NBA Odds, Picks: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls

Jimmy Butler is one of two Bulls players posting a PER above 20.
Jimmy Butler is one of two Bulls players posting a PER above 20.

New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls
Time: 7 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: CHI -7
Total: 197

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The 15-18 New York Knicks are just 7-10 on the road and will attempt to better that mark as it travels as 7-point underdogs to the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago is 13-5 at home this season and comes in as winners of its last two games.

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Chicago’s most recent win was a big one: a 102-100 defeat of the rival Indiana Pacers. Jimmy Butler tipped it in with 1.2 seconds remaining in Overtime to lift the Bulls past the 18-13 Pacers. Butler had a nice outing, hitting 8 of 16 from the floor and 11 of 13 from the line to finish with 28 points in the game. Pau Gasol struggled, but rookie Bobby Portis came in to go 7 of 12 from the floor with 16 points, seven rebounds and a block and steal in the game.

The Bulls continue to be disappointed with the play of Nikola Mirotic who seems to have hit something of a sophomore slump this season. Mirotic is hitting just 37.8 percent from the floor and 33.1 percent from three-point range. Over his last five games he really only had one decent outing, a 23 point, seven rebound effort against Dallas. He is good for just 7.8 points per game on 34.4 percent shooting over those last five contests and he could find his way out of Chicago if the Bulls find takers at the trade deadline.

Butler really has been the only Bull to play exceptional basketball. He is still a two-way menace with 21 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.77 blocks/steals per game. Butler is second in PER to Pau Gasol, who still has fallen off despite posting somewhat hollow numbers this season.

Gasol has indicated he will be unlikely to return to Chicago this offseason, and the Bulls could be trying to find a taker for his services too.

Joakim Noah was having a fully mediocre season prior to suffering a shoulder injury that will cause him to miss two to four weeks. Derrick Rose is also questionable to play because of a hamstring issue. The injuries only further deplete a Bulls depth chart that has been marginal at best.

Aaron Brooks, however, did have an absolutely dominant performance off the Bulls bench in the win over Indy. He came in and shot 11 of 20 for 29 points and five rebounds in 41 minutes of play. It offset an ineffective 13 minutes from Kirk Hinrich and the Bulls have been in rhythm often when Brooks is playing his best ball. He scored 17 in the win over the Raptors while knocking down 6 of 13. The Bulls are 6-3 when Brooks scores 10 points or more, and he is averaging 10 per game in the month of December as the Bulls have gone 8-7.

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Kristaps Porzingis continues to be the story in New York.

Porzingis recently told reporters that he is still not done growing, and he is already a fluid and mobile 7-foot-3 from the power forward position. The rookie is averaging 13.2 points, eight rebounds and 2.8 steals/blocks per game while posting a PER of 18.4. The No. 4 overall pick from Latvia has demonstrated the defensive capabilities of a future first team all-defensive player, while hitting 33 percent from behind the arc.

Porzingis trails only Carmelo Anthony in points per possession with 1.154.

Anthony has been reasonably mediocre and his 42.7 percent field goal percentage is just not high enough to be the No. 1 option he should be on a winning team. Anthony has clearly regressed since his time in Denver, and this season he is averaging 21.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Anthony is still a good forward, but there are no illusions that he is “great” anymore.

The Knicks do have some nice complementary talents, but its best happens to play behind Anthony in small forward Lance Thomas.

Thomas is averaging nine points per game on 48.6 percent shooting while stroking 42.4 percent from three-point range. The fourth-year talent from Duke is averaging 12.2 points on 54 percent shooting over his last five games, and the Knicks are a better team when Thomas is on the court. It will remain problematic finding big minutes for him, but he did see 26.4 per game over those last five games, of which the Knicks did lose four.

New York is a lackluster team, but it has an exceptional diamond in Porzingis. Adding the right complementary pieces could render the Knicks a playoff team soon.

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