No team has been more up and down than the Chicago Bulls this season. Sitting at 13-13 and 8th in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls have shown glimpses of being a much better team than their record shows, but have also done just the opposite on several occasions. The Bulls have solid wins against a couple top-tier teams in the NBA, including the Cleveland Cavalier and San Antonio Spurs. However, they also have terrible losses to below average teams in their losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, who are tied for worst and second worst records in the entire league, respectively. The inconsistency in the Bulls play has led to many frustrations throughout the hearts and minds of the Bulls players, staff, and fans.
For most teams, sitting at .500 and in the playoff mix would be sufficient. That is never the case in Chicago, especially in a season that seemed to have too much upside initially. The Bulls did not have high expectations coming into the season, being ranked 18th in ESPN’s first NBA Power Rankings. Chicago’s roster went through a major overhaul this offseason when franchise faces Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah departed for the New York Knicks, and no one expected Chicago to be very good. Even with the addition of Hall of Famer to be Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler’s rise to stardom, the bar was set low for this Chicago team. This quickly changed once the season began.
Through the Bulls first 18 games, they sat at 11-7, 7th in the NBA Power Rankings, and were in the hunt at the top of the Eastern Conference. This stretch was capped of with an impressive win of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But since that win against the Cavs, the Bulls have been way below average. Dropping 6 of their last 8 games and riding a 3 game losing streak, the Bulls seem to have lost all ability to do anything right. This was highlighted in their latest defeat, a 95-69 beat down put on by the Milwaukee Bucks, only a night after the Bucks beat the Bulls 108-97.
This stretch has everyone wondering whether this is just a bump in the road for the Bulls, or is this their hot start simply cooling off?
The Chicago Bulls have been a roller coaster all season. One minute they are being looked at as the surprise team of the year, the next, the biggest disappointment. While injuries to Doug McDermott and Michael Carter-Williams have also hurt the Bulls, their biggest fault has been lack of consistency from anyone not named Jimmy Butler. While Butler is having an outstanding year, averaging 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists a game, no other player has been able to step up and aid Butler consistently throughout the year.
Wade has been good, and a decent wing-man to Butler, but his shooting has not been great. The question also still looms if Wade will remain healthy. Rondo is having another Rondo year; a lot of assists, little scoring. But it remains hard for him to rack up the assists with the lack of shooters around him.
Speaking of shooters, Nikola Mirotic has easily been the most disappointing factor for this Bulls team. Mirotic was supposed to be the starting power forward, stretching teams out with his shooting ability, but was beat out by Taj Gibson after playing so poorly in the pre-season. Those troubles are still haunting him, as he is only scoring 8 points a game, while shooting below 30% behind the 3-point line. Add all of these up, and you have a decent team with a lot of problems.
Chicago is a team loaded with talent, but also a team with plenty of question marks. While Butler is obviously an emerging superstar, does he have the talent around him to help him carry the workload? Is D Wade still young and explosive enough to be a threat every night to opposing defenses? Will shooters like McDermott and Mirotic get healthy and pick up the slack?
The Bulls host the Detroit Pistons tonight in what would appear to be a normal regular season game. However, it is feeling like this game will bear much more importance. Not only would another loss extend their losing streak to 4 games, it would drop them below .500. Worst of all, the Pistons would jump the Bulls in the standings. This could lead to a serious downfall in a Chicago team that already has no confidence right now. On the flip side, a win could really boost team morale right now, and set them back on track.
It is still early, and there are a million possible outcomes for not only Chicago, but every team in the NBA. Even knowing this, the Bulls do not want to fall into an early season lull. Digging a hole for themselves right now could lead to a destructive season. For now, all we can do is sit back and see how they respond.