Are the Bulls ready for a playoff run? One of their biggest defenders thinks so

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No one comes to the defense of the Bulls more vigorously than radio play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky.

Swirsky was at it again after the NBA Draft on Thursday, guaranteeing the Bulls would make the playoffs in 2018-19 — ‘‘and that’s on the record.’’

Swirsky’s point was that there aren’t eight teams in the Eastern Conference better than the Bulls, especially given that the Cavaliers will take a huge nosedive if LeBron James leaves in free agency.

Swirsky made a valid point, but he was forgetting the standings from this past season. The Bulls finished 27-55, 16 games behind the eighth-seeded Wizards in the East.

It would take a huge jump for the Bulls to be a postseason contender, but it’s not impossible. Lauri Markkanen is emerging as a star, Zach LaVine will be another offseason removed from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and Kris Dunn is expected to continue improving.

The problem is, it’s easy to forget that when the Bulls were playing well in December and January, a lot of that had to do with Nikola Mirotic and his swagger. The Bulls dealt Mirotic to the Pelicans before the trade deadline in February.

The Bulls added Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison in the draft, but neither adds the shooting dimension Mirotic did.

So are there eight teams in the East better than the Bulls right now? Glad you asked.

1. Celtics: Without Kyrie Irving for the playoffs and Gordon Hayward for all but the regular-season opener, the Celtics proved to be one of the deepest teams in the NBA.

Even with Marcus Smart possibly leaving in free agency, the return of Irving and the emergence of Terry Rozier would be more than enough to overcome his loss.


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The frontcourt is young and athletic with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and center Al Horford adds leadership.

And don’t forget the elite coaching mind of Brad Stevens.

2. 76ers: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are two huge cornerstones for the 76ers to build around. If Markelle Fultz can turn his shooting issues around this summer, look out.

Expect the 76ers-Celtics rivalry to dominate the headlines in the East for the next four years.

3. Raptors: Is it time to break them up? Maybe, but they won’t lose enough pieces to fall down to the Bulls’ level. The Raptors’ bench was one of the best in the East in the regular season, and they still have Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan — at least for now.

4. Pacers: They play great defense, they have a star in Victor Oladipo and they have depth.

5. Heat: It’s easy to continue to overlook coach Erik Spoelstra, but all he does is squeeze the most out of his roster. Yes, the Heat have some decisions to make, but their front office seldom slips up.

6. Bucks: New coach Mike Budenholzer inherits an elite player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as a lot of role players around him.

7. Wizards: John Wall and Bradley Beal are better than any two players the Bulls can put on the court on a given night.

8. Pistons: No team has underachieved more the last two seasons than the Pistons, but their starting five is solid when healthy, and new coach Dwane Casey should get the most out of them.

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