Bulls

Looking at Bulls' regular-season player propositions

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Looking at Bulls' regular-season player propositions

With the NBA season kicking off Tuesday, Bovada has released player proposition bets for a number of Bulls.

Here's a look at those over/unders and which outcome is more likely.

Will the Bulls make the playoffs in 2016?

Yes (-2000)
No (+1000)

Not all that difficult a choice here, as the Bulls' depth - especially in the frontcourt - means they could suffer myriad injuries like they did a year ago and still waltz into the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that is improving yet still top-heavy. That's why their odds are 1 to 20; it's a no-brainer but you'll have to cough up some serious dough to see any real return.

Derrick Rose

Regular season games played: Over/under 63.5

Now we're getting to the good stuff. This over/under is intriguing on a number of levels. The under is the safe play considering Rose has played in 61 regular-season games the last THREE years. He appeared in 51 contests last season, yet for a second straight season the headline reads that Rose is healthy (he'll play while recovering from orbital surgery), and perhaps a chance of pace with Fred Hoiberg will mean different things for Rose on the injury front. Rose may not suffer another serious injury, yet bumps/bruises/rest easily could keep him out of 18 games. The under seems like the safe play.

Points per game: 18.0

Rose averaged 17.7 points per game last season, and saw that number jump to 20.3 points per game in the postseason. In Fred Hoiberg's up-tempo system it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Rose's scoring improve. The over seems likely.

Assists per game: 5.5

We know Jimmy Butler will have the ball in his hand more this season and that Rose (likely) will shoot more in Hoiberg's system. That could mean fewer assist opportunities for Rose, who averaged 4.9 assists in last year's regular season (and 6.5 per game in the postseason). Rose may not reach 5.5 assists per game, but the surplus of perimeter shooters waiting for his drive-and-kicks in Hoiberg's offense could change that. 

Jimmy Butler

Over/under: 18.5 points

You'd be a fool to believe Butler is going to rest on his laurels and regress now that he's got his maximum deal in hand. The league's most improved player averaged 20.0 points per game last year and nearly 23 in the postseason. As long as he's getting to the free-throw line 6-8 times per game like he did a year ago, 18.5 points seems likely. Even with Rose back and Nikola Mirotic expected to take on a larger role, it's clear Butler is the top option in Chicago.

Pau Gasol

Points per game: 17.0

We wrote this offseason about how Gasol may regress in his 15th NBA season - most players not named Tim Duncan do - meaning he could be in line to average fewer than the 18.5 points he scored last year.

Rebounds per game: 10.0

Gasol seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015 to average 11.8 rebounds per game - fourth in the NBA - at age 34. With Nikola Mirotic expected to see most of the starter's minutes at power forward instead of Joakim Noah, that'll free up Gasol for even more boards. His scoring may regress, but Gasol will remain aggressive on the glass.

Nikola Mirotic

Points per game: 14.5

There's plenty of optimism surrounding Mirotic, who was made for Hoiberg's offensive system. He'll start at power forward, will stretch the floor and will work perfectly with Derrick Rose on pick-and-pop opportunities. Whether that means 14.5 points per game in an offense that features Rose, Butler and Gasol is a different story. Assuming those three players are the Bulls' leading scorers...only one team in the NBA last year had a fourth scorer average more than 14.5 points. (LAC's Jamal Crawford, 15.8). Stay under with this one.

Rebounds per game: 8.5

Again, more optimism and a larger role...but it's tough to see him nearly double his rebounding output from a year ago (4.9). Consider Mirotic as it pertains to rebounding, and then consider that the following players failed to average 8.5 rebounds last year: Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Draymond Green, Nerlens Noel, Tristan Thompson. There's your answer.

Joakim Noah

Points per game: 8.5

A bounce-back year seems likely for Noah, who battled knee problems and struggled to 7.2 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting last season. Playing against opponent's reserves may actually help his scoring output, and for a now-healthy 30-year-old with a career average of 9.6 points per game this seems like a nice over play.

Rebounds per game: 9.5

This number seems steep, but again Noah will be playing primarily against reserve bigs when he's on the floor. That should increase his rebounding numbers, but it's tough to see a backup averaging this many rebounds per game - none did last year.

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

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USA TODAY

Bulls, Bobby Portis value each other greatly despite no deal getting done

Monday's deadline came and went with expected results: Bobby Portis and the Bulls being unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Some 19 hours later all parties involved said the right things, that they value one another and hope to be working together long-term.

But all that will be shelved until July 1, when Portis enters restricted free agency at this coming season's end. The two sides found themselves in position to wait out on an extension.

For Portis, he's improved his game each of his first three seasons in the league posted per-36 numbers on par with some of the game's best big men. Expected to start while Lauri Markkanen recovers from a sprained elbow - and then act as the team's Sixth Man after that - Portis is in line to post career numbers once again.

For the Bulls, nearly all their front office decisions the past three seasons have been with an eye toward the 2019 offseason and having as much cap space as possible. Waiting on a Portis contract allows them to see if any of the top free agents in the class are interested in Chicago, while also having the ability to match any deal Portis gets on the open market.

It's similar to how the Bulls played out the rookie scale contracts of both Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine.

John Paxson spoke during Tuesday's practice at the Advocate Center and reiterated how much the Bulls value Portis and the work he's put in since they drafted him 22nd overall in 2015.

Portis also spoke with reporters after practice. And what would normally be considered posturing from any other player, Portis' blue-collar mentality was present in his comments.

"I couldn’t see myself in no other jersey. Obviously, I got Bulls DNA," he said. "Me and the city have a love connection somewhere. At the same time, I just enjoy playing for the Bulls.

"I play this game because I love it. Obviously, you want to make as much money as possible to help your family. But I started playing basketball because it’s fun to me and I loved it. I still have that same passion, that same heart every night I go out there."

Still, the opportunity will be there for Portis to make himself significant money in the coming six months. After averaging a modest 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in Year 3, Portis will be called upon to shoulder a scoring load in the absence of Markkanen. And with Jabari Parker's Bulls career off to a shaky start, Portis will be the go-to guy on the second unit once Markkanen is back in the lineup.

"Bobby is a guy that is very confident in himself. He’s confident in his ability. That’s what we love about him," Fred Hoiberg said. "And like I said, he’s going to go out there and play the same way every time he steps on the floor, whether it’s practice, whether it’s a pick-up game in the summer or once we get started on Thursday. He’s a warrior, and he’s just going to go out there and play the right way with great effort.’’

The Bulls will need that with the start of the regular season just two days away. They open on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that went 30-11 at home last season.

Portis will play a significant role in slowing down one of the NBA's best frontcourts. Whether or not this is his last season doing so in Chicago, he knows what the Bulls think of him and won't let the impending negotiations distract him.

"I know how much I’m valued. They tell me a lot. Give it all I got. Kind of the leader of the bunch. Blue-collar worker," he said. "Everybody respects me because I come in every day with a chip on my shoulder, try to push my guys to get better each day. That makes me go."