The Chicago Bulls are a historic NBA franchise that has won 6 NBA championships, which is the third most among NBA teams. They did so in a way that has never been replicated. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls won their championships by way of three-peats. They won the NBA title in ‘91, ‘92, & ‘93, then again in ‘96, ‘97, & ‘98. The Bulls of the ’90s were an unstoppable dynasty. They were what all NBA franchises wanted to become and were at the peak of success. While that was a great time in franchise history, the Bulls have also produced some great NBA players over the years. Such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Sloan, Bob Love, Derrick Rose, Chet Walker, Dennis Rodman, Joakim Noah, and the list goes on and on.
From Greatness to Rebuild
Unfortunately for the Bulls, it all came crashing down after their final championship in 1998. After Jerry Krause split the team apart following the championship, the Bulls never returned to greatness. In the 22 seasons since their last NBA championship, the Bulls have reached the conference finals one time, the second round four times, eliminated in the first round seven times, and completely missed the playoffs eleven times. In that time, the Bulls have a combined record of 780-959 (0.449), and outside of their runs under head coach Tom Thibodeau, they have been a sight for sore eyes.
Hope has returned to the Windy City.
However, this Chicago Bulls team has brought hope back to the city of Chicago. After bringing in Arturas Karnisovas as the new executive vice president of basketball operations and general manager Marc Eversley the future is beginning to look bright. Under new management, the Bulls brought in the best available head coach on the market in Billy Donovan to bring this Bulls team back to greatness. This Bulls team is one of the youngest in the league, and Donovan’s approach is centered around player development. This new Bulls regime intends to bring the Bulls back to greatness.
Reviewing the last 5 seasons of the Bulls
The Bulls had a good run at winning another championship during 2010-2013 but fell just short. After that point, the Bulls began their slow decline to a rebuild. The team slowly disbanded and left Chicago at a point where they had no choice but to restart. Over the last five seasons, the Bulls have struggled in every category and only had one playoff appearance.
The Fred Hoiberg Era
Starting in 2015, the Bulls brought in a new head coach in Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg was a former NBA player who played four years for the Bulls. He had been the head coach of Iowa State for five years before getting his first NBA head coaching job with the Bulls. His time with the Bulls did not go well. He finished the 2015-16 season with a 42-40 but failed to make the playoffs. In his second year as head coach, the team finished 42-42 and found themselves in the playoffs. They were eliminated in round one by the Boston Celtics. Hoiberg, at this stage, appeared to be an okay coach, not great, but not terrible.
The Bulls blew up the roster after this season and shipped off their best player in Jimmy Butler. They got quite a bit of youth in return, but the Bulls had basically accepted that they were going into a rebuild. This helped set up Hoiberg for his impending decline. In Hoiberg’s third year with the team, everything fell apart, and they ended with a record of 27-55. Surprisingly Hoiberg remained the coach for the beginning of the 2018-19 season and started with a 5-19 record that year. Hoiberg even making it into the 2018-19 season as the head coach was impressive, but after a start like that, management had seen enough and showed him the door.
The Jim Boylen Era
This opened up another tough period for the Bulls. Assistant coach Jim Boylen was promoted to interim head coach following Hoiberg’s firing. In his first half-season with the team, they went 17-41. Boylen must have been given the benefit of the doubt as the Bulls decided to keep him on as the team’s head coach. That didn’t fare well for the Bulls as the team proceeded to go 22-43. The relationship between the players and coach Boylen was abysmal. During the 2019-20 season, there were multiple occasions where players got into shouting matches with him midgame. It was clear there was no repairing the damage he had done in Chicago. The fans disliked him and wanted him gone. Boylen ended his time with the Bulls with a record of 39-84. Needless to say, he wasn’t the right coach for this Bulls team.
The Billy Donovan Era
That brings us to today and the current head coach of the Bulls, Billy Donovan. He’s certainly got his work cut out for him as the team returned 13 of 15 players from the 2019-20 roster. Donovan is working to create a culture change and coach to players’ strengths. He has a focus on player development and made it a priority with his revamped coaching staff. Billy Donovan has found success everywhere he has coached, and he is hoping Chicago isn’t the exception. In his college coaching career, Donovan won two national championships with the Florida Gators. Before coming to Chicago, Donovan was the head coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his five years with the Thunder, he made the playoffs in every season. He made the conference finals in his first season and then was eliminated in the first round each of the next four seasons. Donovan knows what it takes to create and sustain a playoff basketball team, and that’s what he intends to do in the city of Chicago.
