With ten games remaining in a regular season that many fans are dying to beat, Chicago may go down one of two paths before it’s said and done. The Bulls have the ninth-easiest remaining schedule and opportunity to earn a home game in the play-in scenario. A seventh or eighth place finish in the Eastern Conference rankings would mean winning just one game to secure a playoff berth, while a ninth or tenth place finish would force the Bulls to win two straight games , to earn the privilege of meeting the top seed in the East. How realistic is each route and what is the worst-case scenario?
Play-In Tournament Bound
Securing a place in the Play-In tournament is the clubhouse leader for closing out the Chicago Bulls season. With a probability of over 84%, according to Basketball Reference, the weak remaining schedule and the current role they are on bode well for this possibility. If they can earn a seventh or eighth place finish, their 20-17 home record would fare much better than their 14-21 road record.
Your next five games will be very significant. Each of them is a very winnable road game, and they need at least three wins to maintain their current pace as a 10th seed. First they visit the Portland Trail Blazers, losers in seven of their last ten, and then the Bulls will travel to Los Angeles and face off against both the Clippers and the Lakers. Paul George is out for the Clippers while KC Johnson reports that LeBron James is unlikely to return before either of the two upcoming matchups with purple and gold.
Worst case scenario
While a play-in scenario is the most likely and favorable scenario for the bulls, there is always another side to the coin. In this case, it is somewhat self-inflicted. The Toronto Raptors, the current 9th seed, and the Indiana Pacers, the current 11th seed, both own the tiebreaker over the Bulls. Should their tally be identical at the end of the regular season, they would overtake them in the standings.
Toronto currently has a 0.5 game lead over the Bulls, and the Pacers are just 1.5 games behind Chicago for the final play-in spot. The good news? These teams have the 13th and 5th hardest schedules left and the Indiana Pacers play-in odds are at 19%. Not to mention their top player Tyrese Haliburton remains sidelined at least until tonight’s game against Boston and possibly beyond.
Should Indiana or Washington overtake the Bulls’ tenth-place finisher before the end of the season, Chicago would be in tatters. Orlando owns the Bulls’ draft pick in the 2023 draft if they finish outside the top 4. Chicago’s odds of retaining their pick are 20.2%, a number that’s falling rapidly as wins accumulate in the Windy City. Aside from historic luck in the draft lottery, Chicago would be left with no play-in or playoff berth, no draft picks, and with many expiring contracts and smoking roster plays.
Only options left
While many might disagree with the Bulls’ decision to pursue the playoffs in full force, or believe that a first-round elimination is an all-time high for the end of the season, there’s nothing more to celebrate at this point. There are only two options left for this season. Best of all is a tight-footed playoff run that starts with a win-or-go home play-in tournament and leads to a seven-game series against the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, or Philadelphia 76ers in the Hope for an underdog story for the ages. Worst of all is no play-in spot, no playoff appearance, no draft pick, and some serious seismic shifts across the franchise this offseason. Patrick Beverly is all about it, are you?