The Chicago Bulls are stuck in the middle seat between Big Bird and Barney the Dinosaur. In other words, they couldn’t be in a more uncomfortable position.
A team that hoped to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference currently sits 12th with a record of 6-10. They have lost four in a row and six of their last seven games, which included an agonizing 108-107 loss to the rebuilding Orlando Magic.
Indeed, the loss to Orlando represented a new low for this recently revamped organization. Not only did Chicago trade the Magic a lofty package of Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks for Nikola Vucevic two seasons ago, but Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner – the player drafted with one of Chicago’s picks – were the two players to lead Orlando to victory.
This roster now sits in unfamiliar territory. As a group that started last season hot and formed a generous cushion before some second-half struggles appeared now has to flip the script. It will be up to this core to prove why the front office let “continuity” become the buzzword of the offseason. And nothing about that process will be easy.
While the Chicago Bulls will at least add some much-needed rest days to their calendar, the opponents aren’t getting any easier. According to Positive Residual, the Bulls will still have the sixth-toughest schedule between now and the start of the new year. Things will be particularly challenging over the next two weeks, which will feature a grueling six-game road trip.
After the Bulls battle the reigning Eastern Conference champions at the United Center tonight, they will head to Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Utah, Phoenix, Golden State, and Sacramento. Each team currently holds a better record than Chicago, as well as a better net rating.
In fact, the next time the Bulls will play an opponent that has started the season worse is on Dec. 26 when they battle the Houston Rockets. I know … oof.
If we want to look on the bright side, the familiarity that comes with “continuity” should help a team like Chicago work out early-season kinks relatively quickly. The problem, however, is that they have yet to show any signs of going just that.
Slow starts have continued to be a problem, as has rim protection and the lack of 3-point shooting. It’s truly been a mix of poor effort and poor roster construction that has started to sink this ship. And, unless those problems are addressed over the next couple of weeks, the Bulls may reach the bottom of the ocean faster than anyone expected. The East remains jam-packed with competitive teams, so the faster you fall out of the mix, the harder it might be to re-enter it.