2020-2021 Chicago Bulls Schedule
This brings us to the 2020-2021 NBA season. Currently, the NBA has only released the first half of the NBA schedule. Expect to see many games played in a short period of days during this year’s NBA season. Due to the global pandemic, the NBA season started later than normal this year. The NBA kicked off in December and will run until mid-July. To fit in 72 games before the playoffs began in May, they had to condense the schedule. This has the Bulls playing twelve back to back games just in the first half of the season. Expect that trend to continue in the second half of the season, including the All-Star Break. Let’s look at what the Bulls have ahead of them in the first half of this NBA calendar.
The Bulls play their home games at the United Center, home of the Bulls and Blackhawks. The United Center used to be packed with fans cheering on the Bulls and creating a great home team environment. However, in recent years (pre-pandemic), it can be seen pretty empty or filled with opposing team’s fans. However, the United Center has been ranked by multiple groups as one of the top 10 NBA arenas. The history that occurred inside the United Center from both the Bulls and Blackhawks creates a winning environment, and fans worldwide come to see the Michael Jordan statue.
While there may be no fans in the stadium this season, the Bulls will still play games there. In the first half of this season, the Bull’s home opponents include playoff teams such as the Pacers, Trail Blazers, Celtics, Rockets, Kings, Pelicans, Lakers, Clippers, Suns, and Nuggets. In the first half of the season, the Bulls will play 17 home games, and 11 of them will be against teams that made the playoffs last season. That’s a tough home stretch for any team but especially for this young team.
It’s going to be especially tough with all of the roster movement across the league this season. While a lot of teams added pieces to change their team makeup, the Bulls did not. A team that may not have been a playoff team last year could be moving up the ranks. In contrast, playoff teams added pieces to make themselves better and go for a championship run. The Bull’s home schedule is going to be a challenge this first half of the season. The Bulls will need to learn Billy Donovan’s system quickly to make sure they don’t let this home schedule get the best of them.
In the first half of this season, the Bulls will play 19 games on the road. However, their road schedule is a little bit easier than their matchups at home. While they will still play 10 of those games against playoff teams last year, they get some easier games sprinkled in. They play the Hornets, Magic, and Wizards twice on the road during this 19 game stretch, which should help the Bulls boost their confidence during their tough road stretches. The Bulls have an early test on their first road trip as it will be a west coast trip that includes four games over the span of 6 days. The Bulls will certainly be tested during their road games, but having breaks against easy teams should help this team stay afloat.
This team will have to gain momentum in each road game they face and try and carry it to the next. There are no crowds to silence this year, and there will be many games over the course of a week. Momentum needs to be taken from one game to the next, especially on the road. This first half of their away games this year is going to be tough. This team will need to lean on some of their veterans down the stretch during these long road trips. It won’t be easy, but this team can definitely get some road wins in the first half of the season. The lack of fans almost turns home arenas into neutral sites. We will see how that affects the Bulls as they will spend more time on the road than at home in the first 36 games.
Are the Bulls considered a threat in the East?
Many people around the league don’t see the Bulls as a threat this season. The roster didn’t change much this offseason. Management is relying on Billy Donovan to turn a 22 win team into a potential playoff team. It’s going to be especially tough as you look at the first half of the Bulls season. The Bulls will run with a young starting five with an average age of 21.6 years old. This is the youngest starting five in the NBA this season. They have a few veterans on the team in Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, and Garrett Temple, and they will rely on them to keep the team grounded. Overall this is a young team, and that could hurt them. This will be the key to the Bull’s success this year.
How do the Bulls stack up against other teams?
