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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