The Chicago Bulls have started to fade in the Eastern Conference standings after a hot start to the season had them in sole possession of first place. With only have two wins total this season against teams in the top four spots of either conference, the Bulls need to improve if they want to go deep in the playoffs.
With that being said, there are three teams the Bulls need to avoid facing in the first round of the Eastern conference playoffs if they don’t want to go home early. Here’s a look at the squads that can give Chicago major issues if they draw them in the opening round.
The Philadelphia 76ers went 4-0 against the Bulls this season, led by their superstar center Joel Embiid. The 28-year-old is averaging 29.9 points per game this season and is a frontrunner for league MVP. He has never lost to the Bulls in his career and that streak would likely continue in the playoffs.
The Bulls don’t have an answer for him in the paint with Nikola Vucevic not being known as a true rim protector, and the overall lack of big men depth on the Bulls hurting their chances to guard Embiid. Philadelphia’s chance to win the NBA championship only increased with the acquisition of superstar guard James Harden at the trade deadline.
The duo of Embiid and Harden is arguably the best in the NBA and better than the Bulls’ All-Star duo of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. If the regular season ended today, the Bulls and 76ers would match up in the playoffs.
The Bucks currently sit at second in the East and are 3-0 against the Bulls this season, but the first two matchups were both decided by six points or less. Led by reigning finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is tied with Embiid at 29.9 points per game, also happen to be tied with the Sixers in the standings at 48-30.
Milwaukee has good roster depth to pair with Antetokounmpo including Jrue Holiday and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton. It will be challenging for the Bulls to contain all three of them, especially if point guard Lonzo Ball remains sidelined. The Bulls have struggled defensively at times in the 10 weeks Ball has missed while out with a knee injury.
Brooklyn is led by superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, with a healthy supplement of solid role players as well such as Seth Curry, Goran Dragic, and Andre Drummond. Brooklyn currently occupies the 8th spot in the East thanks in part to Irving’s inability to play home games for the Nets for the majority of the year. Irving has until recently, only been able to play road games this season due to New York City’s vaccine mandate. With the mandate now lifted for athletes, Irving is back to playing home games just in time for the playoffs.
Brooklyn would be a tough team for the Bulls to play good defense against, even with a fully healthy roster. The duo of Durant and Irving is as good as and maybe even slightly better than Embiid and Harden. The Bulls would likely have home-court advantage if they were to face the Nets in the postseason, but it’s hard to feel good about their chances to win the series even though they went 2-1 against Brooklyn in the regular season.
Durant and Irving have both had postseason success, winning NBA championships and Irving hitting arguably the biggest shot in NBA history to defeat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in 2016.
For as good as the Bulls have played at times this season, the roster doesn’t have much postseason experience and DeRozan has not been able to advance past the Eastern Conference Finals earlier in his career with Toronto. The Bulls have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, especially before the All-Star break, when they sat atop the East. They have stumbled a little bit since then and have begun to show some flaws that would not match up well with certain top-tier teams in the playoffs. With one week to go in the regular season, hopes are on the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors being the Bulls’ opponent in the first round, an answer we’ll have just one week from now.
Make sure to check out our Bulls forum for the latest on the team.