Season Debut of Zach LaVine Will Spur Bulls to Win Over Pistons

Matthew Jordan

Friday, January 12, 2018 5:19 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 5:19 PM UTC

The biggest story in the NBA on Saturday is likely the Bulls debut of Zach LaVine as Chicago hosts division rival Detroit for their first meeting this season.

Detroit Pistons at Chicago BullsFree NBA Pick: BullsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s an 8 p.m. ET tipoff from the United Center as Detroit and Chicago play for the first time in the 2017-18 season. How can teams in the same division not have played yet when we are halfway through the regular-season slate?

The Bulls and Pistons split four meetings last year, although Chicago was a vastly different team then. Detroit center Andre Drummond, a double-double machine and currently the NBA’s leading rebounder at 15.0 per game, averaged just 11.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in the four vs. the Bulls in 2016-17. Tobias Harris led all Pistons in averaging 14.8 points. Jimmy Butler led Chicago at 23.5 ppg vs. Detroit, but he’s of course with Minnesota and more on him in a minute. Of current Bulls, Robin Lopez led at 13.3 ppg and 6.0 rebounds per game vs. Detroit.

The home team has covered four straight in the series, but Detroit is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 in Chicago overall.

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.@ZachLaVine speaks after the announcement of his return: pic.twitter.com/MG2G6u5SN8

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 9, 2018
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LaVine’s Long Road Back Complete

Arguably the biggest trade of the NBA offseason came on draft night last June when the Bulls shipped Butler, their All-Star guard, to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick in the draft (Chicago sent No. 16 to the Wolves). That’s looking like a win-win deal for both sides. The Wolves are surging, will make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and Butler is an MVP candidate.

The Bulls are thrilled with the deal, too. Dunn barely played last year as a rookie in Minnesota but is averaging 13.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds in Chicago. That No. 7 overall pick became Finnish 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, and he looks like a potential future All-Star. “The Finnisher” is second on the team in averaging 15.4 points and first in rebounding at 7.6. Markkanen comes off a career-high 33 points with a personal-best eight 3-pointers made in a 122-119 double-overtime win at the Knicks on Wednesday.

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Lauri Markkanen is averaging more 3 pointers made per game than any rookie. Ever.

Here's a look at all of them: pic.twitter.com/H9fEFFnyqi

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 12, 2018
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As good as Dunn and Markkanen have been, LaVine was considered the prize of that trade. The high-flying two-time Slam Dunk champion was averaging a career-high 18.9 points last season with Minnesota when he tore his ACL on Feb. 3, 2017, ironically enough, in a game against the Pistons. LaVine makes his Bulls debut Saturday and will on a minutes restriction of 20. LaVine will be Chicago’s starting shooting guard eventually but could come off the bench at first.

Could this be the final game in a Chicago uniform for leading scorer Nikola Mirotic? The Bulls have played much better since his season debut on Dec. 8, but Mirotic has missed the past two games due to illness. The Bulls want to tank this year, so they reportedly are close to trading Mirotic, perhaps as soon as Monday when he can officially be dealt due to league rules. The Utah Jazz are known to be talking to Chicago. So Mirotic might not play Saturday, either, as the Bulls don’t want to risk injury.

Detroit snapped a five-game road losing streak with a 114-80 blowout in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Drummond had 22 points and 20 rebounds. The Pistons also have shown interest in Mirotic as they need perimeter shooting, especially with guard Reggie Jackson out injured. He won’t be back until after the All-Star break.

The Bulls will be jacked up for LaVine's debut, and the Pistons are 2-5 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a losing record. Chicago is the NBA pick

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