Can the Bulls win the East’s No. 1 seed without Lonzo Ball?

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

Does Lonzo Ball’s decision to undergo surgery to treat a small meniscus tear in his left knee threaten the Chicago Bulls’ surprisingly strong season?

The Bulls and Ball had been hoping to treat the injury with rest and rehab, but when that treatment strategy was unsuccessful, they pivoted to a standard arthroscopic procedure that the team said is expected to sideline Ball six to eight weeks.

Although overshadowed by Chicago’s addition of DeMar DeRozan, Ball’s defense, shooting and playmaking have also helped the Bulls go from the lottery to leading the Eastern Conference. Chicago, also playing without All-Star guard Zach LaVine, lost the first two games Ball missed due to the knee injury before rebounding to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

With the East standings crowded behind Chicago — the Miami Heat are even in the standings but percentage points behind the Bulls, with the Brooklyn Nets a half-game back of both teams and three other contenders within 2.5 games — even a short-term absence for Ball could make a big difference in terms of seeding.

Let’s take a look at the implications of Ball missing the next several weeks for Chicago.

Expect a defensive slide for the Bulls

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