The NBA draft approaches and, just like in the NFL draft, information is key. As we get closer, the information gets more solid, especially when it comes to the top picks in the draft. The NBA draft tends to get more volatile the deeper it goes, but there is still plenty of value to be found when paired with reports around the league. Let’s dive into some of the noise surrounding the top prospects, the players who are rising and find some best bets to play.
THE TOP FOUR PICKS
These selections seem to be set in stone. Marc Stein has reported that one league source is insisting the Pistons are cooling on selecting Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, but almost every report has indicated Cunningham is headed to the Motor City. The Rockets have reportedly inquired about acquiring the first pick, and the Thunder reportedly offered Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the sixth pick but were rebuffed. Does that sound like the Pistons are balking at the thought of taking Cunningham?
The price of -8000 implies a probability of 98.8% and there is an argument to be made that the odds should be higher.
Speaking of the Rockets, they seem destined to make Jalen Green the No. 2 pick. Jonathan Givony of ESPN reported that Houston has not even been able to work out Evan Mobley or Jalen Suggs, so all signs point to the shooting guard from the G-League going second. The market has swung wildly in the direction of Green as well, making him the -380 favorite to be the second pick. In fact, when odds first opened at DraftKings, it was Mobley, the USC big man, listed as the odds-on favorite to be drafted second. However, Mobley is now most likely to be the Cavaliers’ selection at three, and the price of -225 still has some value considering Adrian Wojnarowski’s report that “there is a sense” Cleveland will be drafting him.
Which brings us to the fourth selection, owned by the Raptors. Jalen Suggs is the favorite to go here at -160, and the price is cheap considering the smoke around this pick. Givony has reported the Raptors are “overwhelmingly” expected to pick Suggs, and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has projected Suggs to wind up in Toronto as well. The fit is perfect for a team that is moving on from its franchise point guard, and he should flourish alongside Fred VanVleet in the backcourt. Given everything we know about this pick, an implied probability of 61.5% is low.
THE RISING PROSPECTS
Florida State forward Scottie Barnes is the name that continues to come up as a guy whose stock has risen dramatically. The cheapest price on him going fifth is -195 at DraftKings, and there is little reporting out there to indicate Barnes is slipping past this spot. However, the idea of the Magic and Barnes as a match has bothered me. Barnes is going to be a dynamic defender who can guard every position, but he is going to be a project when it comes to scoring. He shot just 27.5% from 3-point range for Florida State last season, and only 34.9% of his midrange attempts went down. Is he really a fit for a team that finished 29th in offensive efficiency and 27th in 3-point shooting? Plus, Jonathan Isaac, a poor shooter who can guard multiple positions, is going to be back from injury next season. Sound familiar?
It is hard to take a contrarian stance on an information-based event like the draft, but the poor fit has me looking for a way to play against Barnes going to Orlando. The best price on him to go Over 5.5 is only + 275 (26.7%) right now, and that is not great considering the Under is -400 (80%). The best option is to wait until Thursday to see if the market continues to drive up the Under price. If that is the case and we get about + 350 on him to go Over his draft position, that will be a price worth taking.
The two other players climbing up boards and seeing their draft position props changing are Connecticut guard James Bouknight and Oregon guard Chris Duarte. Bouknight has seen his draft position prop drop from 10.5 to 7.5 with a peak price of -260 on the Under at some global shops. The thought process is that he will not make it past the Warriors at seven. The Thunder sit at six and both they and the Warriors need backcourt depth. Duarte seems to be the best fit for the Warriors when they come back with the 14th pick as he seemingly is ready to contribute immediately, something the Warriors are seeking with Klay Thompson back from injury. Duarte opened as high as 20.5 in the draft position market and has since dropped to 15.5 with a -135 price on the Under.
Jalen Suggs 4th overall (-160)
Davion Mitchell Over 10.5 (-125)
Usman Garuba Over 15.5 (-150)