Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 3 inclusive:
Even the Chicago Bulls are capable of playing a bad game now and then. The unofficial Hardest Working Team in the NBA came out flat Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets (–3.5 at home), turning the ball over 28 times in a 96-80 defeat. Chicago was 9-1 SU and ATS in its previous 10 games going into Brooklyn. But this was also the fifth game in seven days for the Bulls, who racked up some serious Air Miles along the way. They were bound to run out of gas at some point.
Chicago needs to refuel quickly before Wednesday’s matchup (7:30 p.m. ET) with the Detroit Pistons. They’re not the toughest team in the league, but they are one of the youngest, and they’ve also beaten the NBA spreads in three straight games. Detroit is getting 2.5 points at home on the early NBA odds with a total of 193.
This should be a very interesting clash of styles. The Pistons are both younger and faster, running the No. 10 pace in the NBA at 97.7 possessions per game, while Chicago plods along at No. 28 (93.1 possessions). And the efficiency charts reveal a significant offense/defense split between the two teams:
Detroit: No. 21 offense (102.5 points per 100 possessions), No. 22 defense (105.6)
Chicago: No. 28 offense (98.6), No. 2 defense (97.9)
Given those numbers, you might not be surprised to learn that the Bulls have the best UNDER record in the league at 36-24. But the Pistons are also the most profitable OVER team at 42-18, despite their substandard production on offense – and despite Monday’s 96-85 loss to the New York Knicks (UNDER 209.5). Stupid brickfest. So how is Detroit doing it?
The trick is not to get caught up in those rankings. The Pistons might be No. 21 in offensive efficiency, but they’re just 1.5 points/100 behind the No. 11 Atlanta Hawks, and they run a faster pace than most of the teams in between. On defense, if you improve the Pistons by 1.5 points allowed/100, that only moves them up from No. 22 to No. 16, again tied with Atlanta. It’s another 1.5 points from there to the No. 12 Memphis Grizzlies. In short, Detroit is not that bad at scoring points, and quite worse at preventing them.
Ten Men Working
Then there’s the question of work ethic. Defense takes a lot more energy than offense, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the most gifted and demanding defensive minds in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette (16.4 PER) reminded us about this when he signed with Chicago after reaching a buyout agreement with the Sacramento Kings.
“They play hard every single night, and they play for each other,” Fredette told reporters after joining the Bulls. “And they play the right way. That’s something I was looking for, to come into a team that I can fit in and play the way I wanted to, play hard every single night.”
Fredette’s arrival in Chicago is understandably being painted as an opportunity to resurrect his career in a healthier basketball environment than the one he left behind in Sacramento. But how poorly did Fredette really perform with the Kings? The third-year guard improved steadily every season, even while his minutes were steadily decreasing. How many teams would like a shooter who’s hitting 48.6 percent of his 3-pointers and scoring 18.8 points per 36 minutes? Chicago definitely did. Let’s see if Fredette will get a chance to bury some threes at the Palace.
NBA Pick: Take the Bulls –2.5 at SportsBetting