A lot of the recent discourse about the Bulls’ upcoming first-round series with the Bucks has been pretty one-sided. The expectation is for the reigning champs to cruise to a four-game sweep with a cold brewski in their hands. But we all know it’s never that easy in the playoffs, and I’m sure the oddsmakers will remind us of just that!
*hears something through earpiece*
What’s that? The Bulls’ odds are crappy? Like super-duper crappy? Are you sure? Super sure. Got it.
FiveThirtyEight runs two algorithms to project playoff success. The first chart is based on their RAPTOR player rankings for each team, which you can learn more about here. Using a grouping of these numbers, FiveThirtyEight gives the Bulls just a 5 percent chance to make the conference semifinals, which is actually somehow worse than two teams that have yet to secure a playoff bid in the Cleveland Cavaliers (6%) and Atlanta Hawks (15%).
If we look at FiveThirtyEight’s Elo forecast, however, the numbers make a bit more sense. The Bulls move ahead of all Play-In Tournament teams except the Minnesota Timberwolves (who clinched their seven seed last night) with an 18% chance to make the conference semifinals. While the number isn’t at all promising, it at least gives them the 6th-best odds in the East to move on, which does fall in line with their current seeding.
Things remain grim when we head over to The Ringer’s NBA Odd Machine. The site’s algorithm (which is based primarily on point differential) broke down each team’s chances of winning the series in 4-7 games. The most likely outcome with a 25 percent chance is for the Bucks to take the series in five games. The second-most likely outcome is for the first-round series to finish in six games (20%), followed by a clean sweep (18%). The Bulls’ best chance at cracking the second round would come in six or seven games, which The Ringer gives just an 8 percent chance. This is why I never liked math!
Ok, fine, forget the numbers! What are the actual human beings saying?
The Athletic’s Josh Robbins asked anonymous scouts, executives, and coaches about each upcoming first-round series. Each of the three picked the Bucks to win in five games, with one scout calling Chicago “a skeleton of what they could have been.” Ouch, dude.
If it makes you feel any better, though, all three seemed to believe the Bulls were in a decent spot moving forward. They pointed toward the injury trouble as the main reason for the team’s recent drop-off. And, hey, if you are high on the Bulls’ ability to pull off a staggering upset, you can always head over to the PointsBet Illinois Sportsbook and the Draft Kings Illinois Sportsbook to bet the Bulls to move on at +650. The odds are even steeper at the Fanduel Illinois Sportsbook at +700.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: My expectations are comfortably tempered for this first round. While none of these numbers or comments are exciting to see, I can live with them knowing what it means for this franchise to simply be back in the postseason mix. At the end of the day, this remains an important step forward for what the new front office is trying to build, and I look forward to watching what comes of it regardless of the outcome.