Chicago at Phoenix
Time: 9:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: CHI -2.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The tank is on in Phoenix, but the Phoenix Suns will still be making a national television appearance in the second-half of an ESPN doubleheader as it hosts the Chicago Bulls at 9:30 (Central). In what figures to be one of the worst rated national TV games on the schedule for ESPN, the Bulls are 2.5 point favorites against a Suns club that has won under one-third of its home contests this year at just 8-17.
Phoenix has a -6.3 point differential and is surrendering 112.6 points per game, a team so bad on that end of the floor that even the shooting-deficient Bulls should be able to get some buckets. The over/under is set relatively high at 217, a reflection of the Suns lack of defense and the fact that the intensity meter in this game will hover close to its proverbial basement.
Phoenix has lost eight of its past 10 games and its last three overall, and is the possessors of the second-worst record in the NBA, behind only the hapless Brooklyn Nets. It is not hard to diagnose the reason for these failures: The Suns are a team glutted with guards, who for the most part are not very good shooters at all. Devin Booker is the best shooter and is billed as one, but his percentages hardly reflect the preseason hype bestowed upon him by none other than Kobe Bryant.
While hardly living up to his “best young 2-guard in the game” billing, the Suns have taken their plummet to the cellar of the Western Conference standings with little more to hope for than a chance at a high pick in a relatively strong 2017 NBA draft class. Phoenix’s needs range from “shooters” to simply just adding more talent at every position. And the time to sell high on guard Eric Bledsoe has all but arrived with him playing outstanding basketball and Phoenix nowhere near any sort of playoff contention.
The former Kentucky Wildcat has averaged 21 points, five rebounds and six assists while posting a PER of 21.1, but his overall lack of shooting ability is too emblematic and too common on the Suns crowded backcourt. Brandon Knight has seen his career do little more than decline since arriving in the Valley of the Sun, and both TJ Warren and PJ Tucker are replacement-level swingmen who only have nights of looking like more.
The Suns do have a couple talented bigs waiting in the wings in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, but Bender is injured and both are just 19 years old, neither ready to be a full-time starter. Both have defensive issues. The entire Suns team outside of defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler is poor on the defensive end, but then again when a team is struggling like the Suns, it is perhaps too easy to simply say “poor shooting, poor defense.” Alternatively, it really is that simple.
Chicago is its own sort of disaster, but perhaps one that could have been foreseen by most analysts and fans alike. The Bulls are bereft of shooting much like the Suns, and Chicago is also heavily committed to aged talents past their respective primes (Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, to name names). Rondo has been a bit of a head case and is having off-court social media wars with the team’s respective stars in Wade and Jimmy Butler. Butler has been battling injuries, injuries which he could doubtlessly push through if he or the Bulls had a competitive drive and urgency to be anything but mediocre.
The result has been a fringe NBA talent in Paul Zipser drawing starts, and by and large playing ineffectively. Of course, his relative plainness fits in well with the underachievement of teammates Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. The Bulls are not headed anywhere any time soon, and many are continuing to call for the heads of its two-headed snake of a GM in Gar Foreman and John Paxson.
Neither is going anywhere though, and doubly-apply that statement to their hodgepodge roster of mismatched parts and poor shooting guards. This game could be plenty ugly with a lot of bricks, but with neither team amounting to much on the offensive end and one team needing to win we will opt with the Vegas favorites and expect the Bulls to prevail as slight favorites.
There really could not be a more banal game to air on national television, for those who fruitlessly plan to tune in.
“See Red,” has begun to taking on a new meaning in Chi-town, with most Bulls fans seeing anger, not team pride.