Wizards vs. Bulls Preview: Washington Undervalued Against Red-Hot Chicago

Action Network contributor Joe Dellera previews Friday's NBA game between the Wizards and Bulls, including betting odds and a prediction.

Wizards vs. Bulls Odds

Wizards Odds +6.5
Bulls Odds -6.5
Over/Under 220.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Wizards head to Chicago to take on the Bulls in a rematch of a New Year’s Day thriller that was punctuated by DeMar DeRozan’s game-winning buzzer-beater, his first since last year (lol). The Bulls have now won eight in a row, while the Wizards have slipped from the top of the Southeast Division to just a 19-19 record.

Given this divergence, does this present us with some value on the road dog? Let’s break it down.

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Wizards Have Increased Kuzma’s Role

The Wizards have a bit of an injury report for this game with Davis Bertans (foot) listed as doubtful, Rui Hachimura (conditioning) yet to play this season and Montrezl Harrell (COVID) listed as questionable.

If Harrell is unable to play, Daniel Gafford should see the floor more and Kyle Kuzma should continue being an absolute vacuum on the glass as he has secured double-digit rebounds in five of his last seven games. (Keep an eye on those props).

The Wizards have slipped a bit defensively since the start of the season, but their offense has kicked into gear a bit as they are 3-4 over the last two weeks. They are now scoring 116.1 points per 100 possessions over the last two weeks compared to 108.9 for the whole season, per Cleaning the Glass.

Much of this is due to Kuzma stepping up and taking on an increased role. He has averaged 23.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 50% shooting from the floor. This has given the Wizards an additional reliable offensive weapon who contributes floor spacing as well. As I mentioned before, keep an eye on his props.

The one concern about the Wizards is they shoot horrendously from the perimeter, just 32.9% from 3-point range as a team. This is a weakness that the Bulls have that the Wizards have been unable to exploit. The Bulls allow opponents to shoot 36.4% from 3-point range, bottom 10 in the league, per Cleaning the Glass. Even then, in their last matchup, the Wizards shot just 23.1% from 3-point range, so I’d expect this number to regress to the mean.

Bulls’ Starting Lineup Tough to Beat

In their last matchup against the Wizards, Lonzo Ball was unable to play; however, he has returned to the lineup over the past few days. The Bulls will be without Javonte Green (groin), and Alex Caruso was just placed into the league’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday so he will not play tonight either.

The Bulls have been incredible this season and they sit atop the Eastern Conference. However, is their performance a bit of a house of cards? They have the seventh-best Adjusted Net Rating (+2.8), but they sit behind both Miami and Cleveland in the East.

This is partially because they have played a relatively easy schedule (fifth-easiest). Their shot selection is also unconventional in today’s NBA that is obsessed with the 3 ball and getting to the rim. They only take 31.8% of their shots from 3-point range, but when they do take them, the Bulls have the best 3-point percentage in the league (38.9%).

That’s the thing about this team. They have incredible shot makers, from Zach LaVine to DeRozan to Nikola Vucevic. Ball is also a sniper from 3 point range while being an excellent facilitator.

Chicago’s strength lies with its starting lineup, and if that group is on the floor then the Bulls are tough to beat. However, in their last five games, the Bulls are just 2-3 Against the Spread, failing to cover three straight games. They’re winning these games, but they’re nail-biters to say the least.

Wizards-Bulls Pick

This should be a fun rematch, and while the Bulls may be better than the Wizards, I’m unsure if they are seven points better.

The Bulls could make a push in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve really struggled against the top teams in point differential, going just 3-6 against those teams. While the Wizards are not one of those teams, it’s important to illustrate that the Bulls may not be as good as their record indicates.

My issue with the Bulls is that they have been running too hot, and they’ve won more games than should be expected based on their Offensive and Defensive Ratings. Cleaning the Glass has the Bulls winning 2.8 games more than they should have been expected to this season. I can think of two games just during this eight-game winning streak that were won on a toss-up shot by DeRozan.

I think that the Bulls are overvalued in a spot, a rematch from a week ago that they only one by one point. I’ll grab the points with the road dog.

Pick: Wizards +7