in every way this time around. Despite having a relatively healthy season as a team, the Bulls’ weaknesses were exposed and taken advantage of by more well-rounded teams. A significant lack of shooting and rebounding on the roster proved to be Chicago’s downfall more often than not.
That’s why when Bleacher Report placed the Bulls all the way down at 18th in their way-too-early offseason power rankings, I can’t exactly say I was too shocked. This team clearly still has massive steps left to take before anyone will take them seriously as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
B/R’s Andy Bailey offers his justification for the ranking here.
"“The continued injury woes of Lonzo Ball is one of the league’s tougher current stories, mostly because of the effect on Ball and his career. It’s also severely impacted the trajectory of the Chicago Bulls. In 2021-22, the Bulls were plus-6.8 when Lonzo was on the floor with DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević and Zach LaVine. But he only appeared in 35 games. Then, he missed all of 2022-23. Over the last two seasons, when that trio plays without Ball, it’s minus-2.1 points per 100 possessions. And there’s still no timeline for the point guard’s return. If there was some confidence he’d be back and ready by training camp, it’d be easier to move this team a few spots up the standings. Without that table-setter, Chicago is likely in for another year in the middle.”"
With no avenues to significantly improve this summer, the Chicago Bulls deserve to be power ranked as a middle-of-the-pack team.
Bailey is absolutely right on the money with his assertion that the Bulls are fundamentally flawed without a point guard to run the show. That’s precisely why we saw this team play so much better when Lonzo Ball was healthy, as well as when Patrick Beverley was picked up for the final 23 games of last season. If Chicago can’t find a true floor general this summer, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for their odds in 2023-24.
To make things worse, I actually found this power ranking to be quite generous to the Bulls. Bailey has Chicago ranked above Atlanta, Toronto, Oklahoma City, and Utah in these rankings, each of whom was arguably a much more dangerous team last season. Here’s how the full power rankings shook out:
- 1-5: Nuggets, Heat, Celtics, Bucks, Suns
- 6-10: 76ers, Lakers, Warriors, Clippers, Kings
- 11-15: Knicks, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Timberwolves
- 16-20: Pelicans, Nets, Bulls, Hawks, Raptors
- 21-25: Thunder, Jazz, Magic, Trail Blazers, Wizards
- 26-30: Pacers, Spurs, Pistons, Hornets, Rockets
Although the Bulls could surpass Brooklyn or New Orleans in these rankings if either team decides to pull the trigger on a big trade, the fact that any of the four teams behind them could easily pass Chicago up is cause for concern.
We aren’t talking about the Chicago Bulls competing for a championship here. We’re talking about the Chicago Bulls competing to be the 18th-best team in the NBA next season. If that doesn’t tell you how precarious of a situation this team is in, I don’t know what will.