Free NBA Picks: Bulls to Cover Spread vs. Knicks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 12:05 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 12:05 PM UTC

The 2014-15 NBA regular season is underway, and the first ESPN doubleheader of the year tips off at Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks are getting four points on the NBA odds board against the Chicago Bulls.

Jason’s record in 2013-14: 112-99-3 ATS, 26-23-1 Totals, 3-1 Series

Profit: plus-4.09 units

Finally, basketball season is here. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time; basketball has become our favorite sport to handicap here at the ranch, and we’re eager to give our new Kelly betting system a spin on the hardcourt. It’ll be much the same as it is for the NFL; our five main handicapping criteria are back, but we’ve folded bench strength (very important when you bet on the NBA) into our focus on injuries and suspensions, calling it “depth” as a catch-all. And we’ve taken special teams out of the equation, leaving defense as its own category.

Bench strength and defense will be on display when the Chicago Bulls visit the New York Knicks Wednesday night (8:00 p.m. ET, EPSN) in the season opener for both teams. On paper, Chicago has the advantage in both areas, and sharp handicappers have been all over the Bulls in early betting, driving the spread from Chicago –2.5 at the open to Chicago –4 as we go to press. Our initial consensus reports show 100 percent support for the Bulls at the higher NBA odds.


Even if you didn’t know what the basketball odds were for Wednesday’s game, you’d expect us to bet on the Bulls (48-34 SU, 41-40-1 ATS last year). They were one of our five OVER teams for our free NBA picks on the futures market for regular season wins. The Knicks were one of our five UNDER teams. That’s a pretty good combination for betting the spread in early-season games, without much data to work with otherwise.

There’s plenty of optimism surrounding the Bulls, and most of it has to do with the return of former league MVP Derrick Rose. He might never play up to that level again after all those injuries, but even if he reproduces last year’s plus-1.76 RPM (Real Plus-Minus) over the course of a full season, Rose will deliver something in the range of 5.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for the Bulls.

Nice, but the thing that cranks our motor is the added depth Chicago brings to the table this year. In addition to Rose taking his rightful spot in the starting rotation, you’ve got Pau Gasol (plus-1.04 RPM) filling a need at power forward, plus a pair of newcomers in rookie SF Doug McDermott from Creighton and “rookie” PF Nikola Mirotic from Real Madrid. They’ll add to a bench that was mostly reduced to PF Taj Gibson (plus-4.20 RPM) and spare parts last year.


Triangle Man
There’s some optimism in New York, too, but it’s more of a slow burn with Phil Jackson at least nominally taking over the management reins. He’s got one of his former players, Derek Fisher, acting as his head coach and installing the triangle offense that brought championships to the Bulls and Fisher’s Los Angeles Lakers. If people buy in, the Knicks (37-45 SU, 38-44 ATS last year) could be next.

But it’ll probably take a while. The Knicks have made some changes on offense, bringing in point guard Jose Calderon (minus-1.69 RPM) and center Sam Dalembert (minus-0.38 RPM), but these moves will hurt on the defensive end. And the Knicks don’t have any lockdown defenders (unless you include PG Pablo Prigioni) to complement their top scorer, Carmelo Anthony (plus-2.75 RPM). They also don’t have much talent available on the bench. It’s been 40-plus years since the Knicks won a title. They can wait another year or two.


The Five Stars
Depth/Travel/Rest: CHI
Defense: CHI
Coaching: CHI
Market Bias: NYK
Betting Line Value: NYK

Verdict: 1-star pick on CHI

Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Bulls –3.5 at The Greek

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