The NBA Finals wrap this week and when they do, attention will quickly turn to the 2021 draft and offseason in a league that never sleeps.
The draft is right around the corner, and we’re starting to get an idea of how things may shape up. It certainly looks like Cade Cunningham will be the pick at No. 1 to the Pistons, with his odds at -10000 or shorter at most books. Jalen Green has emerged as the betting favorite at No. 2, while Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs are expected to round out the top four in some order.
But things aren’t always what they seem, and there’s a lot of smokescreens around the league this time of year. The draft never goes quite as expected, and that means there’s money to be made.
Let’s take a look at seven early props you should consider playing.
1. Evan Mobley To Be Drafted No. 2 (+225 BetRivers)
Mobley was the favorite to be drafted second as recently as a couple weeks ago, but the market shifted toward Green (-245 at BetRivers) and has moved more and more in his direction.
I’m not convinced.
Green may be the best scorer in the draft, in the Zach LaVine or Devin Booker mold, while Mobley is a center in a league where big men are less and less valuable. Big men these days feel fungible, to an extent, but the right big man is still a massive difference maker. Look at MVP Nikola Jokic or runner-up Joel Embiid, NBA Finals starter Deandre Ayton or defending champ Anthony Davis. The right big man can still make a championship impact.
That’s why I think Mobley will still be the pick at No. 2 because I think Mobley rates closer to Cunningham at No. 1 than everyone else. He’s a transcendent talent and the full package as a modern big man, and even with the Rockets already having Christian Wood in tow, players like Mobley are too valuable to pass on for fit on a rebuilding team.
I think Mobley may end up the more valuable NBA player than Cunningham when all is said and done. As these odds get long, I have to see if NBA evaluators agree.
2. Scottie Barnes To Be Drafted No. 4 (+600 Betrivers)
All year, evaluators talked about a tier of five at the top of the draft, but that group appears to have whittled itself to four, with Jonathan Kuminga on the outs. I’m wondering if Suggs might be the new name at the bottom of the list — or if Scottie Barnes might be the new fifth.
Last year, a versatile, talented, sixth-man freshman wing from Florida State was the draft’s late riser. That was Patrick Williams, now with the Bulls, and this year it looks like Scottie Barnes in that exact same role.
Barnes is the ultimate glue guy, a team player who makes everyone else better. He’s known for his outstanding work ethic, and he’s a tenacious defender with a versatile skill set and unnatural passing and handling for his size. Think Draymond Green.
Barnes is the exact sort of lengthy defender the Raptors have developed in recent years, and he’s the hot name on the draft board and looks like at least a top-six pick.
What if the Raptors don’t like the fourth option left in that presumed top tier? Barnes makes sense.
If you feel like you have a good read on the first three picks, you can play this even more aggressively. At PointsBet, you can bet on the top four picks in order. Along with Cunningham at No. 1 and Barnes at No. 4, you can either go Green-Mobley at 2-3 for +850 or Mobley-Green for +1300.
3. Keon Johnson Over Pick 8.5 (-150 BetMGM)
4. Davion Mitchell Over Pick 8.5 (-105 BetMGM)
We can definitely count on Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Suggs to be off the board at this point. Barnes is the big riser and while Kuminga may be slipping a bit, it’d be a surprise if he fell out of the top eight.
That’s six names and since both of these two need to be drafted top-eight to go under, that means we really only need to fade two picks for each.
Keon Johnson is a wildcard. He set a combine record with a 48-inch vertical, and he’s a hyper-athletic wing with a defensive knack and offensive upside. That admittedly sounds a lot like an Orlando (Nos. 5 and 8) or Oklahoma City (No. 6) draft pick. But Johnson lacks polish and doesn’t shoot much yet, and this draft is shaping up to be quite a crapshoot after that top five or six.
The Warriors (No. 7) may be more likely to take an older player ready to contribute, and that also shifts the board. Johnson could go No. 5 or slip into the late lottery or out altogether. This draft is wide open after that top group.
Davion Mitchell is more likely to go top-eight, in part because he’s older and could fit the Warriors as a ready-made rotation guy. Everyone knows Mitchell after his championship run, but there are real red flags. He’ll turn 23 in September, and older players are risky in the lottery because they don’t have as long to develop. He’s also a short guard who was never a reliable shooter until a leap this season. Mitchell is no sure thing.
I like playing both props together. It’s unlikely both bust since that would mean our top eight is set. That means hitting at least one, and I like our chances at getting both. After those six top names, there are something like 10 or 15 names in the next tier. Even if Johnson and Mitchell are near the top of that tier, that’s just too wide open to bank on.
5. Over 2.5 Non-NCAA players To Be Drafted top 10 (+135 BetRivers)
Those top six names should be long gone. Two of those six — Green and Kuminga — played in the G League, so we just need one more non-NCAA pick.
That next tier of 10 or 15 includes this draft’s top three international players, and I’m betting at least one sneaks into the top 10. It’s an international game now. Jokic and Embiid finished atop the MVP race, Giannis Antetokounmpo may soon win Finals MVP, and Luka Doncic is the league’s next superstar. Every NBA team is terrified of missing out on the next great international star.
Besides, the books are hinting at these international players going high. Josh Giddey’s draft slot over/under is at 11.5. Alperen Sengun is at 13.5, but his under is juiced heavily (-180 at PointsBet). He’s another riser. Even Usman Garuba could surprise. Many consider him the top defender in the draft, and his over/under is at 15.5.
We just need one of the three to sneak into the top 10, and I’m banking on some team gambling on the next international star.
6. Moses Moody Under Pick 11.5 (-110 BetMGM)
Moody is another name in that next tier and this is a bet on NBA Draft Twitter, who has been screaming Moody’s name all year long.
Moody is a ready-made 3-and-D wing with one of the best shots in the class. He has real scoring potential, and he’s super long with great defensive upside. He’s also young, so there’s just a ton to like here.
Moody doesn’t have the same superstar potential as some of the others, but he looks like an ideal connecting piece on a winning team. Think this year’s Tyrese Haliburton.
7. Jaden Springer to be Drafted Before Cam Thomas (-110 BetMGM)
Springer played hurt much of the season at Tennessee but has impressed in workouts and showed some of the bounce that was missing all year. He’s a super-well-rounded guard who plays good defense with a great feel for the game, a comfortable dribble, improving shooting and a comfortable pull-up. He should be able to play on or off the ball at either guard position and slot easily into any team situation.
Thomas is nothing like Springer. He’s a shoot-first ask-questions-later kind of guy, a gunner in every sense of the word. Thomas couldn’t be bothered to play much defense, and he wasn’t a particularly efficient scorer despite the high per-game averages. He didn’t look like a player who was especially endearing to his teammates or coach either, by the body language.
Springer looks like a 16-gamer who fits any team, and he’s one of the younger players in the draft. I have him top 10 on my board, while Thomas is not even a first-round pick for me. This is simply a bet on my own evaluation of these two and how they fit in the modern NBA.