Winners and losers are assigned quickly after every draft. Victors are declared and grades are assigned as soon as all the picks are in, even though it may be a few seasons before we truly know how good or bad a pick was. But we do know the winners and losers right away when it comes to betting.
Many bettors who picked the NBA draft No. 1 pick knew which category they were in before the pick was officially announced Thursday.
Paolo Banchero, not longtime favorite Jabari Smith, had the honor of going first overall to the Magic. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski beat Adam Silver to the punch, announcing the franchise’s intention to draft the forward from Duke—not the forward from Auburn, as many had thought for months—on the broadcast seconds before the pick became official.
Smith was almost a wire-to-wire favorite. He opened as such when the draft lottery was announced and held that spot as the favorite for more than a month before the tide began to turn this week. Banchero’s odds began to improve, a shock for many who believed that Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, not Banchero, was the biggest threat to Smith landing in Orlando.
The consensus top five players were taken with the top five picks, though not in the order that the sportsbooks or mock drafts predicted.
No. 1 pick drama
The first pick, naturally, had the most intrigue. Here’s a short timeline of the odds movement over the last month or so that peaked when Banchero took the stage in a Magic hat Thursday evening.
May 17: For their troubles, the Magic, who finished with the second-worst record in basketball, landed the first pick in the 2022 draft. From that point on, Orlando was on the clock. Jeremy Woo projected then that the franchise would select Smith No. 1.
June 14: More than a week before the draft, odds for the first, second and third picks became available at SISB. Smith was ingrained as an even heavier favorite at -250, Holmgren stayed put at +150 and Banchero was essentially out of the question at +1600.
June 21: Banchero’s odds began to rise earlier this week. He passed Holmgren for the second-best odds of going No. 1 and his odds to go No. 3 decreased significantly from -654 to -200. Two days before the draft, Smith was a -150 favorite to go first, Banchero was next at +180 and Holmgren was a distant third at +240.
Morning of June 23: An overnight odds shift saw Banchero usurp Smith as the favorite to go first. Banchero moved to -200, Smith fell to +120 and Holmgren fell out of the picture at +900.
Afternoon of June 23: Wojnarowski reported that the projected 1-2-3 order of Smith, Holmgren, Banchero was “increasingly firm” and as the day went on, Smith regained his status as the likely No. 1 pick at -225 odds. Banchero was last seen at +175 at SISB before the market came off the board ahead of the draft.
Evening of June 23: Banchero is selected first overall by the Magic. He became the team’s first No. 1 selection since 2004 when the franchise landed Dwight Howard.
Banchero was at or near the top of many industry experts’ big boards, though he was not mocked to the Magic, who did not work him out ahead of time. Banchero’s surprise selection certainly shocked Smith’s backers, who saw him as a prohibitive favorite in some markets as recently as Thursday morning. Smith closed around +300 to go No. 3 at SISB. Anyone who correctly predicted Smith and Banchero’s surprise flip flop received a big payout.
Those who invested in Banchero from the jump—or at any point before he passed Smith as the favorite—scored a big win Thursday. The Magic held their cards tight up until the last possible moment and ultimately got their guy, though not who the experts or oddsmakers assigned to them.
Jaden Ivey was regarded as one of the top players in the draft, which is why he had the best odds to go No. 4 to the Kings after the consensus top three players were selected. The Purdue product was a -188 favorite to end up in Sacramento on Thursday afternoon. Hours later, he went fifth to the Pistons, paying out +300 for bettors who had him dropping one spot.
Ivey and Iowa forward Keegan Murray essentially swapped places. Murray was a +130 favorite to go fifth to Detroit and had the second-best odds behind Ivey to be selected fourth by Sacramento. With Murray going fourth and Ivey fifth, bettors found plus-odds value early in the draft, a result that was correctly predicted in the SI Betting draft preview.
Beyond Banchero, Smith, Murray and Ivey, there were a few other surprises in the top 10. Ousmane Dieng from the New Zealand Breakers was -167 on Thursday to be selected with a top-10 pick and did not deliver on that when the Knicks picked him 11th and subsequently traded him to the Thunder. And believers in Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan found value in betting the big man to go in the top 10. He was +120 on Thursday and he landed with the Spurs at No. 9.
There was much more drama atop the NBA draft than the NFL draft this year. And in a sports world where there are no true offseasons and every team is always looking to the future, it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2023 draft and what that betting market might look like.
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