Seven years after Anthony Davis was picked No. 1 in the draft, he’s again the center of attention as the NBA world turns. The blockbuster deal that will send Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers is meant to rescue a lost franchise and maybe write a Hollywood ending to the remainder of LeBron James’ career.
New Orleans resisted trading Davis to the Lakers, but as time passed it was an offer the Pelicans could not refuse. The Lakers had more to offer than Boston and New York, due in part to L.A. holding the No. 4 pick in this week’s draft.
The Pelicans were able to get the fourth pick and two more future first-round picks in addition to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Davis, playing on an expiring contract, will get a longterm contract with the Lakers, who were on the clock and forced to make the move given James’ desperate situation.
The NBA world was turned upside down last week. Golden State was knocked off in the Finals after Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson went down to long-term injuries. With the Warriors falling apart, the Lakers pulled things together.
“We knew it was going to be a crazy, interesting offseason with so many moving parts,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said.
It’s not crazy to think the Warriors might miss the playoffs next season. The Western Conference is loaded, and the Golden State roster will be significantly weaker for most of the regular season if the team signs Durant and Thompson to max contracts. Meanwhile, this is crazy — the Lakers, who missed the playoffs and landed in the draft lottery, are the new favorites to win the 2019-2020 NBA championship.
At the Westgate SuperBook, the Lakers’ odds have been lowered from 20-1 on May 4 to 3-1 today. At William Hill, the Lakers are posted at 5-1, with Bogdanovich saying 75 percent of the money in the NBA futures pool is on James’ gang.
The Lakers have LeBron, Davis, Kyle Kuzma and several questions to answer. An injury to either James or Davis would sink their season. No sharp bookmaker in Las Vegas believes the Lakers’ true odds are 3-1, but the odds follow the money.
“The Lakers are relevant again,” Bogdanovich said, “and Vegas is a Lakers’ town.”
Still, if Kawhi Leonard escapes Toronto and leaves the NBA champion Raptors for the Clippers, the Lakers might be the second-best team in L.A. next season.
The offseason is off to a wild start. The draft precedes free agency, but there won’t be many betting options in Las Vegas on Thursday’s draft. Bogdanovich, citing a lack of interest from the public, said William Hill has no plans to post draft props this week. The Westgate also is declining. Caesars is the only book to post draft props..
“It’s not worth the aggravation and you’re not going to make a dollar on it,” Bogdanovich said.
PointsBet, a popular option in the New Jersey online sports betting market, has posted about 20 draft props. A majority of the prices are too big of a pill to swallow, yet these two props are worth playing:
Jarrett Culver draft position Under 5.5 (-200):
The 6-foot-5 guard led Texas Tech to the NCAA title game as a sophomore and could go as high as No. 4. He should go no later than No. 5. If he slips below the fifth pick, a couple of teams are making a mistake. That said, NBA teams frequently make draft mistakes. I would bet on Culver being a top-5 pick.
Romeo Langford draft position Over 16.5 ( 115):
The freshman guard from Indiana was overhyped out of high school. Aside from being soft, he’s a defensive liability and needs a lot of work with his perimeter shooting. He does show potential as a scorer, but he’s a project and not worth a pick in the top half of the first round. Langford should have stayed in school.
Now, for entertainment purposes, here’s my mock for a mostly unpredictable draft:
1. New Orleans: Zion Williamson, F, Duke — This pick is a dunk. He’s not the next LeBron, but Zion is a freak athlete who will work marketing magic for New Orleans. Williamson will step in to replace Davis and save the future of this franchise.
2. Memphis: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State — Within a few years, Morant could rank among the league’s top point guards. He has Russell Westbrook-type athletic ability. The Grizzlies will grab him to replace Mike Conley, unless there’s a surprise trade.
3. New York: RJ Barrett, G, Duke — The Knicks probably prefer Morant, and there is talk the Pelicans might want to move up to No. 2 to take Barrett, Zion’s college buddy. Barrett is a 6-7 swingman who can score, defend and rebound. He’s not Kevin Durant but he is the best player available at this spot.
4. New Orleans: Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech — This is where the draft gets interesting. The Pelicans could take this pick from the Lakers and move it. Several teams are interested in a deal. With Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball, New Orleans has no need for another playmaking guard. Culver can defend and is developing as a scorer, so he should fit with this roster.
5. Cleveland: De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia — If there’s a concern with Hunter, his offensive game disappeared at times during the NCAA Tournament. Culver outplayed him in March. Hunter is a good defender and fills a need for the Cavaliers.
6. Phoenix: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt — The Suns might not make this pick because they are believed to covet Culver and could trade up. However, trading up is costly, and Garland is a smart point guard who would run well with shooting guard Devin Booker.
7. Chicago: Coby White, PG, North Carolina — In need of a point guard, White could be the Bulls’ best option if the draft falls this way. Chicago’s front office is a clown show, so who knows? Still, watching White as a freshman revealed he’s not a ball-handling wizard and sometimes seems like a shooting guard, not a point.
8. Atlanta: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas — An injury limited Hayes’ development and he remains a raw talent, but he’s a 6-11 athlete who can defend the rim. Expect to hear the buzzwords “potential” and “upside” mentioned by the talking heads. A year after the Hawks took Trae Young, a big man makes sense with this pick.
9. Washington: Cam Reddish, F, Duke — This is the third Duke player to go in the Top 10, yet coaching genius Mike Krzyzewski failed to reach the Final Four. Reddish will be an option for Chicago and Atlanta, so the Wizards would be fortunate to get him here. There are concerns, though, because his effort and shooting are inconsistent.
10. Atlanta: Sekou Doumbouya, F, France — Scouts are intrigued by his athletic ability and shooting. It’s a stretch to say the “French Freak” is another Giannis Antetokounmpo, who amazingly slipped to the 15th pick in the dreadful 2013 draft class. The Hawks might look to trade picks, yet they and the Wizards supposedly have interest in Doumbouya as a sleeper.
11. Minnesota: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga — A 6-8 power forward who can score inside and out, Hachimura will go somewhere in this range. What the Timberwolves will do is a mystery and this is an educated guess about a well-rounded player.
12. Charlotte: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina — Little is a big-time athlete but not a great shooter. Michael Jordan and general manager Mitch Kupchak will be tempted to reach for a fellow Tar Heel.
13. Miami: Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky — Hot shooters never fall too far and Herro is among the sharpest shooters in this class.
14. Boston: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky — Washington has the strength to score in the post to go with 3-point shooting range. He will be a productive NBA player and the Celtics, who missed out on Anthony Davis, can make a safe pick with this potential Al Horford replacement.
15. Detroit: Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga — Nine players were initially invited to sit in the green room for the draft in Brooklyn, and Clarke was not included. According to reports, he has since been invited. The 6-8 wing from Gonzaga is an elite defender and will be attractive to teams picking in the No. 10 to 15 range. His prop line of 13.5 is about right, yet Clarke has an exciting upside and I rate him higher than most similar prospects.
16. Orlando: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
17. Atlanta: Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC
18. Indiana: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
19. San Antonio: Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina
20. Boston: Goga Bitadze, C, Serbia
21. Oklahoma City: Romeo Langford, G, Indiana
22. Boston: Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
23. Utah: Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington
24. Philadelphia: Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue
25. Portland: Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State
26. Cleveland: Nic Claxton, F, Georgia
27. Brooklyn: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
28. Golden State: KZ Okpala, F, Stanford
29. San Antonio: Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
30. Milwaukee: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee