Playoff seedings don't look good for Chicago

Playoff seedings don't look good for Chicago

The Chicago Bulls are more or less locked into the playoffs. The only question now is what their playoff matchups will look like. It wasn't so long ago that things looked like they might fall into an ideal scenario, but a big Cleveland run later and that scenario is long gone.

Teams I'd prefer Chicago avoid

There are three teams that Bulls fans would probably like to avoid:

1: Cleveland - I'm sure we all fear any team LeBron James is on for good reason, but the Cavs have always been my favorite to come out of the East and have made enough moves to really look like a strong favorite right now.

2: Atlanta - I'm not a huge believer in the Hawks despite their record. That said, they're obviously awfully good and have talent at every position on the floor.

3: Washington - Their athletic bigs tend to beat up on our bigs, and they have enough perimeter talent to give the Bulls fits.

In an ideal bracket, the Bulls would face someone other than Washington in the first round, have Cleveland pair up with Atlanta in the second round, and then face whomever is left in the finals.

Right now that is actually the case. The ideal bracket. The problem is, there's just about a zero percent chance it stays that way. Let's look at the standings:

1: Atlanta (47-12) - The Hawks more or less have the one seed locked up already. With 23 games left in their season they have a 10 game lead in the loss column. If they played .500 the rest of the way, no one is catching them.

2: Toronto (37-22) - Toronto has a tenuous half game lead on the two spot, but I don't think anyone expects them to hang on to it as they've struggled recently.

3: Bulls (37-23) - The Bulls have a half game lead on Cleveland for the three spot, but their arrow is pointed down and despite Cleveland dropping a couple recently (including one to the Bulls), you have to believe their arrow is pointing up.

4: Cavaliers (37-24) - The Cavs are coming off a tough OT loss to the Rockets, but I still think they're likely to have the best close of the 2-5 teams and given the gap between them will easily take the #2 spot.

5: Washington (34-26) - The Wizards have kind of fallen off a cliff lately, though they were missing Bradley Beal for much of the fall they were awful before he was hurt as well. Beal is back now, and if he can get back to 100% then Washington probably hangs on to 5th.

6: Milwaukee (32-27) - The Bucks would have had a great shot to move up had they not traded away Brandon Knight. However, they're 2-4 since the trade, and I can't see them closing the season strong. Ignore the long term ramifications of the deal, in the short term MCW is both a worse player and a worse fit for the team.

7: Miami (25-33) - Without Bosh they're no threat to do anything, and sure as hell aren't going to pass anyone.

8: Indiana (25-34) - Paul George looks like he'll return for the playoffs which might make the Pacers a sneaky tough matchup if he is 100% and gets enough time before then to gel a bit. It seems a bit of a stretch, but I'd be more scared of the Pacers than the Bucks or Heat if George is back on the floor and has a bit of time.

9: Charlotte/Brooklyn/Boston/Detroit - They're all still in the hunt for the eighth spot, but you wouldn't be worried about any of them in the playoffs, so they're all irrelevant.

So what's the problem? The way things are presently unfolding, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Cleveland moves up in the standings. If Cleveland finishes two or three then the Bulls are forced to go through Cleveland and Atlanta to get to the ECF.

It also seems likely to me that Chicago will drop to four at this point given their injuries. I don't see Milwaukee moving up after the trade which means the Bulls matchup goes as follows:

Round 1: Washington
Round 2: Atlanta
Round 3: Cleveland

(assuming there are no upsets, but in this case, I'd bet that if the Bulls made it to the ECF that Cleveland would be there waiting for them).

I'd say the one advantage of this matchup is that I'd probably rather play Atlanta in round two than Cleveland in round two as I believe Chicago has a better shot at beating Atlanta and an extra two weeks might make them slightly healthier for a Cleveland matchup.

That said, no matter how you slice it, the Bulls seem overwhelmingly likely to have to go through Atlanta/Cleveland and probably both on the road.

Even if they hang on to a top three spot and don't fall down in the standings, their reward will be a second round matchup with Cleveland.

At this point, my best hope is that Washington falls past the Bucks and if the Bulls all to fourth they get to play Milwaukee in round 1. I think that gives the best possible match up left for Chicago of round 1 Milwaukee, round 2 Atlanta, round 3 Cleveland.

