The Chicago Bulls’ Odds of Moving Up the East Standings Are … Slim

If the Chicago Bulls have made one thing clear, it’s that they are starving for some Play-In Tournament basketball!

The front office opted to sit out the third-straight trade deadline despite the team’s underwhelming performance during the first half of the NBA season. Reports surfaced around Feb. 8 that the organization believed there was room to climb up the East leaderboards, and Arturas Karnisovas practically said as much during his post-deadline press conference.

Unfortunately, the numbers tell a different story. While things may be jumbled in the middle of the East, both the Bulls’ upcoming schedule and recent performance suggest that they aren’t going anywhere.

Current East Standings

  1. Celtics (43-12)
  2. Cavaliers (36-17
  3. Bucks (35-21)
  4. Knicks (33-22)
  5. 76ers (32-22)
  6. Pacers (31-25)
  7. Heat (30-25)
  8. Magic (30-25)
  9. Bulls (26-29)
  10. Hawks (24-31)
  11. Nets (21-33)
  12. Raptors (19-36)
  13. Hornets (13-41)
  14. Wizards (9-45)
  15. Pistons (8-46)

Note: Play-In Tournament Teams are in bold

Chicago Bulls Post All-Star Break Schedule

Feb. 22 – vs. Celtics
Feb. 25 – @ Pelicans
Feb. 27 – vs. Pistons
March 1 – vs. Bucks
March 4 – @ Kings
March 6 – @ Jazz
March 7 – @ Warriors
March 9 – @ Clippers
March 11 – vs. Mavericks
March 13 – @ Pacers
March 14 – vs. Clippers
March 16 – @ Wizards
March 18 – vs. Trail Blazers
March 21 – @ Rockets
March 23 – vs. Celtics
March 25 – vs. Wizards
March 27 – vs. Pacers
March 29 – @ Nets
March 31 – @ Timberwolves
April 1 – vs. Hawks
April 5 – vs. Knicks
April 7 – @ Magic
April 9 – vs. Knicks
April 11 – @ Pistons
April 12 – @ Wizards
April 14 – @ Knicks

Demar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls high five
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Can the Bulls Move Up the Standings?

Replicating their post-All-Star break success from 2022-23 – where they went 14-9 – isn’t going to be easy. The Chicago Bulls are currently positioned to play 16 of their 27 games against opponents who are .500 or better this season. As we discussed after the franchise’s hard-to-justify quiet trade deadline, the Bulls are only 9-21 against these kinds of teams this season.

Indeed, Chicago would need to go 15-12 over the final handful of weeks to get themselves to .500. They would also – duh – need several of the opponents stationed in front of them to hit a bump in the road to advance up the standings. The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic sit 7th and 8th, respectively, and both are 30-25 on the season thus far. Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers are 31-25 and have held onto the 6th seed in recent weeks, keeping themselves out of the Play-In Tournament picture.

The Bulls have only gone 11-10 since Jan. 1, 2024, which doesn’t instill much confidence in their ability to string together a meaningful run. This is particularly true when we consider they held this record against the 7th-easiest strength of schedule in the NBA, per Positive Residual. The schedule over the final 27 games will now be the league’s 13th-toughest.

That’s right, those teams the Bulls would hope to pass each have a considerably easier road ahead. Positive Residual gives the Orlando Magic the single-easiest schedule to finish out the year, while the Heat have the 7th-easiest. Even worse for Chicago, the Atlanta Hawks are positioned with the 12th-easiest SOS, and they will begin their post-All-Star-break period only two games behind the Bulls in the No. 10 seed.

Again, the main takeaway here is that the path to some kind of remarkable turnaround is nearly impossible to see. Let’s not forget that the Bulls’ 14-9 finish – which was the sixth-best record in the East after the All-Star break in 2022-23 – was only good enough to move them from 11th to 10th. They also received some help from the Washington Wizards entering tank mode. As things currently stand, there are no teams in the Play-In Tournament or postseason picture who decided to pivot at the trade deadline. All should be jockeying for playoff contention, which makes the help the Bulls will surely need to move up the standings all the more unlikely.

I guess the good news for the “competitive” Arutras Karnisovas is that the Brooklyn Nets nor the Toronto Raptors are strong enough threats right now to make a push for a Play-In spot. So while the Bulls likely aren’t bound to improve their positioning, they are more likely than not locked into a second-straight Play-In appearance.

Basketball-Reference’s current playoff probabilities report gives the Bulls a 60.7 percent chance to remain in 9th place and a 23.0 percent chance to finish in 10th. They have only a 5.5 percent chance to move into 8th.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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