The Chicago Bulls, who watched a promising season slip away last year, will once again try to emerge as a top contender in the Eastern Conference in 2022-23.
Chicago stood atop the East standings with a 26-10 record on Jan. 10. A combination of injuries and a dip in performance saw it go 20-26 during the remainder of the regular season, and it was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls have embarked on a mostly quiet offseason. Their main piece of business was re-signing Zach LaVine to a five-year, $215.6 million contract. Veteran center Andre Drummond and first-round pick Dalen Terry headlined the roster additions.
Keeping LaVine and getting Lonzo Ball back from a knee injury to restore the core alongside DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic gives the team a strong foundation.
Let's examine all of the key details about the Bulls' regular-season games following the NBA's schedule release before taking a look at some key matchups and a record projection.
2022-23 Bulls Schedule Details
Season Opener: Oct. 19 at Miami Heat
Championship Odds: 46-1 (via FanDuel)
Full Schedule: NBA.com
Milwaukee Bucks (First Meeting: Nov. 23)
The Bucks finished five games ahead of the Bulls to win the Central Division last season before knocking Chicago out of the playoffs. It makes Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. the main measuring stick for the Bulls heading into the new year.
Even though Chicago wasn't at full strength for the postseason meeting, the ease with which Milwaukee won the series in five games was a statement.
It's a matchup issue for the Bulls, who ranked tied for 23rd in defensive efficiency last season while the Bucks were tied for third in offensive efficiency, per ESPN. The inability to generate consistent stops is always going to cause problems in the playoffs.
So, that's the main thing to watch when the teams meet in the regular season. If Chicago shows progress at the defensive end, it will bode well for not only their games against Milwaukee but also their chances of seriously competing among the East's elite.
Miami Heat (First Meeting: Oct. 19)
Similarly, the Bulls struggled against the Heat last season. They went 0-4 and lost the games by an average of 15 points.
Miami's offense wasn't as much of a well-oiled machine as Milwaukee, but its depth and numerous different scoring options, led by Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo, proved difficult for Chicago to slow down. It scored at least 107 points in all four of the contests.
At full strength, the Bulls have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with just about any team in the NBA, but the games against the Heat and the conference's other top teams showed how much work is left to do defensively to contend.
Chicago will get several chances to show it's turning a corner in that regard throughout the regular season.
The Bulls have a wide range of potential outcomes in 2022-23, which will make them one of the most intriguing teams to watch throughout the campaign.
If Ball and Alex Caruso, a key defensive stopper on the opponent's top backfield player, return in top form and they avoid other high-impact injuries, there's enough talent on the roster to make a push toward over 50 wins to contend for the top seed in the East.
On the flip side, if it takes a while for Ball to rejoin the lineup and a period beyond that to find his groove, or if injuries once again prevent the projected rotation from playing together consistently, Chicago could slip closer to the .500 mark.
The latter outcome would be playing with fire in a conference that's become far more well-rounded over the past couple of years. Every team inside the East's top 10 last season finished with at least 43 wins, so a .500 record would be short of the playoff cutoff.
It's safest to project the Bulls somewhere in the 42-46 win range, but the most important thing will be their health at the time the playoffs start. If their preferred rotation is ready to roll, a deep playoff run will be on the table, even with a lower seed.
Record Prediction: 44-38
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