Chicago at Orlando
Time: 6 PM CT, NBA League Pass
Spread: ORL -8
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic are the surprise team of the East, and perhaps of the entire NBA. Now 6-2 the Magic host the Chicago Bulls at 6 PM Central time on NBA League Pass. The Magic are an 8-point favorite in NBA odds at bookmaker 5dimes. The over/under is set at 204.5 points, and the Magic average a league-best 114.9 points per game in their own right.
Orlando has ridden the wave of having several breakout players. Evan Fournier is having a career year with 22 points and 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.38 steals per game. His PER is second best to Aaron Gordon’s 25.2, as Gordon has posted 20,7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.00 blocks/steals per game in 31 minutes a night. Center Nikola Vucevic is scoring well with 19 points per game and Jonathon Simmons has proven to be a free agent steal thus far for Orlando. Simmons comes off the bench to score15.8 points per game in just 25 minutes a night, a key part of Orlando’s strong second unit attack.
Orlando has done this all largely without starting point guard Elfrid Payton, with D.J. Augustin having provided solid play in his stead. In Augustin’s eight games he has averaged eight points and five assists, while Shelving Mack has been solid with five points and 4.6 assists per game, too. The Magic finally have real and ostensible depth at all positions, and only Fournier sees a large workload with 33.6 minutes per game. Fournier hit the game-winning shot over the Memphis Grizzlies, and if for his clutch gene alone, the Magic chose Fournier as its 2-guard instead of the thriving Victor Oladipo, who commanded a max contract in his own right.
The Magic have made some tough decisions with its roster, but the smartest seems to have been trading Tobias Harris to pave the path for Gordon to emerge. Gordon has been a revelation this season for the Magic, a two-way talent capable of overtaking teams on his own. His 41-point career high against the Brooklyn Nets came on 14 of 18 shooting with 14 rebounds.
Gordon has grown into his body, added muscle, and at age 22 he may be just scratching the surface. The Magic may have had one of the heists of the loaded 2014 draft at No. 4 overall. Gordon had 19 points, seven rebounds, and two assists in 34 minutes in the 101-99 win over the Grizzlies. In Magic wins, Gordon averages 21.4 points on 59.1 percent shooting, a clear key to Orlando’s offensive attack. If the Magic sustain this torrid pace, the team will certainly be the surprise team in the NBA.
Chicago is just 1-5 this season and is 0-3 on the road. The Bulls have the worst point differential in the Eastern Conference at -11.2 points. Chicago has dropped two straight since its lone season win over the lowly Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls lost Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, and the effect has been catastrophic.
Rookie Lauri Markakken looks to be the real deal, though and is averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his first NBA season out of Arizona. Robin Lopez has been better offensively than ever before in his career and is averaging 15.5 points per game on a depleted Bulls team. Kris Dunn has impressed with nine points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes in two Bulls contests, while Jerian Grant has been steady at the point guard spot with 6.8 assists per game this season.
The Bulls have shaky depth and no real team leader, and while some of the young talents could be good role players, only Markakken probably has the chance at being a star. He is a tall stretch-4 made for this era, and he has shown a better propensity towards putting the ball on the floor than previously expected. He appears to have all the tools to be a dominant forward for many years to come, and perhaps after a couple more good drafts the Bulls can be an upcoming team, but this is clearly the early stages of what could be a long rebuild.
Orlando should be able to take full advantage tonight in covering the spread with a double-digit win. Magic by 12.