The Chicago Bulls are one of the strongest teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference. But how will a strong 2012-2013 NBA regular season schedule impact the Bulls' NBA championship odds? Check out this video for more information on the Bulls' championship chances.
The Bulls' schedule is difficult, particularly because Chicago will face several daunting road trips and a host of top playoff teams in both conferences while both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are returning to health.
Deng may open the regular season in Chicago's lineup, depending on the post-Olympic state of his wrist, but he is unlikely to be playing at one hundred percent to begin the year.
Specifically, Chicago opens with an extremely tough November. The Bulls face Oklahoma City and Boston at home then go on a five game road trip to Phoenix, Los Angeles (Clippers), Portland, Houston and Milwaukee.
Long cross-country road trips are very difficult for teams, particularly when they are just getting their sea legs in the opening month.
If Chicago falters and loses most of those games, it could adversely impact their playoff seeding and, therefore, their NBA Championship odds. The Bulls need at least a No. 4 seed (and home court advantage) for a real shot at contention, so getting through the November slate without too many losses is critical.
Chicago gets a break, relatively speaking, in December, which should help the team steady itself and work to secure positioning for a strong playoff seeding when Rose returns in February or early March.
If the Bulls can get through November relatively unscathed, they may cruise through December and be in good position for the second half of the season.
That is particularly true because, while Chicago does play both Boston and Miami on the road in January, there are enough cupcake games to start out 2013 on the right foot.
After January, the Bulls' championship odds hinge largely on how quickly Rose returns and how well Deng and Joakim Noah hold up as the season progresses. Noah (and Carlos Boozer, though his health is less critical to Chicago's success) is historically an injury-prone player.
Chicago will need him to stay healthy because they lost Omer Asik in free agency. Deng is a workhorse but, if he plays through an already injured wrist for several months, he may be ineffective by the end of the season.
Ultimately, the Bulls are long-shot contenders this year because of Rose's brutal injury, which robbed the franchise of its superstar and on-court difference-maker. However, if Rose's recovery progresses well, he may return early enough to play himself into shape for the playoffs.
If that happens, and the Bulls' relatively easy schedule in November and December helps them survive the early season gauntlet, Chicago could be a contending sleeper for the NBA Championship.