Schedule confirms my high expectations for the Bulls

The buzz kill of not getting Carmelo Anthony left somewhat of a sour taste in my mouth this summer even though I objectively view the Bulls as the second best team in the East and probably the fourth or fifth best team overall. However, the release of the NBA schedule really rams this point home.

Every seasons bloggers like myself, desperate for anything mildly interesting to write about in August, write an article breaking down the schedule. National TV games (30 if you count NBATV, 25 if you don't), back to backs (20), and of course, whom the Bulls open with (New York on the road, first home game Cleveland).

The Bulls also play on Christmas against the grinch that stole 13.6 million dollars (TM, the Bulls Show).

The Bulls, along with the Cavs and Thunder lead the league in national TV appearances, so plenty of nationwide excitement is expected for the Derrick Rose return as the NBA is betting pretty heavily that Rose will make it through the season.

However, with those basics out of the way, looking over the schedule, one thought occurred to me.

There aren't many projected losses. There are no tough stretches. There is no section that makes me think "Bulls could lose a bunch here". From beginning to end, I look at it and think "Bulls can clean up during this stretch, there's only one tough game in five here".

I mean we can break down tough(er) games by month, and I say "tougher" because I still think the Bulls are favored in the majority of these.

November: Cavaliers, @Clippers, @Blazers

The rest of the schedule is pathetically easy, and even of these games the Bulls aren't really overmatched by any huge margin. I'd probably still make them favorites against the Blazers on the road and slight underdogs in the other two.

December: Mavericks, Warriors, Blazers, @Heat, @Raptors, Wizards, Pelicans

With seven games against teams that don't simply completely suck, December might appear like a tougher month, but the Bulls are still favored in all seven of these games right? I mean they probably won't win all seven, but I expect them to win five of them, and the rest of the schedule are games the Bulls should be pretty heavily favored in.

January: Rockets, @Wizards, Wizards, @Cavaliers, Spurs, @Mavericks, Heat, @Warriors

Again, the Bulls are probably favored here in every game except the @Cleveland game and possibly the Spurs/Warriors games. However, I'm betting the Spurs have some championship hangover, combined with regular season rest program and the road will put the Bulls as solid favorites there. I'm not a huge believer in the Warriors either, I think the Bulls are better but would call it a toss up.

February: @Rockets, @Pelicans, Cleveland

Only ten games in February due to the extended all star break. Bulls might be favored in every game of the month though these three are the ones against better teams.

March: Clippers, Wizards, Thunder, @Spurs, Raptors, @Raptors

The month starts out with some bite, but after the Spurs it turns into a crap fest.

April: @Cavaliers, @Heat

Shorter month because the playoffs start, but there's still only two tougher teams on the schedule for it.

That's it? I guess I could have reached to put the Suns or Grizzlies in the tough team list. However, Dallas, New Orleans, Washington, Toronto, and Miami might all be stretches to put on the list, and they make up a huge portion of the games.

In reality, looking at the Bulls schedule I'd break it down something like this:

Tier 1 games (Bulls might be underdogs):
Cleveland Cavaliers (4)
OKC Thunder (2)
L.A. Clippers (2)

Tier 2 games (pushes)
San Antonio Spurs (2)
Golden State Warriors (2)

Tier 3 games (Bulls only very slight favorites)
Portland Trailblazers (2)
Houston Rockets (2)

Tier 4 games (Bulls favorites)
Toronto Raptors (4)
Washington Wizards (4)
Miami Heat (3)
New Orleans Pelicans (2)
Dallas Mavericks (2)

Tier 5 games (Bulls somewhere between strong favorites and overwhelming favorites)
Not going to list them.

The important thing for Chicago might be that first month of November gives them plenty of warm up games. With only a few real challenges in the month, the Bulls will get to find their chemistry against the dregs of the league before the regular challenges start coming more frequently.

All in all, the schedule doesn't vary much. It's about as hard as it could be for Chicago. With 20 back to backs, and four games against the three best teams in the East besides themselves, it really couldn't be any worse than it is.

That said, the worst it could be is still pretty mild. The Bulls should roll this year, and seeing the schedule in front of me fills me with even more confidence in that fact.

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  • So what do you think? 55 wins? 60? 62+?

  • In reply to kozzer:

    If you figure the Bulls split the games against tier 1-3, and win 75% of all the other games, you are looking at a 58 win season. You can probably add another 4-5 wins on account of the Thibs regular season intensity factor. I'll predict 62 wins for the season, barring any major injuries.

  • I'd agree with 62 wins.

    I would even take the over based on Thibs and the fact that the Bulls have had the best NBA record in the two years in which Rose was healthy under Thibs. And, this team is better and the East is about as weak as it's ever been, maybe only slightly better than last year.

    If the Bulls can stay healthy, look out... could be 65+ wins. I love the Bulls this year, but realize it will be tough to win a Championship. However, I'd bet on the best regular season record.

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    Yeah, I'm really thinking they could win 62 again. They won 48 last season and that was without Rose, Gasol, Mirotic, McDermott, and a hopefully improved Snell.The Bulls are only losing Boozer (a net negative) and Augustin. I think, as a backup PG, Hinrich is more well rounded and Brooks is every bit as good as Augustin. Gasol is obviously much better than Boozer, even if he's older.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    So true!

    We will be near the top in wins in the NBA barring any major injuries especially to Rose.

    The biggest thing is IF Thibs manages the minutes as he hasn't int he past and we have a healthy and not worn out team going into the playoffs!

    Great we do so good for the season, but the playoffs the next 2-3 years is our window to win the championship with the great group we have assembled in this offseason

  • If Rose is healthy 62+ wins.

    If not, still 52+ wins.

