Bulls vs. Bucks Free NBA Picks and Odds Breakdown

Jrue Holiday #21 of the Milwaukee Bucks. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

Don’t overlook those Milwaukee Bucks. The champs are the correct NBA pick for Friday’s tilt with the spotlight-hogging Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Friday, January 21, 2022 – 08:00 PM EST at Fiserv Forum

People seem to have forgotten all about the Milwaukee Bucks (28-19 SU, 21-26 ATS). The defending champions are one of at least six teams with serious designs on first place in the Eastern Conference – with several more waiting in the wings. But the team everyone’s talking about is the one at the top of the standings: the Chicago Bulls (28-15 SU, 25-18 ATS).

That could change very quickly. The Bucks host Chicago this Friday night on ESPN, and at press time, Milwaukee are laying eight points on the NBA odds board at SBK. Maybe that’s a bargain price on the Bucks, given all the players the Bulls will be missing for this matchup.

Bulls on Parade

It starts with their starting backcourt. Point guard Lonzo Ball is out until at least March after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; shooting guard Zach LaVine (sore left knee) also didn’t travel with the team to Milwaukee. They join swingman Derrick Jones Jr. (knee), point guard Javonte Green (groin) and forward Patrick Williams (wrist) in sickbay.

This is a serious problem for the Bulls. And it’s one that many public bettors will overlook, as long as DeMar DeRozan is still in uniform. DeRozan is far and away the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards for this year’s All-Star Game. LaVine is third, even though the advanced stats suggest that LaVine has outperformed DeRozan by a considerable amount. His absence might not be properly reflected by the betting market and the NBA lines.

The good news for Chicago is the return of guard Alex Caruso. He hadn’t played since before the holidays because of a foot injury, but Caruso was back in the lineup Wednesday, helping the Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-104 as 3.5-point home dogs. Caruso is on a minutes restriction, though, so we’ll see plenty of Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White in the Bulls backcourt, a definite downgrade from what their fans are used to.

True Jrue

On the other side of the coin, Milwaukee have their own starting point guard back in action. Jrue Holiday missed six games with a sprained left ankle, during which the Bucks went 2-4 SU and ATS; Holiday returned Wednesday and came off the bench as the champs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-114 as 6.5-point home faves.

This is almost a complete Bucks team now. Brook Lopez is still out indefinitely following back surgery, but all the other players of note are available – and Bobby Portis has done a commendable job starting at center for Lopez. It’s unusual to get a title winner at a bargain price like this, but Milwaukee still have that small-market advantage compared to their neighbors from Chicago. Now they have the right personnel at just the right time for our NBA picks. Bet accordingly.

NBA Pick: Bucks –8 (–128) at SBK