Forecasting Bulls' Record for Upcoming December Schedule
The Chicago Bulls are back.
Time will reveal whether that means back to competing for NBA titles or merely back to playoff participation, but this club has clearly leveled up since last season.
The month of December could give a good indication of just how far the Windy City has come. The Bulls were borderline unbeatable in October (5-1 with a top-five scoring differential), but they've been more good than great since the calendar flipped to November, as they entered Wednesday with a 7-5 mark and only the 13th-best point differential for the month.
Can Chicago spend the next month rubbing elbows with basketball's elite, or might the Bulls fall back into the Eastern Conference's midsection? We'll examine the upcoming schedule before predicting where they'll sit at the end of it.
The Bulls would do well to build momentum over this final stretch of November, because December's opening is a doozy.
Four of Chicago's first five December games are on the road. The other is a home tilt against reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The four road opponents are all .500 or better, including the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.
The middle of the month sees softer competition (more on that later), but the volume of games increases as the month goes on. The Bulls play six games in the month's first 15 days, then squeeze seven contests into the final 13 days, a stretch that includes a pair of back-to-backs.
The final week features a home-and-road set with the Indiana Pacers sandwiched around a home-and-road tussle with the Atlanta Hawks. The first two games (versus Indiana, then at Atlanta) are on consecutive nights. Neither club has been particularly pesky thus far, but both have the on-paper talent to make a run up the standings.
The Soft Spots
If the Bulls survive the month's start, they could go on a run from there.
Once they leave South Beach on Dec. 11, they won't face another team that sports a winning record the rest of the month. That doesn't mean the schedule is loaded with cellar-dwellers, but they do have a home game against both of the Detroit Pistons and the Houston Rockets.
Otherwise, there are plenty of bouts with clubs hovering near .500. They'll tussle with the Toronto Raptors twice, the Los Angeles Lakers once and have the aforementioned two games apiece against the Pacers and Hawks.
There aren't many gimme games on the docket, but they won't see many juggernauts, either.
It's more likely than not that December treats this team well.
The opening has a gauntlet vibe, but otherwise it's relatively smooth sailing for the final three weeks. That's a lot of time to stack up wins and stay above water in a deep Eastern Conference.
Barring something unexpected, the Bulls should thump the Pistons and Rockets. They'll have a hard time handling the Nets (who should be hot after losing to Chicago by 23 points earlier this month) and maybe the Heat, who have a slew of defensive stoppers to throw at Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.
Everything else on the schedule is up for grabs, but Chicago should be favored in most of the remaining matchups. If the Bulls split the four games mentioned above, they could have a productive month by winning six games against the Knicks, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Raptors (twice), Lakers, Pacers (twice) and Hawks (twice), which would give them an 8-6 December record. Find seven victories in those contests, and that's a very productive 9-5 month.
Maybe the optimistic winds blowing out of Chicago are getting to me, but my crystal ball sees the Bulls sprinting through December's second half to finish the month with a 9-5 record.