Will a coaching change be the move that puts the Bulls over the top in the East, and prevents LeBron James from a sixth NBA Finals in a row?
After a disappointing exit to the playoffs last season, the Bulls finally let go of Tom Thibodeau after multiple reports of tension with the front office and even some of his starters. Now the Bulls head into the 2015-16 season with a new leader in Fred Hoiberg, but will it be enough to get past the Cavaliers?
Chicago finished the regular and postseason with an ATS record of 46-47-1. They were wildly overvalued in some instances, especially against bad teams. However they also tended to play the good teams better. One example of that was their last second win over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in the regular season, which was one of only four times that the Warriors lost at home in the regular season and playoffs.
However, the Bulls are hoping they can turn things around next season with the same exact roster from last year, but with a new head coach. It isn’t that farfetched to believe. As long as the Bulls don’t lose their defensive mindset from last season, and as long as Hoiberg can jumpstart the offense, the Bulls have the talent and depth to get out of the East. The Warriors did the exact same thing after firing Mark Jackson and brining in Steve Kerr to coach the same roster. Chicago is currently anywhere from +1200 to +1400 NBA odds to win the championship next season, behind only the Cavs in the East, but behind four Western Conference teams. While the Cavaliers are -200 to win the Eastern Conference next season, there could be some really nice value on the Bulls who are an unreal +650 to win the East from bet365.
How do the Bulls and Cavs Matchup?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are also coming in with virtually the exact same roster (just a lot richer) thanks to GM LeBron. Plus, as we saw in the playoffs, the Cavs have almost as much injury concern as the Bulls have. Kyrie Irving is almost as big of an injury risk as Derrick Rose at this point, and with a potentially healthy Rose for the season and the playoffs, the Bulls are much better than a +650 underdog to win the East, and it could be an excellent offseason bet. Plus, the Cavs have yet to re-sign Tristan Thompson, who killed the Bulls every time they played.
A lot of things can happen between now and May, and if these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls will absolutely not have this much value going into that matchup. Remember, the Bulls had the Cavs down 2-1 in the playoffs before Thibodeau’s mindless rotations and Pau Gasol’s injury basically ruined it all.
Chicago brought back their two-way monster in Jimmy Butler this offseason to the tune of $95 million over the next five years. With Mike Dunleavy and Aaron Brooks back as well, the Bulls will have the ability to go ten or even 11 players deep in the regular season, and if coach Hoiberg can manage that during the regular season, everyone will be a lot healthier heading into the postseason. Could the Bulls be this year’s Warriors? They will have to improve a lot on offense, but as long as they can keep the defensive identity that Thibodeau helped build in the Windy City, Chicago has a better shot than anyone in the East to dethrone the King, and prevent him from an unprecedented sixth NBA Finals in a row.