Chicago at Toronto
Time: 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: TOR -7.5; Total: 198.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Chicago Bulls have lost seven of its past 10 games and head to face the surging Toronto Raptors, winners of its past two games. Toronto is 23-12 at home where it will be 7.5 point favorites over the Bulls according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes. The over/under is set at 198.5, for the game which will air at 6 PM (CT) on ESPN.
Chicago won 95-86 over the Utah Jazz last time out, but the club is struggling to be clear: The Bulls have lost 7 of its past 9 SU. Chicago dealt second-year forward Doug McDermott and veteran Taj Gibson to the OKC Thunder for Cameron Payne at the trade deadline. Payne is now in the D-League, already.
The direction in Chicago is very unclear.
Chicago has a glut of (young) point guards, but none are proven future starters. Will it be Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne or Michael Carter-Williams who succeeds Rajon Rondo—almost a sure bet to be gone after this season? Or will the Bulls continue to make senseless moves in acquiring more guards incapable of shooting the basketball?
The writing was on the wall this season for Chicago: It is a guard-dominant team saturated with poor shooters. Rondo and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade are both bereft of quality jumpers, and both are on the steady decline of their respective careers. To be sure, Wade has plenty of value and still has “his nights,” but there is no dispelling the fact that Jimmy Butler is Chicago’s franchise player and best hope to rebuild its franchise.
That is, if Chicago ever resigns itself to dealing the talented two-way swingman.
Butler has emerged as a near-franchise player, but Chicago’s asking price has been reportedly too high, previously engaging in talks with both the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, among other teams. John Paxson and Gar Foreman may run the worst ship in the NBA, and the Bulls may be mired in mediocrity as long as the pair remains in charge of the franchise’s fate. The jettisoning of Derrick Rose made sense because his tenure in Chicago had run its course, but Chicago cannot resume its spot atop the East without landing a franchise player.
And unless Butler is that, the time may have come for Chicago to move past the All-Star and search for another future MVP to center its attack around. For the time being, however, this is a Bulls team four games below .500 that represents little more than an “easy first round bounce” for a higher seeded opponent (be it Boston, Washington or even Cleveland) in the 2017 NBA playoffs.
Toronto, meanwhile, has coped well with the loss of one of its two All-Star guards, Kyle Lowry. The acquisition of Serge Ibaka has proven prudent, with the veteran forward fitting in seamlessly with the Raptors thus far. Toronto’s defense has been the reason behind its surge, and only one of the Raps’ last three opponents has mustered over 100 points—an impressive feat in this season and this era.
While the Raptors may miss Lowry’s 22.8 points and 6.9 assists per game, Ibaka has averaged 14.2 points and DeMar DeRozan has taken charge in a more commanding way in his own right.
DeRozan is averaging 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and four assists over his past 10 games, taking more of a playmaking role with Lowry on the shelf.
DeMar DeRozan has increased his assist production nearly a full per game since last season, and he is shooting 46.4 percent from the field. He is still not much of a threat from behind the arc (26 percent), but that hardly enters the picture with his efficient mid-range game and slashing threat.
DeRozan is a good enough talent to keep the Raps afloat, but any chance Toronto has of challenging the Cavaliers firmly lies in the health of Lowry. Lowry’s injured wrist is progressing well, and he was cleared to participate in light dribbling six days ago according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Lowry’s return is Toronto’s contention hopes, so while the Raptors keep winning its ultimate hope of being much more than a “tough second round bounce” lies firmly on the wrist of Lowry.