Are the Bulls a playoff team in the East? It's certainly a conversation worth having given the young talent, added veteran leadership and state of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls and that topic got a shoutout in Tom Haberstroh's latest piece. You should read the full piece, which can be found here. But the graf you'll care about is below, on the Bulls flirting with playoff contention after a rock-solid offseason.
Another surprise team in that early stats-based look? The Chicago Bulls, who are projected to be the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Bolstered by free agency pickups Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, the Bulls have quietly had a strong offseason. Toss in Coby White’s promise at point guard, and this team’s core with Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Wendell Carter Jr. could be playoff-bound.
It's certainly possible. The East's Nos. 7 and 8 seeds from a year ago - Orlando and Detroit - could certainly regress, while the up-and-coming Atlanta Hawks may still be a year away. They have similar young talent to the Bulls but don't have the same kind of veteran experience the Bulls have in the wake of signing Young and Satoransky.
It's anyone's guess how the Miami Heat will fare with Jimmy Butler (and maybe Russell Westbrook), while there's a chance the KD-less Brooklyn Nets miss out on the postseason. Remember, they're using $41 million of their cap space on a guy who likely won't play this upcoming season.
So can the Bulls sneak in? They'll need to remain healthy, of course, and get continued progression from each member of their young core, namely Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter and Wendell Carter Jr. Any significant jumps from Coby White, Chandler Hutchison, Daniel Gafford or Kris Dunn would be added bonuses.
For what it's worth, John Paxson joined 670 The Score on Thursday and was asked about playoff expectations entering Year 3 of the rebuild.
"I think, always, when you step on the court as a coach or a player, your goal has to be to win at the highest level you possibly can, whatever your potential is. And so if playoffs is something that we’re good enough to move toward, that’s great," Paxson said. "But like I said, we have to get back to being a hard playing, competitive team. And I think a lot of it is oftentimes is the coach dictates your attitude as a team. I think Jim Boylen brings a toughness and an attitude to our group, which we need."
"I never want to sit here and say, hey we’re gonna do this or that. My thing, we’ve had these two years that have been rough. We can point to a lot of things. We have had a lot of odd injuries that are tough to deal with and it’s difficult on all of us because we sit there at games you watch your fans come in and support you and you’re putting out a team that you know isnt’ at t level that you want them to be,.
"We first and foremost need to stay healthy, we need to come together as a group, I think we have a deeper basketball team…I think we have some depth that we haven’t had in the past, but make no bones about this: our success or lack thereof is going to be determined by the growth of the young guys that we have."