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Auburn’s Jabari Smith Odds-On Favorite for 1st Pick in NBA Draft

Betting Auburn's Jabari Smith Odds-On Favorite for 1st Pick in NBA Draft
Jun 22, 2022 20:06Tim Ronaldson

The NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, and while there is still debate as to who will be taking when, a betting favorite has emerged for the number one overall pick — Jabari Smith Jr.

A 6-10 forward from Auburn, Smith has become the consensus favorite, moving from odds of -145 all the way to -280 at most sportsbooks across the country. Those are some pretty high odds for any player, especially in a draft in which there has been no definitive breakaway prospect from the pack.

Will the Orlando Magic, which own the number one pick, reward Smith backers on Thursday night? Or, will someone else end up being the first overall pick?

Who Else is in the Running?

Smith had an excellent year at Auburn last year, but for much of the NCAA men’s basketball season, he wasn’t viewed as the no-brainer choice for the number one pick.

A lot of draft pundits had been pegging Chet Holmgren from Gonzaga as the likely first overall pick. Also mentioned in that discussion starting early on last college basketball season was Paolo Banchero from Duke.

But, as the offseason started to heat up while the NBA Draft approached, Smith began to emerge as the odds-on favorite. Not only is Smith now favored to be taken first overall in Thursday night’s draft, but he’s created significant separation between himself and the other two most likely first picks.

Banchero is currently listed as the second favorite, with odds of +280. Holmgren, meanwhile, has dropped all the way back to +500. Just a few days ago, Holmgren had odds of +145, showing just how quickly the money has come in on Smith.

Fast risers such as Smith aren’t completely out of the ordinary. But, it is a little out of the ordinary for one player to emerge before the draft as the odds-on favorite of this much when two other players seem to be viable potential choices.

What’s more, the Orlando Magic aren’t even sure whether they’ll hang onto the first overall pick. Earlier in the week, top team officials said they are looking at all options for the pick — including trading it away for more assets.

Now, that could just be posturing to see what they could fetch in a trade, but it’s far from a definitive stamp on Smith. That makes betting on him now, with odds of -280, at least relatively risky.

A Heavily-Bet NBA Draft

What the big odd movement this week is proving is that this year’s NBA Draft could end up being the most heavily-bet draft in history. In fact, the Caesars Sportsbook’s senior trading manager, Eric Fenstermaker, told ESPN this week that the action on the first overall pick in the NBA Draft has attracted five times the amount of money that the first overall pick in the NFL Draft did back in April.

That’s unheard of, really, for a bet in the NBA to attract more attention than a bet in the NFL. It’s an odd draft, for sure, from a betting perspective.

What’s even more odd is that the betting action on the last week has been trending toward Banchero, not Smith. Caesars Sportsbook has taken more Banchero bets since last Sunday than on any other market the sportsbook offers in the NBA.

The expansion of legal sports betting across the United States has certainly caused many different betting markets to act uniquely, and this is certainly no exception.

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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