Talking about playoff projections in December is something only giddy basketball lovers do when their team has missed the playoffs for four-straight seasons.
Hi! It me. Giddy basketball lover whose team has missed the playoffs four-straight seasons!
The Chicago Bulls 17-9 start is good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference and only .5-game back from the Finals-contending Brooklyn Nets. While folks around the league expected this organization to take a step in the right direction after a high-profile offseason, seeing them leap this drastically into the competitive spotlight has been a remarkably pleasant surprise. The hot start has propelled the team up the latest power rankings, and it’s done the same for their 2021-22 playoff odds.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Bulls currently have the best chance to waltz into the playoffs with a 96.2 percent mark. The site also gives them a 28.9 percent chance at earning the No. 1 seed and a 16.6 percent chance at walking out as conference champions. Picturing an extended playoff run is something that happens every night my head hits the pillow, but I should probably wait to jump that far ahead while completely conscious. Our expectations will and should change for this Bulls team if the wins keep coming. However, I’m still considering something like a playoff berth and first-round victory a very successful season for a franchise trying to reclaim its standing among the league elites. Not only would that be enough to keep Zach LaVine bought into the Bulls’ future, but it would give this team the playoff experience most teams earn before winning a title.
To be clear, though, if the Bulls decide they want to be the 2021 Phoenix Suns … that works too!
Eastern Conference Playoffs Odds:
— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) December 9, 2021
FiveThirtyEight also generates its own playoff odds, which they base on its RAPTOR playing rankings. The site lists Chicago as having an 84 percent chance at cracking the East’s top-8, which is the 5th-highest odds in the conference behind the Bucks (99%), Nets (94%), 76ers (91%), and Hawks (89%). They also list the Bulls’ chance at making the Finals at 3 percent.
Those numbers may sit well below what Basketball-Reference has to say, but the overall point remains: The Bulls are viewed as one of the Eastern Conference’s top playoff teams. What the group has done to start this season has moved them out of the play-in tournament conversation and into a potential top-5 seed. Of course, there is a lot of time for things to change, and the craziness of the Bulls’ current injury report reminds us of that, but this does feel like a justifiable expectation for the time being.
Also, I just have to say how awesome it is to see these numbers so heavily back in the Bulls’ favor. I remember writing about the team’s 18 percent chance of making the playoffs at the 30-game mark last season, trying to convince myself a shot at a No. 8 seed was in the cards. Funny how much can change in a year, huh?