Just a few months removed from a poor 40-42 finish and defeat in the play-in tournament, the Chicago Bulls have much work to do if they want to climb the Eastern Conference ladder. As it currently stands, most people would agree that this team is much closer to rebuilding teams like the Pistons and Magic than they are the Bucks and Celtics, and ESPN’s win projections for the 2023-24 season reflect just that.
The Bulls are projected to win a lowly 35.7 games according to Kevin Pelton‘s model, a massive step back from an already disappointing 2022-23 season. The model has Chicago finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference and with the league’s 7th-worst record. It should go without saying, but fans certainly won’t be pleased if this season ends with nothing to show for it besides another No. 7 pick.
Despite remaining relatively healthy last year, the Bulls still underperformed as a whole. Pelton undoubtedly factored that in when building his model, as any significant injuries could see the Bulls struggle even further next season. Here’s what he had to say to justify Chicago’s abysmal ranking:
"“The Bulls are counting on carrying over their 12-6 finish to last season, followed by a play-in upset of the Raptors. They also had a strong plus-1.3 point differential. Yet Chicago could regress in terms of health. Their five most common starters all played at least 74 games, while this roster is one of the 10 oldest weighted by projected minutes, both of which indicate trouble ahead with the Bulls retaining their core.”"
ESPN believes the Bulls are on a trajectory to suffer a disastrous 2023-24 season.
Pelton’s point about the risk of injuries is entirely fair. That is a real reason for fans to be concerned, especially considering Zach LaVine’s injury history. DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are also only getting older, despite the fact both players have aged gracefully thus far.
Still, I find the fact he acknowledges the Bulls’ strong finish in 2022-23 with Patrick Beverley while simultaneously refusing to factor Chicago’s improvements at point guards into a better projection next season very odd. With Jevon Carter and an improved Coby White running the show, Chicago’s point guard rotation may be the strongest its ever been since the days of Derrick Rose.
Not to say the Bulls’ point guards are stars, but I believe they’re no longer the glaring weakness they have been for nearly a decade now. With Lonzo Ball and Beverley at the helm over the last two years, Chicago holds a record of 36-22 — on pace for 50.8 wins. It’s simply naive to ignore how much better this team plays when they have a distributor creating better looks.
The Bulls aren’t also banking on one player to carry the load as we have in year’s past. DeRozan and LaVine are both capable of stepping up to become a true top option in the event the other goes down with an injury. Coby and Patrick Williams are also waiting in the wings to assume a secondary offensive role. Alex Caruso, Carter, and Ayo Dosunmu serve as wealth of defensive depth, while Torrey Craig is perfectly capable of stepping into Williams’ role at power forward.
This Bulls team may not have the makings of a title contender just yet, but they are simply deeper with more talent on the roster than we’ve seen in a long time. If we’re placing the betting line at a meager 35 wins, I have no issues taking the over on the Bulls this season.