2022 NBA Draft: Who Goes No. 1? Best Bet? Sleeper?

The NBA Draft takes center stage on Thursday night, and the rumors and reports continue to roll in. The top of the draft seems to have finally solidified (maybe?), as storylines and uncertainty are still plentiful across the board. To prepare you for the big night, we discuss some of the essential topics of note and a few bets you should grab heading into this year’s draft.

Top Three Rollercoaster Ride

As of 48 hours ago, this NBA Draft felt as uncertain as ever at the top. The +2000 odds on Duke freshman phenom Paolo Banchero to go first overall got as low as +200. There were concerns about Chet Holmgren after he refused to go through heart screening. The uncertainty was mounting, and at one point, we saw all three players (top prospect Jabari Smith being the third) between -200 and +200 to go first off the board. 

Smith was up to -600 to be taken number one at around midnight Wednesday before Banchero made a second surge and surpassed him as the favorite in the middle of the night while most of us were sleeping. 

  • “The NBA Draft is a difficult event to handicap,” Christian Cipollini, Sports Trader at BetMGM, said. “Rumors and leaks can cause wild line movement. Jabari Smith Jr. closed as the favorite to be the 1st Pick but Paolo Banchero’s odds moved from +1600 to +200 earlier this week.”

There are even conflicting reports from insiders, although the Don, Adrian Wojnarowski, tweeted this morning that a top three of Smith to the Orlando Magic with the top pick, Holmgren to Oklahoma City at number two, and Banchero to Houston with the third pick, is “firm.”

At least one influential book, BetMGM, had taken the No. 1 overall pick off the board and closed at Smith -550 when their odds were pulled late last night. Meanwhile, FanDuel had Smith at -3500 this morning but those odds have steadily shifted and currently sit at -420 (as of 12:20 pm ET) to go No. 1, Holmgren at -420 to go No. 2, and Banchero at -420 to go No. 3. Please don’t quote me on those odds because they’ve been moving nonstop all morning.

Jerami Grant Trade Impacts Draft

There was more drama just outside of the top three this past week. During recent interviews, Purdue guard Jaden Ivey expressed more desire to go to the Detroit Pistons at number five than the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick. After further reports that the Kings were high on Iowa standout Keegan Murray, the two began to flip-flop in mock drafts.

That was the case until the Pistons dealt star forward Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. The move screams that they will be drafting a replacement and infers that the Kings will be taking Ivey at four.

Best Bet: Smith, Holmgren, Banchero, Ivey Picked In Exact Order (-120)

After settling the odds in the top three and the Grant trade (we think), this feels like a number that will only get worse. You are still seeing a solid price at -120 on something that feels locked into place barring anything catastrophic on the night of the draft. This bet feels worthy of a wager before things may get a bit more complicated following the fourth overall pick.

Player Pick Position Bet: Ousmane Dieng Under 11.5 (-135)

Some late reports came in on Wednesday night that NBL star Ousmane Dieng “wowed” the New Orleans Pelicans in a workout. They are now seriously considering taking him with the eighth overall pick. This feels like a significant number to get the under on before that news continues to spread. At 11.5, you have a few more selections to hit the under, even if the Pelicans don’t select him with their pick—back Dieng’s draft slot position under, even at this juiced price.

Sleeper Lottery Pick: Jalen Williams

Santa Clara product Jalen Williams made a name for himself at this year’s NBA Scouting Combine, and it’s seriously paying off with mock drafts moving him up as high as 16th overall after being an afterthought just over a month ago. Teams fell in love with his smoothness, versatility, and ability to slow things down at the scouting combine scrimmages. He could be the surprise of the draft as a mid-major prospect who sneaks into the backend of the lottery.