NBA Picks for Bulls vs. Cavaliers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 12:57 PM GMT

The Chicago Bulls are 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS since trading Luol Deng. The Cleveland Cavaliers are 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS since acquiring Luol Deng. That’s basketball betting for you. Which team will prevail Wednesday?

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 20 inclusive:

49-37-1 ATS

13-10 Totals 

Maybe they should call it the Luol Deng Theory. As you can see by the results mentioned above, the Chicago Bulls (20-20 SU, 18-22 ATS) have actually done better for themselves since trading Deng. Then again, the Cleveland Cavaliers (15-26 SU, 18-23 ATS) are now playing .500 ball with Deng at small forward, which is actually an improvement for them – but not as much of an improvement as the NBA betting market expected.

Which brings us to a very interesting matchup this Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET) at The Q. This is Deng’s first game against his former team, the one he had played for his entire 10-year career, since he was age 19. How will he respond? How will the Bulls respond to playing against him? Should be worth checking out; the Cavaliers have opened as 2.5-point home favorites on the NBA odds board with a total of 187.5.

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Here for the Luols

Aside from the dynamic between Deng and fellow ex-Dukie Kyrie Irving (19.7 PER), and the need to get rid of the disgruntled Andrew Bynum (15.3 PER), the purpose behind the Deng deal was to upgrade Cleveland’s woeful small forward position. And that has certainly worked out well at the offensive end. Deng has posted a 20.6 PER in his six games as a Cavalier, scoring 21.4 points per 36 minutes. But that legendary Deng defense hasn’t shown up yet. According to 82games, he’s one of the worst plus-minus players on the Cavaliers, with a Simple Rating of minus-10.5. That’s worse than the two men Deng was brought in to replace, Earl Clark (minus-6.6) and Alonzo Gee (minus-9.1).

“I’m making a lot of mistakes,” Deng told the Akron Beacon Journal after last week’s 108-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers (–10.5 at home). “People who don’t know the system might not notice it, but there’s a couple rotations I’m putting the team in bad situations because I’m not used to it.” There’s an honest chap. We’ll see how long it takes Deng to contribute to a Cavs team that’s just No. 17 in the league in defensive efficiency at 104.0 points allowed per 100 possessions.

I’m Going to France

Chicago, meanwhile, simply refuses to roll over and tank this season. The Bulls are second in the league in defensive efficiency (97.4 points allowed/100), which you’d expect from a team coached by Tom Thibodeau. So what if Deng is gone, and Derrick Rose (23.0 PER in 2011-12) may never be his old MVP self if and when he returns? There’s still enough talent on this team to get into the Eastern playoffs.

It starts with Joakim Noah (19.2 PER), a player that nobody seems to talk about anymore, which is incredible for someone who was such an outrageous figure not too long ago. Noah just soaked the Los Angeles Lakers (+8.5 away) for 17 points, 21 rebounds and six assists in a thrilling 102-100 overtime victory – or it would be thrilling, if Rose and Kobe Bryant were playing and people gave a darn. Although the Bulls dropped the cash, they’re back at .500 after winning 11 of their last 15 games at 10-5 ATS.

It’s not too difficult to plug in Chicago as my NBA bet here. One complication: Kirk Hinrich (9.5 PER) strained a hammy against the Lakers and is iffy for Wednesday. Who’d back up D.J. Augustin (17.1 PER) now that Marquis Teague has been exiled to Brooklyn? Maybe John Paxson will have to suit up. And I might still bet on the Bulls in that case.

NBA Pick: Take the Bulls +2.5 at BetOnline