JUST IN: The Chicago Bulls Seem Destined for the 9th Spot

Drama isn’t on the schedule for the Chicago Bulls over the last month and a half of the season.

After the organization opted to sit out a third consecutive trade deadline, it was abundantly clear that cracking another Play-In Tournament was the goal. And the Bulls currently remain on track to easily accomplish that underwhelming goal. While they only have a 23.2 percent chance to make the playoffs right now, per Basketball-Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report, they might as well be locked into hosting the first Play-In Tournament Game.

Indeed, after Sunday night’s surprise victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, Basketball-Reference gives the Bulls a 73.8 percent chance at finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks – who were on Chicago’s tail earlier this season and sit 10th – have just a 16.2 percent chance to steal the Bulls’ spot.

The Hawks also happened to get some dreadful news over the weekend. All-Star guard Trae Young will have to undergo hand surgery and miss at least four weeks. To Atlanta’s credit, they were able to pull off the win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night to stay within two games of the Bulls. But losing someone who averages nearly 27.0 points and 11.0 assists per game isn’t supposed to make your team better, so the Bulls’ odds of staying ahead of Atlanta feel even higher now.

As for moving up the leaderboards, time has almost surely run out. While the Orlando Magic are no longer playing like the world beaters they were earlier this season, they have a big enough cushion to control their own destiny. As of publishing, they sit 4.5 games ahead of the Bulls. The Miami Heat have the same buffer but are placed ahead of Orlando thanks to their current tie-breaker advantage. Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers are stationed outside the Play-In Tournament by 1.0 game, meaning they are comfortably 5.5 spots ahead of the Bulls.

I recognize this doesn’t come off as a sizable lead for Orlando, Miami, or Indiana, but let’s not forget there are only 25 games left in the regular season. It would take a pretty epic collapse from one of these playoff-bound teams to allow the Bulls to make up ground. Not to mention, the Bulls would then have to take advantage of that collapse with a winning stretch. The team is just 8-7 over their last 15 games, and they haven’t strung together three wins in a row since early January.

What also doesn’t help the cause is that both Orlando and Miami happen to have easier strength of schedules moving forward, per Positive Residual. The Magic actually have the single-easiest schedule left on the board, while the Heat have the 6th-easiest. That is bad news for a team that would need all the help they can get to improve their spot in the standings!

Chicago Bulls Standings Check …

  1. Celtics (45-12)
  2. Cavaliers (37-19)
  3. Bucks (37-21)
  4. Knicks (34-23)
  5. 76ers (33-24)
  6. Pacers (33-25)
  7. Heat (31-25)
  8. Magic (32-26)
  9. Bulls (27-30)
  10. Hawks (25-33)
  11. Nets (21-35)
  12. Raptors (21-36)
  13. Hornets (15-42)
  14. Wizards (9-48)
  15. Pistons (8-48)

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