Some NBA picks are easier than others. The Chicago Bulls are dead even at 3-3 SU & ATS since Derrick Rose’s latest injury. The San Antonio Spurs have also split the cash in their last six games.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 6: 44-40-4 ATS, 4-7 Totals
We thought the Chicago Bulls might actually be a better NBA pick without Derrick Rose in the lineup. Maybe they are, but after six games minus the former league MVP, the Bulls are 3-3 SU and ATS. They fell back to .500 after Friday’s 98-84 loss to the surging Indiana Pacers (–6 at home). Yes, we’ve gotten to the point where the Pacers are considered the better team on neutral ground.
Now Chicago has to head south to face the San Antonio Spurs for a Sunday matinee (1:00 p.m. ET, ABC). The Spurs just got back from their annual Rodeo Trip – and not a very successful one at 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS. They’ve won both games since returning home, but on Friday, they couldn’t bag the cash as 11-point faves in a 120-111 win over the Denver Nuggets. This is going to be a tough pick. Especially when the NBA Odds have yet to be released as we go to press.
The rationale behind wanting to support the Bulls (39-24 SU, 29-34 ATS) is simple: Rose (16.0 PER) has been dragging them down. He’s got a minus-1.3 BPM this year, and while that’s still an improvement over his understudy, Aaron Brooks (13.9 PER, minus-2.2 BPM), it isn’t much – certainly not as much as the betting market seems to think.
We also need to look a bit further downstream at the back-up guards. Kirk Hinrich (6.8 PER) and E’Twaun Moore (11.7 PER) have put up significantly worse offensive numbers than Rose and Brooks, while also playing better defense. The UNDER is 4-2 during this Rose-less stretch. That might be a solid play over the next 2-4 weeks before Rose comes back from his meniscus surgery.
On top of that, Jimmy Butler (21.3 PER) went and sprained his elbow earlier this week. He’s out indefinitely, perhaps 3-6 weeks, thus robbing the Bulls of their best offensive player this season (plus-4.1 OBPM). And Taj Gibson (16.0 PER) has another sprained ankle, so he isn’t with the team on this road trip. Suffice to say the Bulls are vulnerable right now with Doug McDermott (5.5 PER, minus-8.6 BPM) needing to play non-zero minutes off the bench.
The Rodeo Song
Meanwhile, the Spurs (38-23 SU, 26-33-2 ATS) have all their players back in the lineup, and they’re on a four-game winning streak at 3-1 ATS despite missing out on that payday against Denver. They also had three days off in between the end of their Rodeo Trip and their current six-game home stand. Nothing like a little R&R to keep those old legs fresh.
Case in point: Tony Parker (14.9 PER). After a disappointing and injury-plagued first half of the season, Parker has been much more useful to San Antonio since the All-Star break, improving from a minus-1.1 to a plus-6.9 in the standard plus-minus column. Parker’s true shooting percentage has dipped from 54.1 to 47.2 percent, but his assists are up, and his turnovers are down.
As for that decrease in shooting, maybe it was just a blip on the radar. Parker was 10-of-15 for 24 points against the Nuggets, as all five San Antonio starters scored in double-figures. This is looking more and more like the Spurs team that won the championship last year. As long as Parker doesn’t do any further damage to his gimpy hamstring, and as long as Kawhi Leonard (20.2 PER) doesn’t get hurt again, we think San Antonio could have some sneaky value as the seventh-place team in the Western Conference. But we’re going to ride with the UNDER while the Bulls are down three men.
Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER 192 at Pinnacle