Bulls vs. Cavaliers NBA Picks: Title Favorites to Fall in Season opener

Matthew Jordan

Monday, October 26, 2015 6:15 PM GMT

The NBA season tips off with three games Tuesday night and the marquee matchup is a playoff rematch between the Cavaliers & Bulls in Chicago. The Bulls are -3 on the NBA odds with a total of 199.

Cavs Are Team To Beat .... If Healthy
At whatever sportsbook you want to choose, LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers are the favorites to win the franchise's first-ever NBA title -- and bring the city of Cleveland its first major championship in more than 50 years. At Bovada's NBA odds, Cleveland has a wins total of 57.5 and it is -4000 to make the playoffs and +1700 to somehow miss out. LeBron is the +280 favorite to win a fifth NBA MVP Award.

I actually like the 'under' on the wins totals because the Cavs aren't going to be full strength for a while and LeBron is going to get some games off this season to be as rested as possible for the postseason. Cleveland's starting backcourt of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and shooting guard Iman Shumpert both are sidelined. Irving is coming off knee surgery; he missed the final five games of last season's NBA Finals loss to Golden State after breaking his kneecap. It's not clear when Irving might debut this season but the team won't be rushing the injury-plagued former No. 1 overall pick.

“We’re about playing into the postseason, and what we’re going to do is utilize the depth the best we can to bring everybody along and the timing that works best for them long-term,” General Manager David Griffin said.

Shumpert had wrist surgery and might not be back until the New Year. Veteran free-agent addition Mo Williams will start at the point and J.R. Smith will take Shumpert's spot. LeBron missed the final few games of the preseason after getting an injection in his back but will play Tuesday. So will Kevin Love, who suffered a separated shoulder in the clinching Game 4 first-round playoff series win over Boston and missed the rest of the playoffs. Also set to play Tuesday are big men Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Timofey Mozgov. The latter two also had surgeries. Thompson had been holding out for a  new contract and the ploy worked as he got a five-year $82 million deal last Thursday. He will have participated in only a few practices before taking the court.

 

Hoiberg's Specialty Is Offense
No team in the NBA had less player movement this offseason than the Bulls. Their only major addition was first-round rookie Bobby Portis out of Arkansas. He's going to get some rotation minutes because Portis  was terrific in the preseason. Other than Portis, this team is the same.

The same except at head coach that is as Tuesday will be former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg's NBA coaching debut. Hoiberg is an offensive-minded guy and replaces the defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau. So the Bulls should look quite different with the ball. They have a wins total of 49.5 (both -115) on NBA picks and are -2000 to make the playoffs and +1000 not to. Assuming good health, this should be Cleveland's main competition in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls will have star point guard Derrick Rose in the lineup Tuesday. The injury-plagued former MVP suffered a broken orbital bone courtesy of a teammate's elbow in Chicago's first practice of training camp. Rose only returned Friday for the Bulls' final preseason game, wearing a protective mask. Rose also will Tuesday but will start. Rose is not expected to have any restrictions despite missing so much time and only playing 10 preseason minutes. Rose is +3500 to win a second MVP Award. He's no longer the best player on the team. That would be Jimmy Butler, last year's Most Improved Player in the NBA. Butler is +6600 to win an MVP.

Hoiberg is going to make a change to the Chicago starting lineup. Former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and All-Star Joakim Noah is expected to come off the bench with Nikola Mirotic to start. Mirotic is a vastly better offensive player than Noah and can help spread the court. The Bulls will open the season without small forward Mike Dunleavy. He's likely out until December following back surgery.

 

Last Season
Cleveland won the regular-season series 3-1. James averaged 28.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists. Rose missed one of the four games and averaged 22.7 points and 4.3 assists. The Cavaliers beat the Bulls in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That series changed when James hit a buzzer-beating winner from the corner in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2. The Cavs then won the final two games fairly easily. LeBron averaged 26.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.8 assists in that series.

NBA Free Picks: Bulls should have huge edge in backcourt so give the points. Go 'under' the total. Cleveland is 2-5 ATS in past seven in Chicago.  The 'under' has hit in five of the Cavs' past seven on the road. It's 4-1 in Chicago's past five at home.