Chicago Bulls made some big strides forward last season as they ended a five-year postseason drought and they will be looking to push on again this year.
The Bulls have overhauled their roster over the last few years but they have been fairly quiet during the 2022 offseason, keeping their squad intact and adding a few veterans to the team in the shape of Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic.
Injuries impacted their chances last year and if they can get everyone fit and firing they could be a real force in an Eastern Conference that looks to be wide open.
|What:||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where:||USA and Canada|
|When:||18th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch:||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds:||GS Warriors +600, BOS Celtics +650, LA Clippers +650, MIL Bucks +650, BKN Nets +700|
When the Bulls moved to bring in DeMar DeRozan in the summer of 2021 there were concerns over how he would work alongside Zach LaVine at the United Center but those fears proved to be unfounded.
DeRozan enjoyed a renaissance last year after a difficult spell at San Antonio Spurs as he averaged a career-high 27.9 points-per-game on over 50 per-cent shooting and earned a fifth All-Star selection - and his first since 2018.
LaVine also impressed despite carrying a knee injury that required surgery during the offseason and the 27-year-old was also selected for the All-Star game.
With both players fit, the Bulls have genuine star quality and they have quality throughout their team, but there are a few players with questions marks hanging over them.
Patrick Williams made just 17 appearances last term due to a serious wrist injury and the forward goes into his third season in the league with a point to prove.
The 21-year-old is likely to be a regular starter for Chicago in a frontcourt duo with DeRozan, and with Nikola Vucevic the starting center it gives coach Billy Donovan an incredibly attacking line-up.
Donovan could balance that out by playing Alex Caruso as the point guard, although he has suggested that second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu is the preferred option while Lonzo Ball remains sidelined.
If fit, Ball would be the starting point guard but he remains unavailable due to a knee injury that has kept him out of the team since January.
The Bulls have plenty of strength in depth with Javonte Green, Coby White, Dragic and Derrick Jones Jr. among those who could feature from the bench, while Drummond will be their back-up center.
Chicago spent the first half of last season battling for top seed in the East but their challenge faded and they ultimately ended up in sixth spot to secure an automatic playoff place and end their five-year absence from the postseason party.
The Bulls then lost in five games to Milwaukee Bucks in the first round as injuries to the likes of LaVine, Ball and Caruso impacted their chances.
Losing out to the defending champions was no disgrace and was no real surprise either, as they struggled against the better outfits and had a losing record against teams who reached the playoffs in both conferences last season.
If Chicago are going to find a way to win their first championship since Michael Jordan retired, Donovan needs to find a way to get them firing against key rivals and they have a few tests in their opening games that should go some way to answering whether or not they have the ability to overcome their likely rivals.
The Bulls start the new season with a trip to a Miami Heat side who lost the Eastern Conference finals in seven games last season. They then head to Washington Wizards before they entertain Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
The Bulls also face Philadelphia 76ers (h), Brooklyn Nets (a), Charlotte Hornets (h) and the Celtics (a) in their first 10 games - meaning they have five games against conference rivals who were involved in the playoffs last term and two against sides eliminated in the play-in tournament during that opening period.
On paper, Chicago have a team who could be considered outsiders to go all the way but they need to find a way to win against teams of a high calibre to win the championship.
Reaching the playoffs should be the minimum requirement for the team after their performances last season and they are rated at -150 to make the playoffs, while the Bulls are +6000 to win the championship outright.Safer Gambling Week (17-23 October) – Let’s talk about safer gambling. Click here for more information on independent resources. Gamble Responsibly.