Bulls’ L.A. Lads Affirm FanDuel’s Decision To Fade Lakers

Heading into the Chicago Bulls’ Monday night matchup in Los Angeles against the Lakers, FanDuel Trading Director John Sheeran had already seen enough of L.A.’s revamped roster, dropping LeBron & Co.’s odds to win a second NBA title in three years to 7/1.

“We’re happy to be at the top of the market at 7/1,” Sheeran said on Monday afternoon. “We’ve obviously been super disappointed in the roster beyond the top three. That’s a huge concern when you get into the postseason.”

The postseason is a long way away, but the 10-4 Bulls, who wound up clobbering the Lakers by a score of 121-103 on Monday, look like legitimate playoff contenders after a roster revamp of their own that has brought in DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and ex-Lakers Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso since last season’s trade deadline.

DeRozan paced the Bulls with 38 points against the Lakers on Monday, followed by Ball’s 27 and Olympic gold medalist Zach LaVine’s 26. All three have ties to Los Angeles, with DeRozan and Ball growing up in the area, LaVine and Ball playing their college ball at UCLA, and DeRozan starring at USC.

Newbies, LaVine sharing the ball and scoring

Maybe it’s this California connection that has allowed the three to have such seamless on-floor chemistry, defying some predictions that their skill sets — especially LaVine’s and DeRozan’s — would prove too redundant to mesh properly on the United Center hardwood. 

“I can understand the argument, but I think we saw a degree of unselfishness with Zach in the summer with Team USA,” said Sheeran. “He played a role off the bench and seemed pretty generous. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the two of those guys [LaVine and DeRozan] have figured out a way to share the ball and the scoring.”

“Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan, all pushing the ball and playing together, I don’t think redundancy of wings is something you need to worry about anymore,” added DraftKings Content Specialist Julian Edlow, whose sportsbook currently has the Lakers at +550 to win the NBA title, while the Bulls are sitting at 40/1 heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Blazers in Portland. 

Perhaps because of the general popularity of sports betting in Illinois and the size of the Chicago market, the Bulls are second in bet count and fourth in handle for championship wagers at FanDuel, which has them at 39/1 to win it all.

FanDuel’s Sheeran, who’s bullish on the Bulls, explained, “We really like that starting roster and they’ve played really well. They look like they’re well coached. For once in Chicago, they have a path to success. They have another level they need to get to to compete in a series in the postseason. They seem to be able to find a way to win tight games and overcome slow starts.”

Pacers would ‘struggle to win a series’

DraftKings has the Bulls at +230 to win the Central Division, second behind the Milwaukee Bucks (-320), who’ve gotten off to a slow start due to injuries and COVID-related absences. Same goes for the 6-9 Indiana Pacers, who are at 30/1 to win the Central at DraftKings, with FanDuel offering a more optimistic 19/1. As for whether the Pacers, who play the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday, will pick up the pace enough to make the playoffs, FanDuel is offering +128 on “Yes” and -162 on “No.”

“They could make the playoffs, but I think they’d struggle to win a series,” said Sheeran. “[Caris] LeVert, we saw glimpses of what he’s capable of in Brooklyn, but I’m going to need to see him on the court for a lot more games. There are plenty of questions hanging over a Caris LeVert from an injury perspective.”

DraftKings’ Edlow offers a similar assessment, asserting that the Pacers, who’ve barely been able to put their starting backcourt on the floor together thanks to injuries to LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon, are a playoff-caliber team “when they’re healthy,” adding that, with early-season injuries, “it’s hard to get any momentum.”

But the East is so topsy-turvy right now — look no further than the 10-3 Wizards’ current placement atop the conference standings — that Edlow predicted, “Things are going to move around. Who knows how the East is going to shake out?”

Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY