The Warriors already celebrated last week’s NBA Finals win over the Celtics with a championship parade. The champs will continue to bask in the glory of their fourth title in an eight-year span, but the NBA calendar is relentless and the draft is imminent.
Pre-draft rumors and constantly changing odds will be put to bed after months of speculation Thursday evening when the names are finally called. But before that takes place, where does the value lie in the NBA draft market?
It seems there’s a clear favorite for the No. 1 pick, and the top three prospects have been insulated from the rest of the field for some time now.
But are there any plus-odds plays worth betting on? And which bets that are seemingly locks are still worth a wager?
Before addressing those questions, below is the order for the first five picks:
Jabari Smith -150
Paolo Banchero +180
Chet Holmgren +240
Smith was listed as a -250 favorite to land with the Magic at No. 1 just a week ago. Now, that pairing is less certain. The 6’10” forward out of Auburn is considered the top prospect in the eyes of many around the NBA. Smith remains the first pick in Jeremy Woo’s latest mock draft and he’s atop his big board ranking of the top 100 prospects.
Orlando has worked out each of the top three prospects but according to Woo, rival teams believe the smooth-shooting forward will be the pick and he appears excited to land with the franchise, which is in need of a No. 1 option. “Smith’s impeccable jump shooting, versatile, high-energy defense, and room to improve both physically and skill-wise make him an incredible player to build around,” Woo writes.
In conjunction with Smith’s marginal odds decrease, Banchero leapt up the board and passed Holmgren in the last week. Banchero, the Duke product, was virtually out of the picture for the top spot just a week ago at +1600 odds. Now, he’s passed Holmgren, who has been consistently mocked to the Thunder.
Holmgren, the lengthy, defensive-minded center from Gonzaga, was +150 to land with Orlando last week and he’s since fallen to +240.
Smith still seems like the pick here and -150 is a respectable price for the longtime favorite. Still, there’s certainly value in backing Holmgren at these longer odds.
Chet Holmgren -150
Jabari Smith +150
Paolo Banchero +300
Holmgren’s odds to go first or second have both taken a hit. He was a -250 favorite to go second a week ago and he’s since shifted to -150. Despite that change, Woo still has the seven-footer headed to OKC in his latest mock draft. He wrote that there’s a sense around the league that Holmgren’s camp prefers he lands with the franchise and said “there’s no team better positioned to develop Holmgren than the Thunder.”
As Smith’s odds to go first have fallen, he’s become more likely to come off the board second—or even third. Banchero’s odds to go No. 2 increased as he continues to gain steam near the top of the draft. The former Blue Devil, whom Woo said is still a possibility for the Thunder, was +800 a week ago and those odds have been more than slashed in half with the draft now just days away.
Holmgren feels like the play here if for no other reason than, as Woo Wrote, “he fits the size/skill ethos Sam Presti has often favored in the draft and would be a justifiable home run swing here.” Holmgren at No. 1 and Smith at No. 2 remains a possibility, though, and both are plus-odds wagers.
Paolo Banchero -200
Chet Holmgren +400
Jabari Smith +900
Banchero was locked in at No. 3 last week at -654. Now, it seems less and less likely that the Rockets’ worthwhile consolation prize for picking third will even be available when they’re on the clock. Still, the talented forward is still the favorite to land in Houston, which just traded away forward Christian Wood. It’s just less of a lock.
Woo has Banchero as the No. 2 player on his board, ahead of Holmgren. He wrote: “Banchero is arguably the most polished offensive player in the draft” and “he has as good a chance as anyone in this draft of becoming a true No. 1 option on offense.”
That all sounds great for the Rockets if they can hold pat and select a player of Banchero’s caliber. But those are also the reasons his odds to go first or second have risen recently.
Banchero was the only of the top three prospects to work out for Houston. Barring a major shakeup, he will still be on the board when it’s the Rockets’ turn to pick and it’s virtually impossible to see him making it past them.
Jaden Ivey -250
Keegan Murray +175
Shaedon Sharpe +600
Ivey landing at No. 4 has the strongest odds for any player to be selected at a specific top-five slot. Woo’s latest mock has the Kings grabbing Murray with their first-round selection in their years-long effort to make it back to the postseason. Woo has Ivey as the No. 3 player on his big board, ahead of even Holmgren. Murray comes in at No. 6.
Woo wrote of Purdue’s explosive sophomore guard: “Ivey’s best moments made plain his ability to take over games in a manner no other college player could, and you can argue his sheer upside against anyone in the draft.”
Ivey was -400 to land in Sacramento just a week ago, and Murray’s odds have risen as Ivey’s have dropped. Murray, a forward from Iowa who similarly made an impressive jump from his freshman year to his sophomore season, leapt from +290 to +175.
There is a fit question at pick No. 4 more so than the first three spots. The Kings have serious money tied up in 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox, who is under contract through 2026. Ivey’s fit alongside a player who’s so stylistically similar is a fair question, especially for a team trying desperately to end its decade-plus playoff drought.
It should be noted Ivey has not worked out for Sacramento. Murray, on the other hand, could join Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt more seamlessly. Woo wrote that Murray “has plenty of upside in his own right and splits the difference between winning now and building for the future.”
I’m on board with Murray as the pick here, especially with his current value.
Keegan Murray -125
Jaden Ivey +225
Shaedon Sharpe +400
Murray has the lowest odds of any of the favorites of landing in his projected spot. Baked into that is the potential volatility that could take place over the first four picks before Detroit is even on the clock. The board is wide open for Sacramento at No. 4 with the top three prospects likely off the board. The Kings could go with Ivey, Murray or more of a long shot like Sharpe. Murray has gained on Ivey at the four spot, though the Purdue guard remains the favorite to end up in Sacramento.
Woo’s latest mock draft has the Pistons pairing Ivey with 2021 No. 1 pick and First Team All-Rookie selection Cade Cunningham to comprise their backcourt of the future. “His strengths should take pressure off Cunningham to create every shot, and conversely, he’ll be able to cover for Ivey’s shortcomings in the halfcourt. It’s a strong match in theory,” Woo wrote of the potential duo.
Ivey, if he’s available, would be an easy choice for Detroit. Woo wrote of the possibility of Sacramento drafting Ivey that he “appears to be comfortable landing elsewhere.” That elsewhere could very well be the Pistons backcourt with the very next pick, and at +225 odds this very-real possibility offers great odds.
No. 1: Jabari Smith (-150)
No. 2: Chet Holmgren (-150)
No. 3: Paolo Banchero (-200)
No. 4: Keegan Murray (+175)
No. 5: Jaden Ivey (+225)
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