NBA Draft Betting Preview: Banchero, Smith, or Holmgren?

Duke's Paolo Banchero, centre, reacts after scoring during the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Cal State Fullerton Friday, March 18, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

With an all-time great NBA Finals performance and his now-iconic “night night” celebration/taunt/spirit-deflator, Stephen Curry put a bright blue and gold bow on the 2021-22 NBA season.

And we, the hoops community, had time to breathe and relax.

Just kidding, it’s draft time already! And for the sickos out there, that means there’s still plenty of action to be had. Now, fair warning, if you’re betting on the draft you have to resign yourself to probably losing. We’re not talking about sporting outcomes here, we’re talking about decisions made by GMs.

If Anthony Bennett, Hasheem Thabeet, and Johnny Flynn have taught us anything, there’s never a sure thing in the NBA draft. So before you go any further, know that I’m about 80 percent less sure of these picks than I am with my game picks (reminder: 12-3 on playoff series, 35-28-1 against the spread).

But let’s have some fun with it! Here are some of my favourite NBA draft bets available.

No. 1 Pick In the NBA Draft — Paolo Banchero (+180)

Do I think the big wing from Duke is going No. 1 overall? Not really, to be honest. I think Jabari Smith makes a little more sense for the Orlando Magic, a team long on bigs but short on shooting. If you had a chance to watch Orlando this season, you know this is a deceptively fun team. They’ve got a lot of parts that can work together, if only they can find the transcendent superstar to tie it all together.

I think Banchero projects as the most likely of the top three (Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Smith) to become that next-level superstar, the kind of player who can be the best guy on a title team. And the steady dropping of his odds — he was at +1600 Sunday at some books — seem to indicate the books are thinking the same way. If you bought Banchero at No. 1 before now, congrats. I’m grabbing him now while the action is decent.

With Holmgren's camp signalling he wants to join the Oklahoma City Thunder as the second pick, I’ll skip right to my next bet.

No. 3 Pick In the NBA Draft — Jabari Smith (+700)

If the money coming in on Banchero is smart money, that leaves the Houston Rockets with no choice but to take Jabari Smith as the third pick in the draft, and he’s got some juicy odds. There’s almost no chance anyone besides Banchero, Smith or Holmgrem is going in the top three, so this is a simple process of elimination pick.

No. 4 Pick In the NBA Draft — Shaedon Sharpe (+700)

With growing reports that numerous teams have reached out to the Sacramento Kings about trading up for the fourth pick, and Jaden Ivey — the consensus fourth-best player in the draft — having no contact with the Kings’ brass, you can go one of two ways on this.

Either Sacramento trades down and a team who wants Ivey picks him fourth, or they keep the pick and draft someone else. Draft-day trades are fun and huge news when they happen, but they happen with a lot less frequency this high in the lottery than people think. So I think the most likely thing that happens is the Kings stay at four and pick one of the many wings available.

Keegan Murray would be my pick, but it would be the most Sacramento Kings thing ever for them to pass on Ivey, refuse to trade the pick, and then take a guy who played zero minutes at Kentucky with the fourth pick in the draft. I’m a fan of chaos, so that’s my pick. If this happens, it’ll be Ivey going to Detroit as the fifth pick (+225), a bet that correlates with this one being correct.

Jalen Duren OVER Pick 10.5 (+110)

This is a more modest pick than the last few, but Duren feels like the guy most likely to get the Aaron Rodgers treatment. If the San Antonio Spurs don’t take him at nine, I could see him falling all the way to Charlotte at 13.

He’s exactly the kind of big man that has seen his value across the league diminished by the three-point revolution and the introduction of positionless basketball. San Antonio is reportedly looking for a centre, but I like Mark Williams to jump the queue, because he just seems like a guy Gregg Popovic would love. Williams is a better shooter with a slightly more refined game, and he comes with the Coach K seal of approval.

Once the draft is done, I can get into my favourite part of the off-season: Making futures bets based on draft hype and free agency speculation alone.

Can’t wait!

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