If you’ve been betting much on the Chicago Bulls lately, you’ve probably noticed how bad of a wager they are. Chicago has lost four straight games by a combined 54 points, highlighted by an 18-point loss to Miami on Tuesday and a 13-point loss to the Magic last night. Given these flops, it’s little wonder why the Bulls are just 23-37 against the spread in 2016. So can we trust Chicago as a bet the rest of the season? Furthermore, are they still a playoff team?
Questions like these never seemed a reality at the beginning of the season, when some experts tabbed the Bulls as the most-immediate Eastern Conference threat to Cleveland. But here were are three-fourths of the way through the year, and Chicago sits at 30-30, tied with the Washington Wizards for ninth place.
Last year head coach Tom Thibodeau was blamed for the lack of success. Management thought that his hard-driving style and unwillingness to let off the gas burned the players out. So the mild-mannered Fred Hoilberg was brought in to replace the fired Thibodeau and keep postseason goals in mind during the regular season. However, the Bulls are a half game out of the playoffs and the postseason is no longer a given.
Injuries are of course playing a key factor in Chicago’s disappointing season thus far. Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic are all missing while Taj Gibson left the Magic game with a minor hamstring injury. But it’s not like the cupboard is totally bare with what’s left on the Bulls’ sidelines. So we come to the next problem: Chicago playing soft.
“A lot of it had to do with our lack of toughness,” said Hoiberg. “We play harder defensively in our practices. We seem to get deflated when adversity hits us.”
While Thibodeau might have fought management all the way on occasionally resting players, at least the team competed on a consistent basis. And while this isn’t to say that Hoilberg has done a bad job, perhaps some Bulls could be taking advantage of his player-friendly demeanor, or just flat-out ignoring his calls for tougher play. And nowhere is this more apparent than on the defensive end.
Chicago is in fact historically bad, becoming the first team in 30 years to allow 14 straight opponents to top 100 points. Hoilberg’s up-tempo style has magnified the Bulls’ greatest weakness as opposing teams continue scoring at will. Maybe if everybody were healthy, then Chicago could push the pace and overwhelm other teams. But as it is now, they are only giving opponents more chances to expose their porous defense.
The unfortunate fact is that help won’t be on the way any time soon. Noah is finished for the season with a back injury while Butler and Mirotic aren’t expected back for another three weeks. With the 2016 NBA season winding down, it’s tough to know what to expect from these Bulls in the meantime.
So if you’re thinking of betting on Chicago right now, proceed with caution. This is a team that’s not playing very good defense and getting blown out by mediocre competition. As for their chances of making the playoffs, well, it doesn’t look good now. Perhaps if Detroit and Washington don’t start winning a large amount of games, then Chicago will still have a chance when Butler and Mirotic return. But just as with this team on the court, don’t count on anything.