The NBA season is still young, but it sure doesn’t feel like it for the Chicago Bulls.
When the Bulls and Pelicans tip off at the United Center tonight, it will mark Chicago’s 13th game of the regular season. Not only have they tied the Utah Jazz for playing the most NBA games thus far, but they have also held the 7th-toughest strength of schedule in the league to date, per Positive Residual. Add in the fact that they are currently the only team in the league to have already played four back-to-back sets, and there is no denying their first few weeks of the season have been truly brutal.
Fortunately, the Bulls have managed to pick up a few impressive wins and hold onto a .500 record. This has been good enough to keep them inside the East’s Top 6, and they’ll now have a chance to improve on that mark with plenty of rest days ahead.
After Wednesday’s battle with the Pelicans, the Bulls will have their first three-day break of the season. Then, after playing the Nuggets on Sunday, they’ll get both Monday and Tuesday off before a second battle with the Pelicans. If we expand the schedule all the way out until Jan. 1, Chicago will actually play just 23 games, which will be the fewest in the NBA!
Now, the not-so-great news is that the Bulls’ strength of schedule will technically increase over this stretch. Positive Residual puts them as having the 4th-hardest SOS for the remainder of the year. However, fewer overall games should mean an overall healthier team, particularly when it comes to the availability of Zach LaVine.
The Bulls have cautiously handled LaVine’s early-season workload, as the All-Star has already missed four games this season. There shouldn’t be any need to limit his playing time in the coming weeks, though, which is splendid news for a bunch of obvious reasons.
Not only should the Bulls be far more well-equipped to handle their tough schedule with LaVine in the lineup, but LaVine should be able to finally find his rhythm with more consistent playing time.
All it takes is a look at the stats to see that LaVine hasn’t necessarily been the same player to start this season. He’s particularly struggled to score at the rim as he seemingly tries to regain strength and confidence in his left knee. With that said, we did see signs of what could be on the horizon against the Toronto Raptors, which I think that’s a good stopping point for this brief post.
If you want to continue the conversation on what a more readily available LaVine can do for the Bulls, make sure to check out my post from yesterday on his strong performance against the Raptors: