The Chicago Bulls are entering the 2023-24 NBA season with high hopes. After finishing last season with a 40-42 record and losing to the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament, they’re eager to perform up to their solid roster’s abilities this season. With minimal offseason changes, the team is relying on their existing core to take a leap forward and establish themselves as Eastern Conference contenders. And if they don’t make that leap, Chicago’s roster will likely look very different by this time next year.
In this season preview, we will delve into the Bulls’ roster changes, schedule, key matchups, and provide a forecast and predictions for their upcoming campaign.
The Bulls didn’t do anything too significant in terms of roster changes. They made a couple of adequate additions via free agency, signing both Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig. They also re-signed Coby White and Nikola Vučević. On the surface, none of these moves seem to improve the Bulls much from last year’s team — which is why many Bulls fans are frustrated right now. Chicago also didn’t have a 1st round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, because what would have been their pick was part of the trade they made with the Orlando Magic in order to acquire Nikola Vucevic in March of 2021.
Luckily, the Bulls still have their dynamic duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. With these two exciting superstars still wearing Bulls red and white, not all hope is lost in Chicago. Yet, considering how last season went, it seems like the Bulls need to add a third All-Star caliber player in order to make real waves in the Eastern Conference. Since they didn’t add that player in the offseason, perhaps they’ll look to make a blockbuster trade during the year — especially if the team gets off to a promising start.
Expect the Bulls to start the season with a starting five of Jevon Carter at point guard, Zach LaVine at shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan at small forward, Patrick Williams at the power forward position, and Nicola Vučević as their center. Names like Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig, and Andre Drummond to receive significant minutes off the bench. If you’re wondering where Bulls’ point guard Lonzo Ball fits into all of this, he’s still rehabbing the knee injury he suffered last season and is expected to miss all of 2023-24.
Now that we’ve discussed the Bulls’ current roster, let’s look at their schedule and key matchups for the 2023-24 regular season.
2023-24 Bulls Key Matchups/Dates
Bulls game days against Heat: Nov. 18 (Home), Nov. 20 (Home), Dec. 14 (Away), Dec. 16 (Away)
Considering how last season ended, the Bulls have likely been thinking about the Miami Heat all offseason — especially because, after beating Chicago in the play-in tournament, the Miami Heat went all the way to the NBA Finals. Revenge isn’t the only reason this matchup is exciting. The two-way battle between Heat shooting guard Jimmy Butler and Chicago’s DeRozan and LaVine duo — all of whom are elite on both offense and defense — always produces captivating one-on-one contests.
An interesting facet to this season’s Bulls vs. Heat matchups is its unique scheduling. In November, Miami comes to Chicago for two games in three days, then Chicago heads to Miami one month later for the same. While they aren’t back-to-back games, one figures that whichever team is fresher entering these games will have the upper hand.
Bulls game days against Raptors: Oct. 27 (Home), Nov. 24 (Away), Jan. 18 (Away), Jan. 30 (Home)
The most memorable moment from the Bulls’ 2022-23 season was their comeback victory against the Toronto Raptors in the play-in tournament’s first game. Despite being down by 19 points, Chicago rallied behind Zach LaVine’s 39-point performance to beat the Raptors 109-105, effectively ending Toronto’s season. Therefore, the Raptors will be seeking revenge against the Bulls in the same way that the Bulls are seeking revenge against the Heat.
Vengeance aside, this matchup will be crucial for the Bulls playoffs hopes. While they don’t likely contend with the Eastern Conference’s top teams like the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics, defeating teams in similar situations, such as the Raptors, will be vital. Head-to-head victories against Toronto will significantly impact the Bulls’ positioning in the race for a higher seed, potentially avoiding the play-in tournament or earning home-court advantage.
Bulls game days against Hawks: Dec. 26 (Home), Feb. 12 (Away), April 1 (Home)
The Atlanta Hawks are another important opponent for the Bulls. Just like with Toronto, Atlanta is another mid-tier Eastern Conference team that will likely finish with a similar record to Chicago. This means that all three matchups between these teams will be paramount for playoff seeding.
While the Bulls and Hawks split last season’s series 2-2, they only face off three times during the 2023-24 regular season — with two of them being in Chicago. Considering that the Bulls were better at home than on the road last season (22-19 at home and 18-23 away), home court advantage against the Hawks will hopefully allow them to steal the 2023-24 season series.
Bulls game days against Bucks: Nov. 13 (Away), Nov. 30 (Home), Dec. 11 (Away), March 1 (Home)
The Milwaukee Bucks have been the Bulls’ bane for years now. In the last 20 matchups between those teams (including the 2022 playoffs, where the Bucks bested the Bulls in 5 games), Chicago has a 4-16 record against Milwaukee. The biggest reason for this is Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the Greek Freak poses a matchup nightmare for every team in the NBA, the Bulls seem to struggle against him more than most.
While Chicago did nothing in the offseason to help them handle Giannis, perhaps they’ll be better suited to face him this season. Considering that the Bucks have been the Eastern Conference’s best regular season team for the past few seasons and are a constant contender to win the NBA Championship, Chicago will need to solve the Giannis puzzle at some point if they want to reach their goals.
Bulls game days against Cavaliers: Dec. 23 (Home), Jan. 15 (Away), Feb. 14 (Away), Feb. 28 (Home)
On paper, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers seem to match up well against each other. However, the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in all four games the two teams played last year — including a 128-96 victory in Chicago on November 22nd, which was one of the most embarrassing losses the Bulls suffered all season. Cleveland is another one of those teams that the Bulls will need to beat if they want home-court advantage in the playoffs. They’ll certainly need to beat Cleveland if they want some respect.
Bulls Season Forecast
Analyzing the Bulls’ prospects for the 2023-24 season, it’s important to acknowledge both their strengths and challenges. Lonzo Ball missing the season due to the knee injury recovery is a significant blow to the team. If Chicago wants to succeed this season, they’ll need to adapt without their top facilitator.
Of course, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have the potential to put up impressive numbers and contribute significantly to the team’s success — and they’ll likely both need to play at an All-Star level (and remain healthy) if the Bulls are to expect success in 2023-24.
Still, Chicago finds itself in a sort of purgatory. Their roster is too talented to be one of the league’s bottom dwellers — which would earn them a great 2024 NBA Draft pick that they could built around the for future — but they aren’t quite talented enough to truly contend to win the NBA Finals. And since the Bulls are one of the NBA’s most historic and successful franchises, expectations are higher than what Chicago has produced in recent years. For this reason, if the Bulls don’t make a playoff run in 2023-24, they’ll likely blow up their current roster, rebuild during 2024-25, and try to land a massive free agent — perhaps the aforementioned Giannis Antetokounmpo — in 2025.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Chicago Bulls still have at least 82 games to play this season, and their fans are clamoring for some degree of success. Only time will tell whether Chicago’s roster will meet their expectations.
Record Prediction: 42-40 regular season record, make it through the play-in tournament, lose in the 1st round of playoffs.
With a similar roster to the previous season, it would be foolish to expect drastically different results from the Bulls’ 2022-23 campaign. I anticipate a similar showing to last season’s 42-40 record, improving on it by two games and going 42-40 in the regular season.
However, I predict that the Bulls will catch fire last in the season, which will propel them past the play-in tournament and get the fanbase hopeful. Alas, winning the play-in tournament will likely get them a date a top seed in the Eastern Conference in the 1st round of the playoffs — and I just can’t see Chicago beating one of these teams in a 7-game series. For this season, I predict a first round playoff exit for the Chicago Bulls in 2023-24; which, while likely not what the fans want to hear, is at least a step up from where they finished last season.
What’s for certain is that the 2023-24 season’s start is an exciting time for the Bulls fanbase. Be sure to mark your calendars for the most important matchups and track the Bulls’ progress all season long!
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