The Chicago Bulls have had another inconsistent season under Billy Donovan, which is par for the course since his arrival in Chicago. Currently at 10th in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are in position to make the play-in tournament, with a chance to move up a few spots before the end of the regular season if they continue their hot streak.

Expectations were tampered from the beginning of the year for Chicago. After acquiring Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2021, Ball was expected to be a key piece for the Bulls future. An injury last season derailed his year, but was not expected to be career threatening. Fast forward to today, Ball hasn't played in over a calendar year and his career looks to be in serious jeopardy after another surgery was announced for the 25-year-old. For the Bulls, they will be playing the entire 2023 season without who they thought to be their point guard of the future.

Without Ball, the slack was firmly placed on stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine from Game 1. While DeRozan has displayed his typical consistency all season long, LaVine struggled out of the gates. Luckily for the Bulls, he has picked up his game as of late in a desperate push for the postseason. Even LaVine's stronger play didn't inspire much playoff hope for a Bulls fan base desperate for the days of Michael Jordan, at least initially. However, the pickup of polarizing guard Patrick Beverley has rejuvenated the Bulls at just the right time.

Since acquiring Beverley during the All-Star break, Chicago is now 8-4 and 2.5 games up on the fading Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Bulls are also just half a game back of the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors and 1.5 games back of the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks. There's almost certainly too much ground to gain to actually get up out of the play-in tournament with so little time left in the season, but Chicago should make the play-in with little trouble at this point.

So, let's look at the Bulls' dream play-in tournament scenario and then the ideal playoff scenario if they want to pull off a first-round upset.

Bulls' dream play-in tournament scenario, matchup

As of right now, No. 10 Chicago Bulls would be facing the No. 9 Toronto Raptors in the play-in tournament. In a dream, this is not the matchup the Bulls would want. The Raptors have won two out of three matchups this year with the Bulls, winning both games in Toronto. At the current standing, the matchup would take place at Scotiabank Arena, where the Bulls suffered their two losses against the Raptors.

If dreams become reality, the Bulls would rise to either the No. 7 or 8 seed and earn a matchup with the Miami Heat. Facing former Bulls star Jimmy Butler in the play-in would paint the picture of a playoff run for the Chicago Bulls. After a couple of rough seasons against the Heat, the Bulls have flipped the script and dominated their matchups against Miami this year.

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The Bulls are 3-0 against the Heat this season, with two of those victories being in double digits. They have beaten Miami both at home and on the road, so whoever earns the higher seed for the play-in might not really be a factor in the outcome. Not to mention, they also have played the Heat with their current roster makeup after the acquisition of Patrick Beverley. This past Saturday, the Bulls beat the Heat 113-99 in Chicago, and Beverley poured in 17 points while shooting a sizzling 50% from the 3-point line.

With the Bulls surging toward the playoffs and Beverley fitting seamlessly into the roster, a play-in matchup against the Heat would most certainly be a dream. A play-in matchup against Miami is not only ideal, but sets up another dream scenario for the Bulls actual playoff seeding.

Bulls' dream seeding scenario and playoff matchup

If the Bulls were able to make it past the Heat and claim the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, they would not be waking from a dream there. This would set up an ideal matchup against the Boston Celtics, a team the Bulls have found success against this season.

The Bulls are 2-2 against the Celtics this season, but have yet to play them with Patrick Beverley. Beverley and Alex Caruso create one of the most disruptive defensive duos in the NBA and have already shown elite chemistry. Together, they could wreak havoc for a Celtics team that spends so much time with the ball on the perimeter.

Besides the defense, a key reason for a desired matchup is the Celtics' struggles as of late. Boston is 5-5 over its last 10 games, and Jaylen Brown's future seems to be taking precedent over the current season. Meeting a team without a clear focus is a perfect recipe for a lower seed playing David vs. Goliath.

The other most likely matchup if the Bulls were to claim the seventh seed would be the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are arguably the hottest team in the NBA and are led by two very hungry stars in James Harden and Joel Embiid. Both Harden and Embiid have been defined by their playoff struggles, and the two look to be on a mission to prove the doubters wrong this postseason. However, Chicago did just beat Embiid for the first time in his career.

With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Chicago Bulls are undoubtedly focusing on reality. They still have to guarantee their spot in the postseason. However, if they make the play-in tournament and find themselves in a 7-8 matchup with the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics happen to be the 2-seed, reality could feel awful dream-like and perhaps they can pull off an upset.