It's a shame Derrick Rose is out for the season because that would make Monday's Washington at Chicago game must-see TV to watch John Wall and Rose, both former No. 1 overall picks who shined in college under John Calipari, go at it. It's the first of three meetings this season between the Wizards and Bulls, both likely playoff teams but not a threat to do much in the postseason. Chicago opened as a 4-point favorite with a total of 181.5 at NBA odds.
Be sure to take a look at tonight's NBA Picks of the Day.
Who Needs Luol?
Chicago's Tom Thibodeau won't win NBA Coach of the Year again this season but it's hard to see many coaches doing a better job than Thibs. The Bulls officially waived the white flag on the season -- thanks to Rose's injury -- when they traded Luol Deng to division-rival Cleveland last week for Andrew Bynum (quickly waived) and future draft picks. It was a salary dump, pure and simple. It saved the Bulls around $15 million in salary and luxury taxes because Bynum's contract wasn't guaranteed before he was let go by Chicago.
Yet despite dealing their best non-Rose player, the Bulls (16-19 ATS, 13-22 O/U on NBA odds) have won three straight without him and five in a row overall (5-0 ATS at sportsbooks). It's all about energy and defense because this club has no one who can create his own shot on the perimeter. The Bulls haven't allowed triple digits in the winning streak and four of those teams were held below 90 points. Joakim Noah, an energy guy if there ever was one, has really blossomed of late, averaging 13.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in the past five. Don't rule out the Bulls trading him, either. They'd dump Carlos Boozer tomorrow if someone would take him, but he will be amnestied this summer. Point guard D.J. Augustin has come off the scrap heap and been good of late as well, averaging 11.6 points and 6.6 assists per game in the past five.
This winning streak has to actually annoy the front office. The plan, no matter what is said publicly, was to get into the draft lottery -- Duke's Jabari Parker would be the perfect fit alongside Rose, both Chicago natives -- and also use Charlotte's Top-10 protected pick to do a rebuild on the fly. So much for that. The East is so weak that the Bulls probably make the playoffs (Washington too). That's why it's hard to get too excited over this winning streak as none of them came over a very good team (Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Charlotte). Fool's gold perhaps.
On The Bright Side
The Wizards (19-16 ATS, 20-15 O/U) were determined to return to the postseason this year for the first time since 2008. And if the playoffs started today they would be in despite being three games under .500. Ah, the Leastern Conference.
Washington has lost two straight and five of seven (2-5 ATS at sportsbooks). Sunday's 114-107 home defeat to Houston was crazy. There were two rain delays -- no, the game wasn't played outdoors -- as the Verizon Center roof was leaking. The Wizards rallied from a 25-point hole only to blow a five-point lead as Houston closed on a 17-5 run. It dropped Washington to 2-14 against teams with a .500 record or better. Second-year Wizards guard Bradley Beal was playing like an All-Star before hurting his leg and really hasn't been the same since returning. He's averaging just 14.1 points in 27.4 minutes in the past 10 games. Beal averaged 20.9 points in December before going down.
The teams split last season, with the home team winning all four games. Chicago is 8-1 against Washington in the past nine at the United Center. Wall averaged 27.1 points against the Bulls a season ago. The teams play again Friday in D.C.
The Bulls seem destined to lay an egg at some point here when they actually realize Deng is gone. This is one of those bursts you will see often by a team after a trade -- it can lead to a major slump or galvanize a club almost as a metaphorical middle finger to the front office for quitting on the season. That's where the Bulls are right now. It will come to a crashing end at some point, but not Monday. Give the points -- even though Washington has covered five straight in this series -- and take the under on your free NBA picks. The under has hit on NBA odds in five of the past six meetings in the Windy City.
NBA Picks: Bulls -2.5 and the Under