Why Bulls' upcoming schedule is a chance to right ship


The Chicago Bulls have faced a gauntlet to start the 2022-23 NBA season.

According to Basketball Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report, the Bulls schedule to this point has been the toughest in the league, with a decent margin separating them from the rest of the field.

And while numbers are not everything, considering their four back-to-back sets in the first 12 games of the season, the slew of difficult opponents faced (17 of the Bulls’ 23 games have been against teams currently at or above .500), and the recent six-game road trip which they finished 2-4, the eye test backs that up.

None of that is said to excuse the team’s 9-14 start to the season which has featured some deflating losses and troubling trends on both sides of the ball. But it puts into perspective that 59 games remain, an extended stretch for which Basketball Reference deems the Bulls’ schedule the second-easiest in the league.

That begins Wednesday with a home matchup against the Washington Wizards, the Bulls’ first night at the United Center since Nov. 21. Four of the Bulls’ next five games are at home, and seven of their next 10 are against teams that currently sit below .500 (with the Dallas Mavericks and two trips to face the turbulent Atlanta Hawks the only exceptions):

DateTeamRecordConference Seed
Dec. 7vs. Wizards11-13East, 10
Dec. 10vs. Mavericks13-11West, 7
Dec. 11@ Hawks13-11East, 4
Dec. 14vs. Knicks11-13East, 9
Dec. 16vs. Knicks11-13East, 9
Dec. 18@ Timberwolves11-12West, 11
Dec. 20@ Heat11-14East, 11
Dec. 21@ Hawks13-11East, 4
Dec. 23@ Knicks11-13East, 9
Dec. 26vs. Rockets7-17West, 14

The caveat, of course, is that this Bulls team cannot afford to take any opponent lightly. 

While this largely underwhelming start to the season has featured impressive wins over the Boston Celtics (twice at home) and Milwaukee Bucks (once on the road), the Bulls are also just 2-4 against teams currently below .500 this season. In 2021-22, their 46-36 season-long record was built on a 24-9 mark against such competition, while the elite teams (2-21 against the top four in each conference) posed problems.

Ahead is not only a chance to take care of business that the Bulls, regardless of their own record, should be able to handle, it is also an opportunity to settle back in at home. After six straight on the road, where the Bulls are 4-9 this season, four of their next five contests are in Chicago, where they have held level at 5-5.

"It's always good to be home," DeMar DeRozan said after Wednesday morning shootaround. "You're in front of your fans, sleep in your own bed."

Matters may same bleak now. The Bulls, after all, own the NBA's sixth-worst record as of this writing.

But they are also only 1.5 games behind the last spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament and three from a top-six seed and automatic playoff bid.

"Yeah. You look at it every day. I know I do," DeRozan said of the standings. "It always feels bad going through it (losing games), but when you look at it, we just need to start with one and let that trickle down and be consistent. And two, three weeks from now we're having a different conversation."

If we are not — having different conversations about this team, that is — it will mean the opportunity currently in front of them was not seized.

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