AThe Chicago Bulls have not been relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff picture for quite a while. Chicago went just 22-60 last season, which was one of the worst records in the NBA, and good for just 13th in the conference. Chicago has now missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons overall.

However, oddsmakers were somewhat bullish (pun intended) on the Bulls’ chances of making some positive strides this season. Chicago’s front office retooled the roster by adding some established veterans over the summer, and some believe this is the year the Bulls’ rebuilding process finally starts to bear some fruit.

Most NBA betting sites had Chicago pegged for something between 31 and 35 wins coming into the season. While neither total would likely be enough to get the Bulls into the playoffs, it would still be a marked improvement for a team that barely crossed the 20-win threshold last year. The Bulls are also listed around +180 to make the playoffs and -220 to miss out on the postseason festivities.

Are the Bulls a smart bet to defy oddsmakers and make the playoffs this season?

Reloaded Roster

The Bulls already had a solid core of talent with potential young stars in Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. The jury is still out on whether any of the 3 will blossom into perennial All-Stars, but they still combine to form a high-upside nucleus. Clearly, the team’s front office went into the summer with plans of surrounding said young players with veterans capable of contributing.

So, the Bulls signed guard Tomas Satoransky and swingman Thaddeus Young as free agents. Those moves came on the heels of the team’s decision to acquire Otto Porter Jr. via trade at last year’s deadline. Porter’s lucrative contract had proven too cumbersome for the Wizards to afford, so Chicago happily took on a 26-year-old that has shown plenty of two-way upside in the past.

The Bulls also drafted former North Carolina guard Coby White with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round.

One rule of thumb to know when it comes to NBA betting is that most teams with young rosters don’t win a lot of games. While teams are always trying to compile as much young talent as possible, the ultimate goal is obviously to develop said players into veterans capable of helping the team win in the long haul. So, while a team like the Grizzlies (with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke) may look like a lot of fun on paper, it’s worth noting that wins will probably be hard to come by. For now, at least.

By adding the aforementioned veterans, the Bulls’ brass believes that the young players are advanced enough to contribute to a winning season right away.

Shallow Eastern Conference

One advantage for the Bulls is that they’re in the Eastern Conference, which is quite a bit less talented overall than its Western counterpart. Sure, teams like the Bucks and 76ers are legitimate title contenders, but once you get past them, it’s essentially a crapshoot.

The Raptors figure to be a little worse this season after losing Kawhi Leonard. The Pacers added a bunch of new faces, and Victor Oladipo is still sidelined indefinitely with his quad injury. The Celtics seemingly downgraded their point guard position by swapping Kyrie Irving out for Kemba Walker. The Nets wound up with Irving, but Kevin Durant is unlikely to play this season.

Beyond the Bucks and Sixers, there is a lot of uncertainty in the conference. Milwaukee and Philly are essentially locks to make the playoffs, but there isn’t another surefire bet in the field. If you’re betting on which teams will make the playoffs, why not take a shot on a team like the Bulls that comes with the appealing combination of talent plus profitable odds?

Who’s to say Chicago can’t quickly gel and make a run? The career trajectory of every young player is different, but there really isn’t any reason to think one of LaVine, Markkanen or Carter can’t make a big leap this season. Even White has looked better than many expected early in his rookie campaign.

The team had plenty of confidence coming into the season, which is something that matters when it comes to betting on a team exceeding expectations. A team full of players that aren’t confident likely won’t fare too well. Why believe in a team that doesn’t even believe in itself? I think the mix of established veterans with high-upside young guys will carry the Bulls further than most expect this season.

Injuries

One of the inherent risks that come with NBA betting is the injury factor. Injuries are obviously unpredictable, but every year they play a role in ultimately deciding which teams do or don’t make the playoffs. Just last year, teams like Miami, Washington, and the LA Lakers had their postseason hopes dashed by injuries to key players. That’s going to happen again this season because it happens every season. We just don’t know which players will get hurt, which is part of why placing bets, especially early in the season, is a risky endeavor.

If the Bulls stay healthy, they have the chance to be just as good as some of the other teams that will presumably be duking it out for the last playoff spots in the East. Teams like Atlanta (who already lost John Collins to a 25-game suspension), Orlando, Indiana, Detroit and Brooklyn are all vulnerable.

Betting Odds are Favorable

There is obviously plenty of luck involved with betting on the NBA, especially when considering futures bets. A bet that looks like a smart one in October won’t necessarily look as favorable once April rolls around. Still, that risk is typically baked into the odds.

+180 to make the playoffs brings more upside than betting on Chicago’s over/under of 31.5 at -110 odds. While betting on the win total is the “safer” option, a smart approach would be finding an NBA betting site with the most profitable odds, especially when it comes to a prop as unpredictable as to whether a team will qualify for the playoffs.

I think the Bulls have a roster capable of exceeding 31.5 wins by a huge margin and challenging for a postseason spot. Benefiting from playing in the weaker conference along with some good injury luck makes the +180 odds a worthwhile gamble. Bet on the Bulls this season.