No NBA team has been bitten more by the injury bug than the Bulls. It began in the preseason with injuries to Denzel Valentine and All-Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen. In the season’s first week Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis suffered MCL sprains 48 hours apart from each other.
Valentine is out for the year, but coach Jim Boylen finally got Markkanen, Portis and Dunn back in the lineup for two whole games before the bug popped up again.
It was revealed Wednesday that Zach LaVine, the team’s leading scorer and a candidate for Most Improved Player, will miss 2 to 4 weeks with a sprained left ankle. He suffered the injury in the final minute of last Thursday’s loss to the Orlando Magic in Mexico City.
No team can afford to lose its leading scorer (unless you’re the Warriors), but for a 7-25 Bulls team with the league’s worst offense, this timing is about as bad as can be.
Smart NBA betting fans should be on the lookout for shifting odds.
Tanking Bulls About to Get Worse
All those injuries add up to the worst record in the NBA. That’s right, worse than the college-aged Suns, the LeBron-less Cavaliers and the Trae Young-led Atlanta Hawks. None of them can match the 7-25 record the Bulls possess.
And those seven wins came with LaVine playing like an All-Star; LaVine had been superb in the six wins he was a part of, averaging nearly 30 points (29.7) on 48 percent shooting. Without LaVine the Bulls are 1-3 this season, including losses of 39 and 25 points.
Even with the promising talent in Chicago, the Bulls are about to get even worse in the short-term.
How to Bet LaVine-Less Bulls
Many pundits pegged the Bulls for high-scoring affairs, with a roster that included gifted scorers and ugly defenders. But the Bulls have actually gone under in over/under betting more than any team in the league (10-22-1) and new head coach Jim Boylen wants his team to slow down, play ugly and really grind out games.
That means lower point totals, and the Bulls have gone under the game total in six of eight contests since Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg.
Now with LaVine out the Bulls offense will suffer and the defense should get better. What does that equal? Fewer points scored and fewer points allowed. Expect this team to muddy up games and continue going under on game totals.
LaVine’s Most Improved Player Odds Will Suffer
LaVine has been the favorite on 888Sport to win Most Improved Player just about the entire year. He’s increased his numbers across the board in his fifth NBA season, averaging 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 35 minutes per game. He’s the leader of the Bulls and is fourth in the NBA in usage, which obviously has vaulted him to Most Improved Player status.
But if he’s out the next three weeks that’ll mean he’ll miss 12 games. He previously missed one game in November, meaning he could play a maximum of 69 games. If the Bulls continue to rack up losses (they will) his candidacy will suffer because it, and there’s a chance he could be shut down toward the end of the year to help with Lottery balls.
He’s the second favorite at +250 with but seems like a shaky candidate at this point. A guy such as De’Aaron Fox might make more sense.
Kris Dunn Will Benefit on Player Props
Someone’s going to have to score, and point guard Kris Dunn looks like the leading candidate to do so. In three games since LaVine’s injury, Dunn has averaged 20.0 points and 5.3 assists per game. That’s also included games of 19 and 21 field-goal attempts, the latter of which was his highest total since last December.
If you’re seeking out player prop bets in Chicago while LaVine is out, Dunn is probably the biggest beneficiary here. LaVine did most of the ball handling while Dunn was out with his sprained MCL. Now the two players have reversed roles, and it’ll be Dunn doing heavy lifting along with Markkanen.
The Bulls’ shaky point guard depth also plays into Dunn’s value, as he’s averaged 32 minutes with LaVine out. He’s a lock for at least that many minutes each night going forward. Some have questioned whether he’s the future at the position in Chicago, and the next few weeks will be telling.