Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) looks on during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.
- The Pick: Under 30
- Confidence: 7 out of 10
The case for the under: This team will be bottom-five defensively. The odds of the Bulls having a defensive rating north of 110 (110.8 last season) are high.
The average number of wins for teams with a 110 defensive rating or worse over the past 10 years is 28. That includes quite a few teams with offenses that were better than what Chicago will have.
The Bulls ranked bottom five in both offense and defense. They don’t spot up well. They don’t create in the pick and roll well. They score in volume without efficiency.
Not only can they not defend as a unit, but their best players are all disasters on that end. Jabari Parker out and out said, “They don’t pay players to play defense.”
Zach LaVine is legitimately awful. Lauri Markkanen was surprisingly good last season, but is still limited. Their bigs have poor instincts and bad decision-making. Their guards are pylons.
They’re also still in a tough division. Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and Indiana are all serious playoff hopefuls. And if things go south, who’s to say Chicago won’t start looking to tank again at the All-Star Break?
The case for the over: I… Well, they… hang on, I’ll get this. I know I can.
Um, they’re really talented. LaVine, Markkanen, Parker, Bobby Portis, Wendell Carter Jr. These guys are all really talented offensively. (Except they were 28th in offense last season. )
Ah, I got it. Improvement. LaVine and Parker are going to be a full 12-18 months removed from their respective knee injuries, getting their conditioning and performance back on track.
Markkanen was phenomenal in Year 1 and should only get better with continuity with his guards and a bigger role. Kris Dunn continues to show flashes. There are other breakout candidates on the roster like Portis, Blakeney and Valentine.
If there’s talent, why couldn’t the Bulls make a run in a vulnerable East? (I’m trying really hard here.)
OK, you want the best case for the over? The Bulls are one of three teams to get the most immediate action from sharp money according to Westgate.
It was enough to bump up their win total from the 29s into the 30s.
That’s the best argument I can give you, that someone smarter than I am thinks they’re going over.
I’m in on the under on the Kings, Magic, and (spoiler alert) the Hawks. That’s four of last year’s worst teams that I’m again hanging unders on. That makes me nervous.
One of those teams is going to break out and make everyone look stupid and there will be memes and screenshots, etc. It’s part of the ecosystem of the league.
However, taken in the aggregate, more of these teams are going to land south of their respective numbers than north. And Chicago, like Orlando, has a number in the 30s vs. last year’s expected win total of 21. Twenty-one!
A nine-win jump based on not actively trying to tank (as hard, for a while anyway) and the addition of Parker and Carter Jr.?
If those guys become nine-win difference makers, they’re going to be a league-wide story.
But when you look at how bad the Bulls are in so many facets of the game, and what their path to a win looks like (inefficient players outscore other better teams), the under looks awfully good.