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3 Takeaways From the Wild Shifts in NBA Draft Top Pick Odds

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GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 18: Jabari Smith #10 of the Auburn Tigers reacts against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks during the first half in the first round game of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 18, 2022 in Greenville, South Carolina. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Kevin C. Cox / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

There have been wild fluctuations in the marketplace for NBA Draft Top Pick odds.

A standard pro sports draft involves months of build-up and possible picks are analyzed and over-analyzed through countless mock drafts, to the point that the top of the draft does not necessarily offer a great deal of intrigue. By the time the draft arrives, the public has a pretty good idea who is expected to go where at the top of the draft and those players have been sufficiently hyped.

That is not how the market has handled this year’s NBA Draft, at least in the past few days, and it has been a jarring experience.

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Here are three takeaways about the late shifts in odds for the top pick in the NBA Draft.

1. Major Referendum on Woj

A week ago, I wrote about the updated odds on the top pick and while the battle appeared to be between Auburn power forward Jabari Smith and Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren, Duke power forward Paolo Banchero was lurking as a third option. While Banchero was priced at +1400 to get drafted No. 1 a week ago, by the eve of the draft he was suddenly the favorite.

This is unusual enough, but the plot really started to thicken when, Thursday morning, Adrian Wojnarowski, the ultimate NBA insider, tweeted that the first three picks, in order, were set to be Smith, Holmgren, and Banchero, respectively. With that Woj bomb, sportsbooks scrambled to take the top pick wagers off the board because if Woj reports something, it is generally considered a done deal.

But then FanDuel decided to open the top pick market again and it started with Smith priced at -10000 and Banchero at +1000. Never mind how lopsided the hold was for the sportsbook, just by putting up odds, there was some acknowledgement that this was not necessarily a done deal, and the market responded. Odds for Smith rapidly shifted as odds for Banchero continued to drop and now, with the draft coming this evening, odds have fluctuated wildly. Smith remains the favorite, but it has been a trip.

Ultimately, this will be a rare test for Woj as the premier source for NBA Draft information. He spent years announcing the picks before the NBA could even make them official, so he is plugged in, but the betting market was at least resistant to the notion that Wojnarowski could be right in this case. If it turns out that the top three picks go the way that Woj reported, then there is yet another feather in the cap of the premier NBA insider but, if Banchero somehow ends up as the No. 1 pick, that will put a dent in Woj’s armor.

2. Banchero Movement is Hard to Comprehend

Unless someone has insider information – information that is better than Wojnarowski’s information – it is hard to fathom how the Duke power forward, who has been ticketed for the third slot in the draft for months, would suddenly overtake the guy who has been the consensus No. 1 pick for months.

Public perception is not everything, to be sure, and sometimes a player can get late buzz that results in a change at the top of the draft – it just happened at this year’s NFL Draft, when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Georgia defensive end Travon Walker – but for money to keep coming in on Banchero to shift the odds so dramatically, then have the money keep coming in after Woj affirmed the expected top three order, it is just so unusual.

Given that this is not the standard practice for a major sports draft, it has shaken the foundation of sports bettors and now they will have to wait and see if all of this Banchero buzz had anything behind it or if it was all a mirage.

Is this what it’s like investing in NFTs?

3. FanDuel Was the Most Interesting Sportsbook Because They Stayed in the Game

After Wojnarowski’s tweet, the major sportsbooks pulled down their top pick props, but FanDuel was the first one to get back into the mix, even with hugely lopsided odds, with Smith priced at -10000 and Banchero at +1000. But the money has continued to pour in on Banchero so the odds have continued to reflect as much.

There is a legitimate challenge for sportsbooks when something so unusual starts to occur. Money starts pouring in on Paolo Banchero and if they don’t know why, and if it is contradicting a report from the foremost insider in the sport, it is understandable that they exercise caution.

Cautious or not, it has been a roller-coaster of emotion watching the odds move at such a rapid pace on the day of the NBA Draft.

Here are the latest NBA top pick odds via DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars. (as of 2:30 PM EST)

Make sure to keep an eye on our Live Odds page throughout the week to get the best lines possible and connect with others in the SBR community on our popular sports betting forum