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2022 NBA Draft No. 1 Pick Odds: Auburn’s Jabari Smith Favored to Land With Magic

Betting analysis of the odds for the NBA draft No. 1 pick. Auburn’s Jabari Smith is the favorite to go first, followed by Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero.

The ping pong balls fell in the Magic’s favor Tuesday evening.

Their reward for a 22-60 finish and last place in the Eastern Conference was a 14% chance to pick No. 1. Orlando cashed in on those odds and now has the opportunity to select its choice of the top prospects at the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23.

There is a clear favorite to come off the board with the top overall pick: Auburn forward Jabari Smith. He has -125 odds to go to the Magic, though there are two other top prospects whom Orlando could select before there’s a precipitous drop off. Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren and Duke forward Paolo Banchero are the only other players seriously in the conversation to go No. 1.

So, which of these top three prospects is worth betting on to go first in the draft about a month from now? Let’s look at the case for each and how their betting odds changed after the lottery order was revealed.

Check out the complete list of No. 1 pick odds on SI Sportsbook

Jabari Smith -125
Chet Holmgren +150
Paolo Banchero +450

FILE - Auburn forward Jabari Smith (10) reacts after making a 3-pointer against Alabama during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. Houston, Detroit and Orlando share the best odds to win the draft lottery on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. All three are already loaded with young players, even before the possibility of adding someone like Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith.

Jabari Smith, Auburn Forward

Smith has been the favorite to go No. 1 for much of the year and it’s easy to see why. The 6’10” freshman is a pure shooter who led Auburn to one of its best seasons in program history. He shot 42% from three on 5.5 attempts per game in his lone college season and his perimeter-oriented game should translate well to the NBA right away.

He’s the top prospect in SI’s Jeremy Woo’s latest mock draft and he stands alone atop his big board. “He has strong instincts and few bad habits, and as he continues to add to his scoring repertoire, Smith could be a near-impossible cover by the time he hits his prime years,” Woo writes of Smith. He added that Smith is the prospect he’d be “most afraid of passing up.” Simply put: he’s the best player available, has a high floor, sky-high ceiling and there’s plenty of NBA demand for long, smooth-scoring wings.

After Orlando drew the top pick Tuesday, Smith was dubbed an even heavier favorite to go first. He was previously -110 to go No. 1 and those odds shifted to -125.

The Magic are not short on size by any means. They started three players 6’10” or taller this season—Franz Wagner, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.—and there’s even more height on their bench in Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Moritz Wagner. Orlando had a pair of top-10 picks in last year’s draft and selected guard Jalen Suggs and Wagner, a forward. The team is quietly putting together a solid young core after selecting in the top 10 four times in the last five years. Smith could be the star that the roster is missing and would present an immediate improvement on offense.

FILE - Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren (34) moves the ball against Georgia State during the second half of a first round NCAA college basketball tournament game, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Portland, Ore. Houston, Detroit and Orlando share the best odds to win the draft lottery on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. All three are already loaded with young players, even before the possibility of adding someone like Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith.
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Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga Center

Holmgren is a somewhat polarizing prospect due to his slight frame—he stands 7’0” tall and weighs just 195 lbs. In one season at Gonzaga, he showed off his full range of stout interior defense and capable outside shooting. Holmgren shot better than 60% from the field and exactly 39% from three (on 3.3 attempts per game) as a freshman. He also averaged 3.7 blocks per game, fourth-most in the nation.

Despite Holmgren’s relatively high likelihood of going No. 1, Woo has him as the No. 4 prospect on his big board and his latest mock draft has him going No. 2 to the Thunder. “Holmgren is gifted in many areas, and his statistical case is undeniably strong,” Woo writes, “but NBA teams are placing more weight on what he did against teams with quality bigs than the way he dominated lesser ones in conference play.”

His case for Oklahoma City selecting the Gonzaga product is that the franchise has the ability to be patient. Not that the Magic are necessarily in win-now mode, but they do have more pieces to assemble a team that can contend for a play-in spot sooner rather than later.

The concern about Holmgren’s interior offensive game translating to the NBA given his size and the difference in physicality is valid. I’m not sure Orlando takes that risk with this pick considering their recent track record of drafting long, big men in the lottery. Of course, the Magic could very well become enamored with Holmgren’s enormous potential over the next month. There’s plenty to like about his game on either side of the ball.

FILE - Duke forward Paolo Banchero celebrates during the first half of a college basketball game against Arkansas in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA men’s tournament in San Francisco, Saturday, March 26, 2022. Houston, Detroit and Orlando share the best odds to win the draft lottery on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. All three are already loaded with young players, even before the possibility of adding someone like Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith.

Paolo Banchero, Duke Forward

Banchero is “the most polished offensive player in the draft,” according to Woo. He averaged 17.2 ppg at Duke and shot 33% from three, one of the areas of his game that he can stand to improve. Banchero’s three-point shot was pure during the Blue Devils’ NCAA tournament run, albeit for a five-game stretch. He was a fine rebounder and a very solid passer in college and at 6’10”, 250 lbs, he’s not easily moved off his spots.

The No. 3 prospect on Woo’s big board, Banchero is viewed as a “pretty safe bet to be a very good player” and has “All-Star potential if things break right.”

With the draft order officially set, Woo has Banchero coming off the board at No. 3 to the Rockets, one spot back from where he was in his most recent mock draft.

Selecting Banchero No. 1 necessitates a high level of confidence in his ability to improve as a shooter and defender. His odds of going first dropped after it was announced that Orlando has the top pick. He was +350 before Tuesday night and then he fell to +450. His playmaking ability in such a large frame for an incoming rookie is enticing. He could certainly slot in at forward with ease in the Magic’s oversized starting five.

BET: Jabari Smith (-125)

I think the Magic go and get the best player in this year’s draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith becomes further ingrained as the betting favorite to go No. 1 as the draft approaches. He looks and feels like a can’t-miss prospect and his jump shot is truly a thing of beauty. At that size, with where his shooting ability is already, he will enter the league as a tough defensive assignment. Woo wrote of Smith: “the vast majority of executives I’ve spoken with around the NBA consider Smith the big prize in this year’s class.” I believe Orlando’s front office will be of the same mindset and select Smith first.

Check the Latest Odds at SI Sportsbook

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