After four straight seasons of missing the playoffs and one postseason appearance in the last six, a strange undercurrent has been felt in Chicago for the upcoming Bulls season that begins Wednesday night in Detroit.
There’s a sense of optimism about the team’s rebuild as Billy Donovan begins his second season on the sidelines after going 31-41 in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign. Team Vice President Arturas Karnisovas, who spent the latter part of the previous season and this offseason finding parts to complement top scorer Zach LaVine, landed point guard Lonzo Ball and veterans DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
Newcomer Alex Caruso and holdover Coby White will be expected to provide scoring punch off the bench, and Donovan’s track record of getting the most from his guards — as a former point guard himself who ignited the careers of Russell Westbrook and James Harden while coaching Oklahoma City — augurs well for the Bulls as they look to be the best of the rest behind reigning NBA champion Milwaukee in the Central Division.
There are hundreds of offerings for both the Bulls as a team and individual players across the six mobile sportsbooks of Illinois, and there are countless opportunities for value plays if you do a little bit of line-shopping.
Playoff dreams and win total counts
Zach’s ready for the regular season!@NBCSChicago | @ZachLaVine pic.twitter.com/kgxo0db2V7
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 16, 2021
While one can almost hear the infamous “Playoffs?” cackle of Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora when considering the possibility of the Bulls in the postseason, oddsmakers appear confident they will qualify directly or, at worst, be among teams participating in the play-in round.
The best “yes” play for sportsbooks offering the yes/no option for Chicago to qualify directly can be found at Caesars at -160, with PointsBet a distant second at -180. For those who think the Bulls are still a year away from the postseason, DraftKings has top value on the “no” side at +150. FanDuel has a +110 listing for the Bulls to directly qualify for the play-in, and PointsBet has that offer at even money (+100).
Most books have settled on 43.5 regular season wins for the over/under, with FanDuel playing it straight at -110 in both directions. BetRivers and Barstool Sportsbook, both powered by Kambi, are offering a -115/-106 split, while Caesars and DraftKings have that number at -120/+100. PointsBet’s total is 42.5 wins, but it comes with a notable cost, as the split is -134/+115.
Making the playoffs is one thing for oddsmakers, but the Bulls making a deep run is another. They range from +2400 (FanDuel) to +3000 (PointsBet and Caesars) to win the Eastern Conference, and the odds are longer still for a first NBA title since 1998, when Michael Jordan claimed his sixth one. PointsBet has Chicago as a +7000 option, with FanDuel, Caesars, and DraftKings all joint-second at +6000.
The Bulls are the consensus pick to finish behind the Bucks in the Central, getting either +900 or +1000 to win the division. PointsBet (+115) and DraftKings (+110) both have plus-money offerings for a 1-2 Milwaukee-Chicago finish, with PointsBet the better play at +1300 for those bold enough to reverse that order.
PointsBet also has an offering in which bettors can put futures on Chicago’s playoff seeding, with the No. 8 spot currently the favorite at +400. Seventh follows at +450, with ninth (+475), sixth (+525), and fifth (+675) rounding out the top five options.
DraftKings counters with victory bands, and 41-to-44 wins is the top play at +185. Those “Bull-ish” on Chicago can grab a band of 45-48 at +265 and 49-52 wins offers a +600 payout. For those more pessimistic, the 37-40 victory band is a +300 listing. It also has a pair of head-to-head listings for win totals, installing the Bulls as -120 favorites versus Indiana and -155 favorites against New York.
FanDuel has bundled the Bulls into some future parlays, offering +480 for them and the New York Knicks to both finish with 45 or more wins. Those more daring can opt for a four-team parlay, with Chicago, Portland, New York, and the Los Angeles Clippers at +500 for all to have 43 or more wins and/or +1600 for 45 or more.
Lots of love for LaVine and Lonzo
Me: "High IQ in basketball is a dying trait."
— Ina Obra (@ReinaObra) October 17, 2021
After a breakout season in which LaVine averaged 27.4 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range and garnering his first all-star berth, the 26-year-old has found his way into practically every player offering the guard position can offer for props as well as season-ending awards.
He remains a longshot, however, for NBA Most Valuable Player honors, ranging anywhere from +7000 at FanDuel to +10000 on the Kambi platform. Interestingly, LaVine is also an option for Most Improved Player at +4000 at most sportsbooks.
There are a wealth of player props for Lavine, who is a +3500 option to lead the NBA in points per game at BetRivers and Barstool and a +3000 play there for most 3-pointers made per game. PointsBet has a +1000 offering for LaVine to be a first-team, all-NBA selection and a +175 option to make any of the three all-NBA teams.
The Australian-based sportsbook also has yes/no plays on LaVine averaging 25-plus points (-500) and 30-plus points (+260) as well as 5-plus assists (-115) and 7-plus assists (+450). It also has a -115 offering for him head-to-head versus Atlanta’s Trae Young for most points per game. DraftKings has that offering with LaVine a -120 favorite, but he is also a -105 underdog matched up against Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant.
DraftKings also has established an over/under of 26.5 points and 3.2 trifectas per game for LaVine at -115 each way for both offerings. FanDuel has made LaVine part of two four-player pods: +270 for most 3-pointers made per game in a group with Phoenix’s Fred VanVleet, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell; and +310 for highest points per game with Young, Mitchell, and Phoenix’s Devin Booker.
While LaVine gets most of the headlines with his scoring prowess, Ball could be the engine that makes or breaks Chicago’s offense. He averaged a career-best 14.6 points to go with 5.7 assists per game while shooting a respectable 37.8 percent from beyond the arc for New Orleans last season.
Ball is also among the options for Most Improved Player, with PointsBet the best play at +5000. He can also be grabbed at +15000 at Caesars to lead the league in assists per game and has been included in some head-to-head plays in that category. He is a -115 offering versus Miami’s Jimmy Butler at PointsBet and DraftKings but a notable underdog versus his brother — Charlotte point guard LaMelo Ball — with DraftKings (+155) the better play over PointsBet (+140).
Other prop plays of note
Mental note but this is the kind of flow I like from the Bulls. Use your pieces together, look at the actions Memphis had to guard. LaVine off a screen, Lonzo coming off potentially a double screen. Swing to Vucevic into two man game. It could be a lot. pic.twitter.com/OlvhzqjPCL
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 16, 2021
The 7-foot Vucevic is one of the top plays to lead the league in rebounding, with FanDuel the best play at +2300 despite him being the sixth-best option. DraftKings has over/under per game numbers for him in all three major categories at -115 both ways: points (21.8), rebounds (11.5), assists (3.8). There is also an over/under of 2.2 treys per contest with a -110/-120 split.
PointsBet (-115) has pitted Vucevic against Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards for higher scoring average, and he is a -125 favorite versus Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns for rebounds per game.
DeRozan has over/unders of 20.2 points (-115) and 5.8 assists (+100/-130) at DraftKings, and he is +500 as part of a futures parlay with LaMelo Ball and Boston’s Jaylen Brown to all finish with 20 or more points per game.
Donovan has also been short-listed for Coach of the Year honors. He is a consensus top-five option across the board, with PointsBet offering the best value for that play at +1200. For those intrigued in a hometown hero, second-round pick Ayo Dosunmu — who played collegiately at Illinois and prep ball at Morgan Park in Chicago — can be grabbed at +6600 for Rookie of the Year on the Kambi platform.