It’s been almost a decade since the Chicago Bulls had a team to get excited about. Back when the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose, had Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, signed Carlos Boozer and brought in Tom Thibodeau to coach, that was the last time there was any optimism surrounding Chicago. Until the 2021-22 season.
There was some hype for this Bulls team after obliterating teams during the preseason, but nobody envisioned this team competing for the No. 1 seed in the NBA, let alone the top record through a month-plus. Yes, it’s still early, but at 10-4 and coming off wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, it has to be time to take the Bulls seriously, right?
The books don’t exactly think so just yet. The Bulls are 40/1 to win the NBA championship this season on DraftKings Sportsbook. The Bulls are still behind teams they’ve beat — the Lakers, Nets, Clippers, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks. A few of those wins came without Patrick Williams. A few of those wins also came without Nikola Vucevic.
It’s only a matter of time before the Bulls jump up in terms of NBA title futures on most books. Chances are they’ll settle in around 20/1 or 15/1, though that may not happen for a few more months depending on how the team performs. It doesn’t feel as if the Bulls are going away. The Bulls are also 18/1 to come out of the Eastern Conference and +230 to win the Central Division over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, who are favored at -320 despite being 4.0 games back in mid-November.
Again, it’s still REALLY early in the season. The Bucks will bounce back once players get healthy/off the Covid list. The Lakers, Clippers, Nets have all dealt with and are dealing with injuries, plus the status of Kyrie Irving is up in the air. The Golden State Warriors feel like a juggernaut early on and could just run away with the whole thing. It’s also still REALLY early in the season. Those things can change, they can also stay the same or something else can happen. One thing’s for sure, the Bulls will get Vuce back and if nothing else, the defense will be sustainable.
Let’s look at player futures really fast. The most notable being DeMar DeRozan’s MVP odds. The top two MVP candidates at this point are Stephen Curry (+275) and Kevin Durant (+475). They rank 1-2 in terms of scoring in the NBA. Who is third? DeRozan at 26.9 points per game. Where is he ranked in terms of MVP odds? He’s 11th at 40/1 to win MVP. There are a few players ahead of DeRozan you can make a case for early on. There are also a few players whom it’s hard to make said case.
For instance, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all higher than DeRozan yet are either on worse teams or having worse seasons to this point. Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Paul George all have cases, but they don’t feel as strong as DeRozan right now.
The only outlier among that group feels like PG-13, though the Clips will likely regress. AD will see his case get weaker once LeBron is back. Embiid is missing games, Butler is missing games. The one constant is seems out of the mid-range bunch for MVP is DeRozan. Will DeRozan win? Odds are he won’t (duh). Will those odds likely improve from 40/1 over the course of the next month or so? That seems very possible.
Perhaps the most appealing line right now is Billy Donovan at 7/1 to win Coach of the Year. He’s even with Steve Kerr for COTY odds but should have an edge given the Dubs history and how the Bulls are performing thus far. Chicago brought in a bunch of big names and that doesn’t always result in wins.
The Bulls are also far improved on both sides of the ball while dealing with missing players. Vucevic has been out for three games and the Bulls are 2-1 with a lack of size, an adjustment that is tough for coaches to make. Donovan is also getting the most out of players like DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Javonte Green, Alex Caruso and rookie Ayo Dosunmu. So as long as the Bulls finish within the top 4 in the Eastern Conference, Donovan will have a very strong case for COTY. At 7/1, the line is still pretty enticing and should only move up.
We’ve still got a long ways until April and May and the playoffs beginning. Will the Bulls struggle along the way? Sure. When they finally get back to the postseason, do we have any idea how the team will react under pressure? Not exactly. Some guys have been there, some haven’t. What we do know is this team is capable of beating any team in the NBA right now. If that’s the case, we definitely need to start taking the Bulls seriously.