The Chicago Bulls are set at -155 NBA Odds to win the Eastern Conference, but with star Derrick Rose and others injured, this team will be a tough draw in the NBA Playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls (44-29, 101.90 PF-98.7 PA) and Head Coach Tim Thibodeau are going to be a really tough out when the NBA’s Eastern Conference Playoffs begin on Saturday, April 14, but with star PG Derrick Rose (knee) trying to return from (yet another) injury and a couple of his key teammates having recently gone through some hurts of their own, 2015 probably won’t be the year this team brings another championship back to the Windy City, or maybe even makes the conference finals with the Potential Playoff Path they’re looking at and Rose’s condition, especially considering how the Bulls have played against a couple of those teams during this Regular Season. Chicago (18/1 to win NBA Championship, BetVictor) currently sits as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and, after Wednesday’s win over the 4th-seeded 4th seeded Toronto Raptors in Canada, it looks like the Bulls will likely stay in that 3-spot and get the No. 6 seed, which right now is the Milwaukee Bucks (35-36). In my mind, one thing Chicago doesn’t want to see happen right now is for the now No. 7-seeded Miami Heat (33-38) to finish in that No. 6 spot as a Bulls-Heat series would probably be a lot tougher for Chicago in Round 1 than a Bulls-Bucks affair.
Right now (Thursday afternoon), the Bulls (14/1 to win Eastern Conference, Boylesports) have just 9 games left on the schedule for the Regular Season, the next one coming at that aforementioned United Center in Chicago on Saturday when the lowly New York Knicks (9-26) come to town (WGN, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). And, for your entertainment value, because I know My Dear Readers always like a laugh to go with their handicapping, NBA odds, analysis and statistics, I have a Real World anecdote...but, no, not from the reality TV show on MTV of the same name, but from that Real World in which we all live. You know the one, the one with the dueling Mexican Ice Cream Men and the carpet of pollen in the parking lot and the incessant bulldogs barking next door. Life. Anyway, a friend who pays little if no attention to professional sports, and who used to live outside of Philadelphia tried to tell me that both the Knicks (9-26, worst record in NBA) and his beloved Philadelphia 76ers (18-54) were both “playing good” this NBA season. A combined 27-80, homeboy. Maybe “good” in the sense of the word that it’s “good” we can mock, mock, mock the Muafalas. And, if not for Minnesota Timberwolves (16-55), these two East Coast teams would have the two worst records in the NBA. So, good means bad and sick means great and great means good and good means average and we can’t say average anymore because it doesn’t really fit for anything in a world where nothing can ever be seen as Grey. Put that in your Pipe and smoke it, brother. Now, back to my favorite NBA team, the Chicago Bulls.
Chicago Bulls Possible Starting Five
C—Joakim Noah (7.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 4.7 apg)
PF—Pau Gasol (18.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.96 bpg)
SF—Mike Dunleavey (9.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.8 apg)
SG—Jimmy Butler (20.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.67 spg)
PG—Derrick Rose (18.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.0 apg)—IL
Chicago Bulls Bench, Roster Depth
C—Nazr Mohammed (1.2 ppg)
PF—Nikola Mirotic (9.8 ppg, 4.p rpg)
SF—Doug McDermott (3.1 ppg)
SG—Tony Snell (6.3 ppg)
PG—Aaron Brooks (11.5 ppg, 3.1 apg)
C—Cameron Barstow (0.4 ppg)
PF—Taj Gibson (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
G—Kirk Hinrich (6.0 ppg)
SG—E’twaun Moore (2.7 ppg)
Injuries, Coaching, Intangibles (Potential Playoff Paths)
Like the swallows returning to Capistrano every year, the Bulls (34-39 ATS, 17-20 ATS Home, 17-19 ATS Away) Derrick Rose always pulls up lame with a Knee Injury at some point late in the NBA season and then tries gallantly to get himself better, real quick-like to return for the NBA Playoffs in an effort to play Superhero and save the day or something. For me, this act wore thin last year, and I promised not to put too much of my Heart or Expectations into my favorite basketball team from the city in which I grew up. Having a key guy—or in this case, The Key Guy—always getting hurt and then coming back disrupts flow on a team. And it also presents problems for the coaching staff. Especially when it seems the player is dictating when and how much he plays, and when he tries to come back from injuries, which it often seems Rose is doing now in the Windy City, his hometown as well (Simeon High school). For now, the Bulls starting PG is working out and planning on playing in some scrimmages next week (with light contact) with the intent of coming back in the early part of April. And with the Playoffs starting April 18th, that may be the perfect time to see how the former Memphis star fares on the basketball court. Besides Rose, teammates Jimmy Butler (elbow), Taj Gibson (Achilles, calf tightness) and Doug McDermott (back spasms) have also been dealing with some issues and this team is far from being healthy and can only hope everyone’s health improves for the postseason and that Rose actually does do that Superman Thing and leads the Bulls to the NBA Championship ala Michael Jeffrey Jordan. A girl can dream.
