The Chicago Bulls were one of the hottest teams at the start of last season.
They raced out to an 8-3 start and remained hot for the first three-quarters of the season.
On February 25, they were 39-21, tied for first in the Eastern Conference.
Things fell apart from there as Chicago went 7-15 down the stretch to finish 46-36, good for sixth in the conference.
But it was still a good season for the Bulls.
And they followed it up with a decent offseason.
Zach LaVine and the Bulls have agreed to a five-year, $215M max contract extension, Klutch Sports announced Friday. pic.twitter.com/1GUz9w6ha0
— ESPN (@espn) July 1, 2022
Ball suffered a meniscus injury during the 2021-22 season that has seemingly turned into a more serious injury than initially believed.
But it will be imperative for the Bulls to get off on the right foot this season.
Their roster is clearly capable of winning when fully healthy.
Chicago just needs to make sure it can get its full roster healthy.
What Would A Slow Start Mean For The Bulls’ Roster?
Before Rudy Gobert was ultimately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was linked to the Bulls.
REPORT: Any deal that could land Rudy Gobert with Bulls would “almost certainly” involve Nikola Vucevic.
(via B/R) pic.twitter.com/JJsffz7LvU
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) June 7, 2022
While nothing came of it, the smoke showed that the Bulls wanted to improve their roster.
Vucevic is a talented offensive player, capable of stretching the floor, finishing in the post, and keeping the ball moving.
But he is not as talented on the defensive end.
Vucevic provides little rim protection or the ability to switch on defense.
If Chicago gets off to a slow start, trade rumors involving Vucevic may begin to swirl again.
And Vucevic may not be the only name included.
Which could be shortsighted by management.
Before Ball and Alex Caruso missed serious time due to injuries, the Bulls went 19-10 in their first 29 games together.
If you only look at the games all five of their key players played (LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic, Ball, Caruso), Chicago was 12-5.
The Bulls have the talent to win in the NBA.
It is just a matter of if their injury-reduced roster can heal up before changes are made.
Eastern Conference Preview
While roster shake-up is one potential consequence of a slow start, falling behind in the playoff race is another.
The Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Nets are all locks for the playoffs next year assuming no catastrophic injuries.
Along with the Bulls, the Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and New York Knicks will all be competing for a playoff spot.
If Chicago wants to build on last season’s sixth-place finish, they will need to ensure they stick close to the top five teams in the conference.
Which will be no easy feat to accomplish.
NBA 2022-23 strength of schedule for each team, broken down into four time periods. Higher numbers = easier schedule. Teams at the bottom have the toughest schedules. pic.twitter.com/AA6Y1UWZLH
— Ed Küpfer (@EdKupfer) August 18, 2022
The easiest portion of the Bulls’ schedule does not happen until after the New Year and before the All-Star break.
The first half of their season and last quarter is a difficult stretch.
Chicago will need to make sure they don’t dig themselves into too deep of a hole.