  • IMO, the real Questions are

    1) How well will the team and Thibs jell? This includes limiting minutes for everyone.
    2) How good will M & M be?
    3) Will they need to trade for a SG near the deadline to have a solid shot at the title?

    Should be a fascinating season.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Really there is only one question that makes all the difference, will Rose be healthy or not. Gasol, the M&M boys likely are the difference between winning a championship or not if Rose is healthy but much less meaningful if he isn't. As a Bulls fan the only thing that I am really asking for this season is a full season of a health for Rose, as well as no other season ending injuries to anyone else.

  • The Bulls generally suck against most of the top West coast teams, home or away, but particularly on the road. They seem to be borderline helpless against the Thunder, Clippers and maybe to a lesser extent the Trailblazers and a healthy Spurs team. So any stretch against those teams is a tough stretch. Otherwise analyzing the schedule seems mostly silly and is mostly about luck/timing of injuries. There was a good article about this by one of the ESPN stat guys. The single most important factor influencing schedule "strength" is your own record, since you don't play yourself. Good teams have "easier" schedules, and bad teams have "harder" schedules.

    I did however, have the same thought as you did after seeing the number of national tv games for the Bulls, we are the second best team in the east and top 5 in the NBA, Cavs, Bulls, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers in any order you like, but I would but us 5th.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    The super-athletic teams (Wizards, Thunder, Clippers) and the teams with a shutdown defender who is long and can guard Rose (Cavs, Spurs) are still going to give us the most problems.

    We lack the athleticism to match up with our wings and we dont have a second shot creator. Its the crutch the Bulls have had for the last few seasons and the FO has not addressed.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    "The Bulls generally suck against most of the top West coast teams"

    I'm just curious, but are you making that statement with what you've seen the past two years in mind? Because if we're being honest, the way the Bulls have played against those teams since 2012 is essentially irrelevant. Furthermore, the way they played against those teams prior to Rose's injury is also nearly irrelevant, considering how much both teams have changed. All we can do is predict based on lineups and piecing together what we've seen of the players involved. Your thoughts about who the Bulls will struggle against might very well be right on, just wanted to point out that past matchups between the Bulls and team X aren't a reliable indicator on this coming season due to massive changes, the largest of which being Derrick Rose's long absence and pending return.

  • In reply to Chicagosportsguru:

    My gut feeling is that they haven't fared well against those teams during the entire Rose era. So I looked it up.

    They are 3-8 vs OKC since 2008.
    They are 4-7 vs the Clippers since 2008.
    They are 2-9 vs the Blazers since 2008.
    They are 4-7 vs the Spurs since 2008.

    Thats 13-31 total for a .295 "winning" percentage which equates to 24-58 over the course of an entire season, which nets you a top 3-5 draft pick most years.

    Granted a lot of that damage happened in the last 2 seasons, but we've gotten our butt handed 2 us by those teams even with Rose, especially on the road. My point is that those are always tough games when looking at the schedule and "expected" losses, at least on the road.

  • Seems like being regular season champs is STILL a big thing for Bulls fans... SMH...

    I just dont understand why regular season W-L record is so important to debate here. The playoffs and NBA title is the only thing that matters. Home court is nice but even that doesn't matter.

    For this Bulls regular season, the only thing to watch for is:
    1. Is D. Rose healthy and playing well?
    2. Is the team healthy and strong going into the playoffs (the health conditions of Noah, Rose, Butler are of special notice)?
    3. Has Thibs grown/changed his ways about player minutes, playing rookies, injuries, offensive demands, offensive creativity, grinding out every game like it is the last etc.
    4. Closing minutes of close game lineup

    The Bulls will make the playoffs. The above 4 questions will go a long way to dictating their success in competing for a title and even then, they might get beat by the better team. (Cavs/Thunder/Spurs/Clippers).

    Enjoy the regular season for what it is - highlights and cool/fun moments and watch for the 4 things above but please dont caught up in the "best record" or "home court" hype.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I agree completely, ripiceman!
    Bulls will be a great regular season team, and perhaps have another 8-0 preseason! But will Thibs ever evolve out of his assistant-coach-mentality and see the big picture? How good a playoff team Bulls will be remains the big question mark.

  • I really hope Thibs lets M & M play and doesn't let them ride the bench as he has been known to do with rookies entering the league.

  • And now the best(most accurate) article of the summer. ESPN predicts the best and worst newcomers of the year. Coming in at #1 in the worst category, His bozoholinesss himself, bimbo the bamboozler.

    the baby bozohole, Ben Gordon currently ranks as the 4rth worst.

    Obviously, Lebron and Love ranked 1,2 on the best list. Gasol came in 5th. Lance finished top 3 on both lists, which is fitting for him.

  • If Bulls have a healthy Rose I only put Spurs and Cavs ahead of them, maybe Thunder. There is no way the Clippers are above the Bulls. They haven't shown anything great in the playoffs even with CP3. I agree that only thing to worry about is injuries especially Rose. Only thing I don't like about the schedule is that Bulls only come to MSG once and I won't be home for the season opener ( I live in NY) and they come to Brooklyn early, I still won't be home and don't come again until 2nd or 3rd to last game, so I will have to wait all year to see Bulls in person unless I go down to Philly. Also, winning the regular season should be a big deal, to make it so I propose giving a trophy called the Michael Jordan Trophy to the winner of the regular season. Mark it in the record books as a Reg season chip and give the winner the 20th pick in the upcoming draft instead of 30th

  • The number of wins won during the regular season is not so important as long as this team makes the post season playoff

  • Its more important that the rookies get the experience they and the team need to work as a team and to be healthy during the playoffs.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    I agree. Especially M & M need to play a lot and develop to the NBA.

  • This is possibly where Thibs can prove he is more than just a good coach--but one who has destiny & championship factor. He can be the difference.

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