Two weeks ago, I could have sworn I was watching Nikola Jokic hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a championship parade through Denver. Similarly, it felt like just one week ago I watched Victor Wembanyama walk up on stage to don a Spurs hat. And just yesterday, I’m fairly sure I was watching the Chicago Bulls storm Las Vegas to play in the NBA Summer League. Whether I believe it or not, the 2023-24 NBA season is already ramping up, and that means it’s already time for power rankings galore.
Although the season doesn’t kick off until October, ESPN jumped right on the first edition of their power rankings for next season here in late July. I was hopeful that they’d have some good things to say about Chicago’s offseason, but I was disappointed to see they were particularly cruel with their assessment of the Bulls this summer.
A panel of ESPN experts ranked the Chicago Bulls as the 22nd-best team in the league as of right now, a placement that feels particularly low in my opinion. You can read the full article and explanations for their rankings here, but if you just want to know how the Bulls placed among the competition, here’s how the entire power ranking shook out.
- 1-5: Nuggets, Bucks, Celtics, Suns, Heat
- 6-10: 76ers, Lakers, Warriors, Cavaliers, Grizzlies
- 11-15: Clippers, Kings, Knicks, Mavericks, Thunder
- 16-20: Timberwolves, Pelicans, Hawks, Nets, Jazz
- 21-25: Pacers, Bulls, Magic, Rockets, Raptors
- 26-30: Spurs, Hornets, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Pistons
Although the Bulls aren’t true contenders just yet, ESPN’s latest power ranking is nothing short of disrespectful.
The basis of their assessment here revolves around the fact that the Bulls have been unable to find a way to turn this team into a true contender. ESPN’s Jamal Collier offers his two cents on Chicago below:
"“The Bulls continue to retool their team around the trio of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic despite the fact that the organization does not expect Lonzo Ball to play during the 2023-24 season. Still, Chicago made a few shrewd signings with the additions of Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig to add some much needed 3-point shooting and bench depth.”"
While I’ll acknowledge that this current core is certainly capped with a ceiling far below their championship aspirations, that’s where my agreeableness ends. Just because the Bulls are not a title contender, does not mean they’re among the bottom rung of teams building up through the lottery.
For example, ESPN puts Chicago one slot below Indiana, and gives both teams equal odds of winning the championship next year. Yes, the same Indiana that went 35-47 last year and finished the season on a dismal 11-22 run. Tyrese Haliburton may be a better prospect worth building around than anyone on the Bulls currently, but we’ve seen this team post a combined record of 36-21 with either Lonzo Ball or Patrick Beverley on the court. If Jevon Carter can be even a league-average point guard, the Bulls should have no problems outpacing a bottom-feeder like the Pacers.
This also applies to several teams ahead of the Bulls, including the Jazz, Nets, and I believe even the Hawks. On paper, Chicago is built to be a very good regular season team if they can remain healthy, and I think they’ve shown more than enough to prove they don’t belong here in the bottom third of the league in any sort of power ranking at this moment in time.