The Bulls appear to stack up well on paper against the middle-tier to lower-tier teams. That’s simply because they themselves are middle to lower-tier teams. At this point, the Bulls are a fringe playoff team. However, they could move their way up based on how the season unfolds. The Bulls will certainly struggle against some of the upper-tier teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Celtics, & Nets. But that doesn’t mean you can count them out. This team has fought in them and wants to make the playoffs. That right, there can be the reason between a win and a loss. With many teams giving players games off for load management, the Bulls will be going full throttle every night. This could be a key reason why the Bulls can move up in the standings. There are brutal stretches on the schedule, with the Bulls playing in 12 back to back games in the first 36 games. It’s going to be tough for them to pull away as the east appears to be getting better this year.
What to expect from the Bulls
Realistically this year, the Bulls can make their way into the playoffs as a low seed. The NBA expanded the playoffs this year to include a play-in tournament. Upon the completion of the season, each conference will be seeded 1-10. Teams seeded from 7th to 10th will be in a play-in tournament where the 7th and 8th seed play each other to determine the 7th seed. The 9th and 10th seed play each other to determine who will play the 7th and 8th seed game’s loser. After those two meet up, the winner of that game will be deemed the 8th seed in their conference. Then the normal playoff format will follow. It isn’t unrealistic to believe the Bulls will be part of that play-in tournament portion of the playoffs.
The Bulls finished in 11th place in the east last year. They should jump up at least one spot in the east this season. Barring injuries or a complete implosion, you should see the Bulls involved in the new playoff format. It may only be for one game, or they may find a way to sneak into a seven-game series. It is all on the shoulders of Billy Donovan right now as he tries to turn this young team into a force.
The second half of the schedule
It still hasn’t been announced when the second half of the NBA season will be released, but Bulls fans will be hoping for an easier second half to the season. The Bull’s first half of the season features 23 of their potential 29 opponents. The remaining opponents that we will see in the second half of the schedule include Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, San Antonio, Utah, and Brooklyn. The Bulls will certainly be seeing their division foes multiple times during the second half of the season. They didn’t play two teams in their division in the first half of the season. They only met the other two teams one time each. So expect to see some back to backs against the Pistons and Cavaliers, with the Bucks and Pacers sprinkled in as well.
Outside of division opponents, the Bulls will most likely be meeting with the Hawks, Warriors, Thunder, 76ers, Timberwolves, Suns, Raptors, and Nuggets again as they only played each of them once. The second half of the Bulls schedule will feature some challenges just like the first half, but hopefully, we will be looking at a different Bulls team by this stage. Billy Donovan’s offense should be implemented at this stage. The team should be feeling comfortable under their new head coach and firing on all cylinders. The second half of the season will be a critical period for the Bulls to make their playoff push. The Bulls are under pressure to perform as they would like to bring in a big-name free agent in the offseason. A solid performance this season would certainly help put them in a position to do just that.
Chicago Bulls Schedule FAQ
What will be the toughest stretch of the Bulls season?
The toughest stretch is going to be their west coast road trips. Not only will they have a back to back games, but they will play 4 games in 6 nights. While only one is scheduled in the first half of the season, expect another to come.
What teams will the Bulls see the most this season?
With the condensed season, the Bulls will see fellow eastern conference teams the most this year. They will play three games against each of the fourteen Eastern conference teams, which will account for 42 of the team’s 72 games this season.
How many back-to-back games will the Bulls play this season?
In the first half of the season, the Bulls are slated to play in 12 back-to-back games. Expect the second half of the schedule to be similar as the NBA is trying to fit in a 72 game season in a short amount of time.
How will the Bulls handle the condensed schedule?
One thing this team has on its side is youth. This team is young, which is good for playing a lot of games in a short amount of time. Less recovery time for the young guys means more time on the court.
What will be the biggest hurdle from the condensed schedule?
The lack of time between games. With so many games happening in a shortened period of time, there isn’t a ton of time for adjustments and coaching. The team will have to learn on the fly or in games instead of having extended practice time.
Should we expect to see any “load management” from the Bulls this season?
You might see it for some of the veteran guys like Temple or Young, but I wouldn’t expect to see much of it. The Bulls are a young team that needs playing time to improve. If they can physically be on the court, Donovan will make sure they are.
How many games will the Bulls win this year?
Obviously, we won’t know this until we get into the season but expect the Bulls to be around a .500 team this season. They are young and under a new head coach. They should be a middle of the road team winning 32-38 games.