Despite everyone knowing about him by now, Chicago Head Coach Tom Thibodeau is still pretty underrated and has valuable Playoff experience, but he will be playing with a thin roster and an injury reality to a key guy, much like Head Coach Terry Stotts is with SG Wesley Matthews (Achilles) out for the season for the Portland Trail Blazers. It definitely won’t be easy for Thibs and the Bulls, but this team, like it’s Head Coach, has the Heart of A Lion and the most enthusiastic player in the NBA in C Joakim Noah. With Rose and Butler hurt, Brooks and Snell have had to play a lot, and that’s a good thing in terms of gaining some valuable experience for the postseason. But still, Brooks and Snell are a massive downgrade from having Rose and the often overlooked (by the mainstream sports media) Butler—who along with Gasol and Noah (as always) have been the real leaders of this banged-up Chicago team this season—out there on the hardwood. Better players playing is better.
The Bulls Potential Playoff Path, as hinted at above, would be best served to have a cakewalk Round 1 series with Those Wisconsinites Up I-94—the Bucks (300/1 to win NBA Championship, BetVictor)—who Chicago is a perfect 3-0 against in the Regular season with the finale coming on April 1 in Milwaukee. As mentioned, I think the Bulls could save much energy and grief by avoiding Miami (200/1 to win NBA Championship, BetVictor) in the opening round. Should the Bulls advance to a theoretical Round 2 (with things the way they are today), the sad reality (for them at least) that the Atlanta Hawks had such a wonderfule season and are going to finish as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, means that Chicago will then likely face the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers and that Lebron James chap. And there will be sparks. Should this happen, this may be one of the best potential NBA Playoff matchups, in terms to entertainment value, as the Bulls (1-2 vs. Cavaliers; Regular Season series finale on April 5 in Cleveland) will put up the fight of their lives, healthy Rose or not. But they will probably lose, maybe in a 6-game series. And for me, the combination of Rose being injured again (and going on the IL) combined with Cleveland’s trading away two #1 Draft Picks to obtain C Timofey Mozgov was the tipping point in this conference, maybe in the entire league this season. The Bulls are very strong down low in The Paint this season, but with Mozgov, PF Kevin Love, SF James and Tristan Thompson as a nice backup, the Cavaliers will have the edge in that department should these two Midwest teams meet. And if Chicago somehow upsets the Cavaliers (should they meet in Round 2) and it then faces Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals, definitely bet on the Bulls as the Underdogs to eliminate the Hawks and get to the 2015 NBA Finals. Again, a girl can dream, right?
The Bulls weaknesses? The City of Chicago doesn’t believe that its professional basketball team can actually win the NBA Championship this season. You can hear it—by essentially “not hearing it”—in the tepid crowd enthusiasm at the United Center in key moments in this second half of the season, following either nice runs or plays and by their (the crowd’s) lack of what I would deem ‘Total Boom’ within the stadium. No reverberation in the rafters, no good, hombre. Teams feed off of the crowd energy quite often, and although the modern United Center and many of the patrons—most used to be die-hard fans into the game itself—are paying more attention to their Cell Phones than what they paid an Arm And A Leg An A Knuckle to see on the basketball court in front of them. Checking Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and all that other BS every 11 seconds seems to be extremely important these days, and paying attention to the Real world and professional athletes trying to win the game right in front of you with their Main Man dressed in Civvies becomes tertiary at best in this Age of the Quickening. In other not-so freaky-ass words: The Bulls could use The Old Crowd and the way it was at Chicago Stadium right about now. No buzz, no fuzz, cuz. Chicago is also somewhat thin roster-wise and is a team that seems to be a Moon revolving around Rose as its’ Earth. Their strengths? Chicago probably has the best Big-Men Passing Duo (Joakim Noah—Pau Gasol) in the history of the game, both amateur and professionally. And the heart and intensity of this team is fantastic when they’re on and The New Kid Gasol, sensation Nikola Mirotic and Butler have all been great this season. And the Bulls have Kirk Hinrich, that’s always a positive thing in my mind. When you need someone to come through, the former Kansas star Hinrich is a very nice weapon to have in your arsenal.
If you do think that Rose’s imminent return will need to nothing but bliss in the city that has given the Milky Way Galaxy deep-dish pizza—Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East for those in the Chicagoland know—and you want a fun and sexy (and maybe even profitable) Props wager, the Name the Finalists (Sky Bet) bet will let you combine the Bulls with any one of the (very likely) 8 seeds from the Western Conference (to hopefully make the NBA Finals). All of those odds: Chicago Bulls-Golden State Warriors (18/1); Chicago Bulls-San Antonio Spurs (28/1); Chicago Bulls-Memphis Grizzlies (66/1); Chicago Bulls-Dallas Mavericks (66/1); Chicago Bulls-Los Angeles Clippers (66/1); Chicago Bulls-Oklahoma City Thunder (66/1); Chicago Bulls-Houston Rockets (80/1); and, Chicago Bulls-Portland Trail Blazers (80/1).
In short, if Rose does come back and looks rubbery and good and Gasol, Noah, Butler, Gibson, Dunleavey, Hinrich and Mirotic all play out of their heads, this team could probably beat the Warriors in a thrilling 7-game series should they miraculously get to the NBA Finals (June 6). But the best thing this talented team can do right now is to simply go one day and one game at a time and to start scheming for how they are going to try to knock off LeBron and the Cavs. Some things never change in the Midwest.
PREDICTED PLAYOFF DESTINY: Bulls Eliminated in Round 2 by Cavaliers
RELATED NBA PICK: Cavaliers to Win Eastern Conference -155 5Dimes