Billy Donovan
Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan yells at an official during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Billy Donovan and the Bulls Struggle to Keep Playoff Spot

As the February 9 trade deadline approaches, former Gators Men’s Basketball head coach Billy Donovan and the Chicago Bulls will have some big decisions to make by Thursday. Chicago has a 25-27 record and is ninth in the Eastern Conference, giving them safety in the playoffs but 1.5 games. It has been a tough year for the Bulls, compared to last season when they finished 46-36.

Where has it gone wrong for Billy Donovan and the Chicago Bulls

The start of the season for the Bulls was anything but pleasant. They started 11-18, capped off by a 24-point blowout loss to the Timberwolves. Despite a talented core including the likes of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls’ inconsistent results in their first 52 games have hurt them. One player that the Bulls have missed so far is Lonzo Ball, who has been out with a knee injury over a year ago and still is not close to returning.

The inconsistency of the Bulls has made it hard for them to take the jump to the top of the conference standings. Chicago has struggled to stay consistent throughout the season. The longest win streak all year has been three, something that they have managed three times.

Big decisions for the Bulls at the deadline

As a result of their struggles, there have been rumblings on the Bulls’ status at the trade deadline. The Bulls, however, do not intend to trade their core players. One player who has come up multiple times in trade rumors is Alex Caruso. Even though the Bulls are open to trading Caruso, they have also been quite firm on their demands.

As it stands, Chicago will be keeping their core players around, while possibly trading a key depth player if they get the haul they are looking for. With the talent the team has, Chicago is content to keep the core to make a run to the playoffs.

Outlook on rest of the season

This season was expected to be a step up from last year when the Bulls kept a majority of their players around following a winning season. Now, they are struggling to hold on to a play-in spot. Their road trip after Monday night’s game will be crucial, as they travel to take on three playoff-caliber teams. In the final 30 games, Chicago will look to string together a long winning streak that can keep them in the playoff hunt.

The Chicago Bulls currently do not own either of their picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. The Nikola Vucevic trade gave the Magic the Bulls’ 2023 top-4 protected first round pick, while the Bulls traded their 2023 second round pick to the Lakers back in 2019. Therefore, the Bulls will have to improve their standing in the last 30 games to prevent losing a high-value pick.

About Matt Rothmann

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