NBA Picks for Bulls vs. Magic

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 12:37 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 12:37 PM GMT

The Luol Deng trade may have finally taken the starch out of those pesky Chicago Bulls. Can they start a new streak against the NBA odds when they face the Orlando Magic this Wednesday night?

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

43-31-1 ATS

12-9 Totals

That oughta learn ‘em. The Chicago Bulls (17-19 SU, 16-20 ATS) apparently didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to tank the rest of the 2013-14 season after Derrick Rose’s latest catastrophic injury. So GM Gar Forman gave them a helpful push by trading Luol Deng (17.4 PER) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for cap relief and draft picks. You’re welcome, Chicago.

One problem with that plan: head coach Tom Thibodeau. One of the most brilliant minds in the business, Thibodeau doesn’t take too kind to losing, and his Bulls are 3-1 SU and ATS since jettisoning their All-Star forward. And Chicago’s next game is Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic (10-28 SU, 15-23 ATS), who have brought tanking to a whole new level by dropping their last eight games SU and ATS. The early NBA lines were pending as we went to press.

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Mikey is a Ladies Man

You may have heard Thibodeau’s response to the Deng trade; in case you didn’t, suffice to say he wasn’t pleased, and is now rumored to be the next coach of the New York Knicks. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Meanwhile, Forman still has some work to do if the Bulls are going to miss the playoffs. As valuable as Deng was, they still have Jimmy Butler (14.0 PER) and Mike Dunleavy (13.5 PER) playing the wings, with Butler providing the defensive grit and Dunleavy canning 41.1 percent of his trey attempts. Chicks dig the long ball.

Having said that, the Deng trade does thin out Chicago’s bench significantly. Rookie SF Tony Snell (8.3 PER), the No. 20 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, is a good shooter and a good teammate, but has yet to show much consistency. The Bulls also signed veteran SF Cartier Martin (10.6 lifetime PER) to a 10-day contract; Martin had fallen out of the Atlanta Hawks rotation before he was waived on Jan. 7, the same day Deng was shipped out of Chicago. It’s a living.

We Are Augustins

Let’s not write any of these reserve players off, though. Look what D.J. Augustin (14.0 PER) has managed to accomplish since joining the Bulls; his career was on life support following his release by the Toronto Raptors, but Augustin has been more than competent as Chicago’s back-up point guard, posting 12.9 points and 7.7 assists per 36 minutes while hitting 92.1 percent of his free-throw attempts. He’s also playing 28.9 minutes per game, and playing with confidence. Remarkable.

But how long can this last? Chicago’s last outing was a clunker, a 102-88 loss to the Washington Wizards (+2.5 away) that also saw center Nazr Mohammed (10.0 PER) leave the floor with a sprained finger. His status for Wednesday’s game (7:00 p.m. ET) is uncertain, which normally wouldn’t matter much, except the Bulls are quickly running out of tall human beings with 16 of their next 25 games on the road.

Tragic Kingdom

Oh, well. At least the next one’s in Orlando. Now here’s a team that understands what tanking is all about. The Magic have some quality youngsters, but center Nikola Vucevic (17.9 PER) has missed the six of the last seven games with ankle and concussion issues, swingman Maurice Harkless (12.3 PER) is working through a sore knee, and their best player, SG Arron Afflalo (18.4 PER), is a game-time decision for Wednesday after spending the weekend in a walking boot.

Afflalo’s bum foot is the culprit behind the delayed release of the NBA odds, so keep an eye on the newswires for the latest developments. But I’m generally content enough to keep fading the Magic until they show that their tanking prowess isn’t just an il-lu-sion.

NBA Pick: Take the Bulls

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