With the Chicago Bulls appearing more interested in avoiding the luxury tax than going all-in in the core’s current championship window, some fans are looking for reasons why they think the team can build on last season’s success.
The fact that Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and their crew actually led the Eastern Conference for big swathes of 2021-22 offered hope that the ’22-23 team could truly compete. You just had to stay healthy.
Needless to say, this won’t be the case for much of the campaign as Lonzo Ball is forced to be operated on again on the knee. Time will tell, but it looks like the former No. 2 overall won’t return to 2023 until after the calendar change either.
So the odds that the team will springboard towards contender status look pretty good.
Meanwhile, a former league executive’s latest statistical forecast of the Bulls’ season looks uglier than that of almost every potential playoff team in the association.
Bulls are expected to take a major step backwards
Each year, ESPNKevin Pelton – known for his analytical models and statistics-based approach to evaluating player and team performance – provides win predictions for the upcoming NBA season. The 2022-23 campaign was no different, but his system was particularly tough on the Bulls this time.
Pelton’s predictions, based on a combination of his SCHOENE player predictions for box score stats and three-year, luck-adjusted Regularized Adjusted Four Factors (RAPM), have the Bulls bottoming out at No. 12 in the Eastern Conference with just 38.1 win averages. Pelton wrote:
Though Chicago starts 2021-22 in the East 26-10 before a second-half slip, Chicago is expected to finish worse than .500 this season. That’s due in large part to the Bulls’ 0.4 point loss, which would normally mean 40 wins instead of the 46 games Chicago actually won. The Bulls were even worse in the absence of Lonzo Ball, finishing 1.5 points below average after accounting for opponent and location.
It’s clear that Ball’s absence plays a big part in using analytics to predict the Bulls’ future success. Added Pelton:
With Ball’s return from knee surgery uncertain (he’s scheduled for 875 minutes), Chicago may need more late-game heroics from DeMar DeRozan to get to the right side of .500.
Before we give these projections too much credence…
Seeing something like this just days before Chicago’s first preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans without the ball is undoubtedly a punch in the stomach for Bulls fans. However, Pelton’s predictions should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Case in point: the overall wins awarded to the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors.
Despite keeping the Dubs’ founding six members on the roster and making up for key departures with the arrivals of Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green, Golden State should finish at around .500 with a 41.9 average wins. That number was good for only eight in the Western Conference.
ESPN’s Matt Barnes, for his part was stunned through the projection.
“When they told me this morning I wanted to go for Kevin, but then they said that’s just the analytics and they’re pumping the numbers into the machine. So actually he’s not,” Barnes said.
“This is a perfect example of why analytics should be a small part of basketball. It’s more about the eye test and understanding the game.”
Bulls fans are definitely hoping he’s right.
https://heavy.com/sports/chicago-bulls/win-projection-lonzo-injury/ Bulls Rumors: ESPN Drops Ugly Earnings Forecast