NBA Picks: With Lue On Top, Look For Fiery Cavs To Take Down Bulls

Jason Lake

Saturday, January 23, 2016 2:00 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 2:00 PM UTC

The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired their head coach. That should liven the mood up for Saturday's game against the Chicago Bulls. Is Cleveland the right NBA pick here?

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Free NBA Pick: Cavaliers –10.5 (–105)
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Are the Cleveland Cavaliers a “pretty good” basketball team? That's about as damning a statement as GM David Griffin could have made on Friday, after he gave head coach David Blatt his walking papers. The Cavaliers (30-11 SU, 18-21-2 ATS) are in first place in the Eastern Conference at the halfway point of the regular season. That means they're on pace to win... let's see, carry the one... 60 games this year.

Nobody cares. It's title or bust for the Cavs, and once they got their behinds kicked by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, the door was opened, and Blatt was pushed through it. Tyronn Lue will take over from here; his first game as head coach will be Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC) against the Chicago Bulls, with the Cavs pegged as 10.5-point home faves on our NBA odds board at press time.


Beginning of a Great Adventure
Chalk notwithstanding, this could be a good spot to put Cleveland in our NBA picks. The Cavs may have played at a higher level than “pretty good” under Blatt, but they haven't been playing like champions. Basketball-Reference has Cleveland at +5.01 on the Simple Rating System, nearly six points behind the Warriors (+10.83 SRS) and eight behind the San Antonio Spurs (+13.07 SRS). The marketplace expects better.

They should get it on on Saturday night. Whether or not their new coach has some quick-fix ideas he can implement against the Bulls, the Cavs will at least be playing with extra vigor now that Lue, a popular ex-NBA player and respected basketball mind, is the man in charge. Keep in mind that he was hired two years ago to be the associate head coach. Lue has already been signed to a new three-year contract. Blatt may have gotten hosed in this situation, but Lue looks like a better fit from a personality perspective.


The Center Cannot Hold
Then again, that was much of the logic behind firing Tom Thibodeau and replacing him with Fred Hoiberg. It hasn't worked out in the short term; the Bulls (24-18 SU, 16-26 ATS) are a middling team at +0.88 SRS, they've got Derrick Rose (+11.8 PER, –3.8 BPM) at point guard, and they don't have center Joakim Noah (14.3 PER, +2.8 BPM) for the rest of the season due to a separated shoulder. Not that any of this is Hoiberg's fault.

This would be closer to a slam-dunk if PF Kevin Love (19.1 PER, +3.0 BPM) weren't listed as questionable for the Cavs with an undisclosed injury. But it doesn't seem to be a major issue for Love, whatever it is, and the Bulls will be playing on zero days of rest after losing 110-101 to the Boston Celtics (–3.5 at home) on Friday. Tough gig.


Jason's 2015-16 record as of Jan. 22: 15-16-1 ATS, 5-1-1 Total

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