The Chicago Bulls are less than two months away from tipping off the new season, where they’ll first host the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 25th in the United Center. Both teams were in the four-team Play-In Tournament for their respective conferences, although the Thunder boast a much more youthful and promising roster. Sportsbooks nationwide have set opening lines for individual matchups, season-long win totals, playoff chances, and odds for seeding within the conference. After a disappointing 40-42 record a season ago, let’s say that the oddsmakers certainly have made their opinion on the slightly reformed 2023-24′ Chicago Bulls abundantly clear.
Worst Season Since Billy Donovan’s Hiring
Yes, you read that correctly. The current line for the Chicago Bulls win total next season is 37.5, and their projected conference seeding is 9.5, hinting at another Play-In Tournament berth. Considering that last season, they were estimated to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference and ended the season ninth, these are simply educated guesses by the oddsmakers of sports gambling. This type of season would undoubtedly be accompanied by serious franchise-altering moves, which could include the firing of head coach Billy Donovan, front office leader Arturas Karnisovas, and the inevitable splitting of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
The Bulls are currently +150 to reach the postseason, meaning a $100.00 bet would profit $150.00. Having missed the playoffs a year ago and not adding much to the roster or management staff, it’s a painful reality that the playoffs seem like a far-fetched dream again this season. Even reaching the Play-In Tournament as they did last season stands as a +115 odds underdog this year. Several Eastern Conference foes either have more youthful rosters, added draft selections, or made splashes in free agency that Chicago did not. Having only added a second-round draft pick and two perennial bench players, things still look bleak in the Windy City.
History Repeating Itself Yet Again
The Bulls are no stranger to playoff lulls or droughts from successful seasons. They’ve only celebrated three 50-win seasons since the Michael Jordan era and have only finished above .500 in nine of their 25 seasons since Jordan’s sixth title in Chicago, including standing worse than .500 in six of their last seven campaigns. Donovan is on track to join former Bulls’ coaches Scott Skiles, Fred Hoiberg, and Jim Boylen who were all fired after failing to surpass a .500 record in consecutive seasons.
The last successful coach for the Bulls was Tom Thibodeau, whose firing came after five seasons with the team. His tenure in Chicago was highlighted by an over 65% winning rate and zero losing seasons, including a Coach of the Year honor in 2011. He also made three playoff runs of at least the Eastern Conference Semifinals, including an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat in 2011. Controversy surrounded his dismissal, as many thought he was the best coach Chicago had hired in years, and others believed his defensive tactics weren’t sustainable in a three-point-centric, fast-paced NBA. He is also the only former Bulls head coach still coaching today, having led the New York Knicks to a 47-35 record and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference last year.
Paying any mind to sportsbooks is a dangerous but intriguing game. The odds have been set, and the expectations are presented. Plenty of things are at stake for several players and members of management alike. Will this be the end of the short-lived Billy Donovan and Zach LaVine era, or can the Bulls prove this core can contend for championships now and in the future and defy the odds?