This NBA season is poised to be one of the oddest in history. 72 games, a play-in tournament to decide which two of the 7, 8, 9, or 10 seeds in each conference make the playoffs, the unusual start date, only half of the season schedule being released, empty arenas, and the specter of Covid hanging over it all, the 2020-21 NBA season will be weird. And I haven’t even touched on the Bulls and their particular set of peculiarities, like the new front office, the new coaching staff, and the extremely long lay-off.
By most accounts this season is shaping up to be an “evaluation period” for the Bulls. That is to say, Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, and coach Billy Donovan will use this season to get a handle on the roster, figure out how they want the team to play basketball, and who they want on the team. It’s fair to expect a lot of roster turnover in the next couple years as the Round Table sift through the ashes of the GarPax era looking for survivors. But what can we expect from a team going through a season long evaluation? I mean, the Eastern Conference still kind of sucks, couldn’t the Bulls make the playoffs this season? Some fans think they will, Billy Donovan has never missed the playoffs as an NBA coach, don’cha know. The goal for this season, as set by the head coach and the front office, is simply to “get better everyday.”
That’s a very broad goal, one that’s very difficult to measure. So I came up with a set of 3 win totals that are a bit more concrete. I believe these goals to be both reasonable and attainable.
Goal 1 – Win 23 Games This Season
The Bulls have only managed to win 22 games in each of the last two seasons. 23 wins, while a modest sum, signals improvement and growth from the young core.
Goal 2 – Win 25 Games
The Bulls only won 33.8% of their games last season. If the Bulls win 25 or more games in this 72 game season, they will have won more than 33.8% of their games, again eclipsing last seasons bench mark, and showing improvement over the last two seasons.
Goal 3 – Win 28 Games
Sad but true, 28 wins this season would be the most wins the Bulls have had since the start of the rebuild. Achieving this goal would mean not only is the team better than last season, it’s the best it’s been in a while.
But let’s assume that the Bulls get off to a great start and these goals are quickly achieved or will be easily eclipsed, what then? Well, in the mold of Kickstarter, here are some stretch goals for the Bulls to strive for…
Stretch Goals –
Win 30+ games – This is a solid aspiration for any Eastern Conference team on the rise. 30+ wins in the East puts you squarely in playoff contention, especially in a season when 36 wins gets you a .500 record.
Make the play-in tournament – Finish with somewhere between the 10th and 7th best record in the Eastern Conference. This is almost as good as making the playoffs, because it subjects the team to the stress of “win or go home” basketball. The Bulls young players need their mettle tested.
Have one Bull make the All-Star team – Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, I don’t care who it is, one of them needs to make the All-Star team. If the Bulls are going to show the rest of the league they are for real, someone on this roster is going to have to rise to the next level and be a star.
Make the playoffs – Not just the play-in games, but make it to the real show. It’s time for Zach LaVine to find out what he’s been missing all these years.
Finish with a .500 or better record – This is almost unimaginable, considering how poorly the Bulls have played the last three seasons, but this is a stretch goal, so go ahead and imagine.
Have a 2nd Bull make the All-Star team – I’m looking at you Lauri.
Have a Bull win the Most Improved award – With so many young players trying to reach their full potential, surely one of them will.
Finish with a top 10 defense in the league
Finish with a top 10 offense in the league
Patrick Williams wins the Rookie of the Year award.
Sure, these goals get a little more pie-in-the-sky as they go along, but that’s what puts the stretch in stretch goal. And as I’ve been saying for a while now, never cap a players potential, and by extension, never cap a teams potential.
Garrett Temple, the Bulls free agent acquisition, contracted Covid over Thanksgiving weekend and is quarantined in a Chicago hotel. He has not practiced with the Bulls yet, and none of his teammates seem to have caught it from him. I hope he is doing well and gets healthy soon.
Denzel Valentine has tweaked his hamstring and will miss the first two preseason games.
Speaking of preseason games, the Bulls have one this Friday! I’m trying not to get too excited by preseason basketball, but let’s be honest, it’s been a while. I’ll have a recap and some thoughts on Bulls Preseason Basketball (it’s even exciting to type!) in my Sunday post. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!