Betting the top of this year’s NBA draft has been a roller coaster ride without brakes.
Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. was the consensus betting favorite to be drafted first overall after the NCAA Tournament in April and his stock continued to soar in the coming months. By early June, Smith was as high as -600 to go No. 1 to the Orlando Magic in what was perceived to be a slam dunk.
And then the rumors started.
A report linking Paolo Banchero to Orlando surfaced early this week and all hell broke loose. Respected money started pouring into multiple sportsbooks on the Duke phenom to go first overall. Some shops had Banchero’s ceiling at 18-1. By Tuesday morning, he was down to 2-1 almost everywhere.
That was just the beginning of the chaos.
Sharp money began pouncing on Smith at small prices (-140 to -150) on Tuesday and Wednesday due to a perceived bargain given where the price was (-500 to -600) days earlier. After midnight ET on Thursday, Smith was a consensus -350 favorite atop the constantly moving market, but sharp money throughout the night drove Banchero to around a -200 favorite by 8 a.m. ET.
Then Woj happened.
FanDuel moved Smith to -5000 to go first overall immediately after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet. Those odds implied a 98% chance of probability that Smith’s name would be announced first by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Go figure, respected money quickly bet Banchero all the way down from +500 to +280.
NBA Draft No. 1 pick odds (FanDuel):
Jabari Smith -420
Paolo Banchero +280
Chet Holmgren +2200
Jaden Ivey +20000
League insiders and sharp bettors are fighting a days-long tug of war. The insiders have remained adamant that Smith is Orlando’s clear-cut choice, but influential money can’t stop betting Banchero at bloated prices. It’s like watching the Energizer Bunny bounce wall-to-wall after eating an entire box of Pixy Stix.
The current market says Smith goes No. 1 if Orlando keeps the pick, although that market has been a guessing game numerous times over the last 72 hours. And if the Houston Rockets trade up to take Banchero, my head might explode.
“Thank God we’re not booking NBA Draft bets this year,” one Las Vegas bookmaker told NESN. “We have no idea who’s going where and we never do. Then, information changes everything and we can never really catch up. It’s a losing proposition for us because we write mostly sharp action on markets that only run one way.
“There’s no need for those headaches anymore.”