That's still a tough bracket to come out of even if everyone is healthy.

Let's say a little prayer for Jimmy Butler

The Bulls simply cannot afford to lose Butler for any length of time. Butler left the game after running hard into a DeAndre Jordan screen. He's getting an MRI on his elbow today to see what the deal is. The initial report is a hyperextended elbow.

This could mean anything from a week to the rest of the season depending what comes up on the MRI. Realistically? I thought the Bulls playoff hopes were dashed the moment Rose needed knee surgery again.

There's no way Derrick comes back and plays well enough after his knee surgery (regardless of how minor). His history is that he's a guy who takes forever to heal and play well after being out. Even if he makes it back (as expected, but don't be so sure with Derrick) then it's unlikely he plays at a high level.

However, Jimmy Butler missing time would be the death knoll for the Bulls on the season. My guess [which is based on nothing other than a guess] is that Butler doesn't miss more than two weeks which will give Bulls fans the chance to keep hope alive.

Will we see McDermott?

Nikola Mirotic burst onto the scene when injuries forced Tom Thibodeau's hand and gave Nikola an opportunity. With Butler likely out for a few games will Doug McDermott find any time?

Don't hold your breath.

The Bulls have little to lose at this point. They're likely to lose a bunch of games while both Rose and Butler are out anyway. A reasonable person would think if I have one card left to play that I might as well play it now.

However, I think Thibs just folds before playing that last card. Instead, he'll ride out Hinrich and Dunleavy rather than even giving McDermott a shot. In fairness, Thibs has more information than we do. Maybe Doug is a train wreck in practice.

I don't see how he could be any worse than Hinrich at this point though, and Kirk's already going to have to soak up a ton of PG minutes anyway.

For the love of God just give Doug a shot to play. Especially since he can provide some perimeter offense and the Bulls have none right now.

Aaron Brooks not exactly running with the starter gig

I always liked Brooks the least of the three microguards we've had recently, and now that he's starting it looks like there's a pretty big tangible difference between him and Augustin/Robinson. Nate/D.J. got it against starters.

Aaron has really struggled with that so far. He's looked completely out of sorts. He almost made me want them to point Kirk in at the point. Almost.

We'll have to hope that Brooks has simply been on a cold spell and busts out of it soon otherwise it's going to be a really tough month with Rose out.

Anyone think the Bulls don't need Rose?

One of the weird questions I've gotten a lot recently is whether I think the Bulls are better without Derrick Rose. No. Of course not.

Look, I've been critical of Rose's play this season. It hasn't been very good relative to his standards. However, the Bulls need Derrick. Even Derrick playing not nearly as good as Derrick can play.

I don't think Rose is a superstar, but he's absolutely critical to the Bulls having any hope of success.

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  • Seeding doesn't matter if the Bulls cannot get this core healthy coming playoffs. I still think the Bulls can beat Washington and Atlanta with Rose and Butler back on the roster, but I don't think the Bulls can pass Cavs, unless they also have some setback injuries to deal with coming playoff time.

    This is a perfect time to get Doug, Snell and Mirotic extended time and maybe the Bulls can find how deep they are with these kids playing now.

  • I agree that the bulls are definitely not better without Rose. The problem is not that losing Rose you lose a great player. It is that you are forced to play Brooks and Hinrich at PG for 48 minutes. And this spells disaster. I think Brooks or even hinrich is fine for about 10 minutes, but anymore is bad.

  • Injuries have changed the landscape of the playoffs this year dramatically. Almost every team in the east is either better or worse than their seeding would suggest. If Paul George is even close to healthy then obviously indiana is better than an 8th seed. The Wizards are on the decline but if Beal is back they could probably make a push for 4th, with all the injuries Chicago have sustained I wouldn't be surprised to see them fall to 5th but obviously when healthy they're a much better team than that. Having said that there really isn't a clear favorite to come out of the East in my opinion. It's easy to say the Cavs but you could make the same argument for the Bulls, Hawks, Raptors and the Wiz. I think it's all just gonna boil down to the match ups this year.

  • The often proffered definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Or another word for this (mis)behavior would be stubborn as in dogged determination not to change. I'd say Tom Thibodeau embodies this "philosophy" to a tee.

