The NBA Draft buzz has just increased following a major odds shift in the past week.
Duke’s Paolo Banchero has been gaining momentum to become a strong favorite to go No. 1 overall at multiple sportsbooks. Per FOX Bet sports trader Martin Pascual, Banchero’s odds to be chosen first reached +2500 (bet $10 to win $260 total) and have now shortened all the way to +225 (bet $10 to win $32.50 total).
This means that the Orlando Magic, who will select first, might be bringing some Blue Devil hocus pocus down to the land of Mickey Mouse. This also means that Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren — the former stronger contender for the top pick — is extremely unlikely to hook up with his former AAU and high school teammate, Jalen Suggs, down in Florida.
Banchero, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound small forward, averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 boards, and 3.2 assists in his sole season at Duke. After battling fatigue issues early in his freshman season, he became the focal point of a formidable team that could see five players selected on Thursday.
Draft bettors largely expected him to be selected behind Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Gonzaga’s Holmgren. After the holders of the third pick, the Houston Rockets, traded Christian Wood to the Dallas Mavericks, many took this as a signal that Banchero was a lock to team up with Jalen Green in the land Hakeem built.
However, as we always say around these parts: things change fast in the Association.
First, there have been rumors that Holmgren has his sights set on being selected second by Oklahoma City and, therefore, hasn’t been too cooperative with the Magic’s requests.
“There are reports that Holmgren doesn’t want to end up in Orlando and has refused to share his medical records,” Pascual shared.
On the surface this is curious because of the aforementioned strong relationship with Suggs — Orlando’s first pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. However, with Mo Bamba, Wendall Carter Jr, Jonathan Issac, Bol Bol and the Wagner brothers (Franz and Moritz) on the roster, perhaps Holmgren simply feels there are too many big men in the paint for his particular style.
Second, generally speaking, the top pick is usually determined at this point. The weeks leading up to the 2020 draft everyone knew Anthony Edwards was going first overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves, just like everyone knew Cade Cunningham was headed to the Detroit Pistons as the top pick in 2021.
However, with under 36 hours to go until draft time, the Magic have been quiet as a church mouse and with that comes unrest, speculation and a boost to Banchero’s odds.
“With Orlando not having publicly declared who they will pick, it is assumed that it is now down between Banchero and Smith,” Pascual said. “CBS also came out with a mock draft where they had Banchero going to Orlando.”
On top of both of these factors remains the fact that many prognosticators view Banchero as not only the best player in the draft but the most NBA ready. With his build, size and skills, he projects to be Tobias Harris at worst and a modern-day Chris Webber at best.
Given the events surrounding Holmgren, Orlando and his skill set, is there any surprise that the bettors have adjusted their wagers so quickly?
“We had him as high as +2500 last week, but then the odds gradually decreased to where it is now.” Pascual shared. “The biggest decrease we saw was Monday where he dropped from +900 to +300. We currently have him at +225.”
Smith remains the overall favorite at -250, with Banchero at +225 and Holmgren at +275.
For what it’s worth, FOX Sports Betting Analyst Jason McIntyre likes Paolo intangibles, but ultimately believes Orlando will go with Smith.
“When I wrote about Smith going first after the Magic won the lottery, he was +100. He’s now sitting at -154 [these odds are now -250] to be the first pick,” McIntyre wrote. “I have maintained that I’d take Paolo Banchero first overall, as his relentless motor is always on display and he’s more diverse offensively. But the Magic are going to ride measurables and Smith’s 3-point shooting and grab him first.”
So what do you think? Is this all conjecture from the sharps or could Banchero pull off one of the biggest surprises since Anthony Bennett went first overall in 2013?
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