    How many games does it take watching two 34 year old geezes who never set the world on fire athletically to begin with suck the life out of your ball club with horrific production before you stop playing them? Answer: Tom Thibodeau "I don't know, how many games ya got?"

    Thibs kind of reminds me of the mentally snapped British commander in the old Alec Guinness(Obi Wan - Star Wars) movie "The Bridge Over the River Kwai." As top ranking Bulls commander, Thibsy loses all perspective on a single focus of "do your job" and win this game. Like a robot, he is only programmed to recognize "vets" as tools capable of accomplishing the stated objective. Even if those "vets" are broken down old warhorses who should see limited end of rotation minutes on any team let alone one perceived as a "contender."

    Clippers vs. Bulls box score: Kirk Hinrich aka Klank Brokedick(sorry Kirk but the misery index is off the charts) 25 substantial, impacting minutes of court time = 0 points(0-7), 2 rebounds. I mean we're long past "are you fucking kidding me?" And 34 year old Mike Dunleavy aka Dunleavyalone to rebound or defend against this guy: 30 frickin' HUGE minutes for wait for it.. 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist.

    As much as I'd like to watch Niko Mirotic, and see how Tony Snell continues to fare etc., I can not bring myself to watch this diseased duo of the Refuse brothers any longer. Can't do it. Passing out, delirious.. "Sacramento pick, George Karl help us, invested two number ones and guy is perceived as so bad that they won't even play a four year college player one minute," gacccccccccccckkkkkkkkk(vomit noises repeat to infinity).

  • The best news that came out of yesterdays game was the information about Rose's surgery. They said it took 15 minutes and that he walked into rehab on Saturday without even a limp. That's pretty amazing. I've had 3 knee scopes and never come close to walking without a limp the day after, it took a few weeks after all of them. So this had to be as minimal of a knee surgery as one could have. He should come back sooner rather than later which gives him a few extra games to get ready for the playoffs. Hopefullly he practices something other than 3 point shooting during his time off.

  • So, um ... Ronnie Brewer in game shape?

  • Just heard the news that Butler is out 3 weeks or more. Very disappointed. As soon as he went out of the game I figured they would not win. I hope this means McDermott will get his shot. Snell should be starting at SG and with Mirotic being the backup PF, I don't think they have much choice.

  • Maybe they give another call to Ray Allan? Don't know if he would really help, but worth the phone call.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to PaBullfan:

    He would help but he's ot not coming here.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    Actually, I wonder what he is waiting for, maybe he's just decided to retire.

  • I know against the Clippers the Bulls were without Rose and Taj. And that Butler got hurt. And Gasol was still ill but playing. And that winning the game under those conditions against a good Western Conference team was not in the cards. But, damn it, that is still no excuse for playing The Walkind Dead, Kirk Hinrich.

    Being 0-7 from the field without a free throw or an assist means he literally did nothing on offense in over 25 minutes of play. Enough is f#cking enough. With Butler now gone 3-6 it's time to:

    1) Buy out Kirk's contract and use his roster spot for another body
    2) Play E'Twaun Moore in the short term
    3) Play Doug McDermott.
    4) Fill out the 15th open spot on the roster

    What possible excuse can Thibs use not to play McDermott at this point? You would think he was trying to get fired. That being said other than Moore getting more minutes I think cement head will do little.

    And shame on GarPax for having two guys on the roster in Bairstow and Nazr who you can't even consider playing.

  • The question isn't whether the Bulls are better off without Rose, it's whether the Bulls are better off without Rose and his 21 million dollar contract heading into the 2016 off-season bonanza. Using the stretch provision they can free up 14 million of that 21, and I'd really question why the front office are thinking with their hearts rather than their heads if they don't do it.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Rose isn't going anywhere, we all know that. And this 'cartilage trim procedure' was predictable since Rose had the 'cartilage repair procedure' done last time. Westbrook had two additional surgeries after his 'cartilage repair'.

  • The Bulls won't fall imo, this is what they do best, win games they are supposed to lose. Every team in the east has its issues, Cleveland looks good but they are one kevin love tantrum away from a once again fractured core, and don't forget Kyrie Irving isn't exactly indestructible based on his history.

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