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Sportsbooks hate the NBA Draft. And the NFL Draft. All drafts, really. It’s purely an information game, so whoever gets the Twitter notification first wins. A lot of the time, you can get an edge simply by following mock draft updates from plugged-in reporters and acting before books have the opportunity to update their odds. ESPN’s David Purdum wrote an awesome article on the subject in the days leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. I particularly enjoyed this tidbit:
The NFL draft market is volatile and dominated by wise guys, who say there’s free money to be had — and the bookmakers know it … Who sees the information first has the advantage, and it’s normally not the bookmakers.
Sportsbooks know they’re going to lose money on drafts. Via Purdum:
Earlier this month, as oddsmakers at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa began setting over/unders on the draft position of 100 prospects, director Matt Metcalf let his team know that he was fine with losing on the draft, with a caveat. “I won’t repeat the number, but I said, ‘You can lose this much, but try not to lose this much,'” Metcalf said.
Establish The Run dynasty/props guru Anthony Amico and I have been following and acting on NBA Draft news for weeks now. The best time to pounce was last week since there was a dead period for draft rumors during the NBA Finals followed by a massive information dump. There isn’t a ton of value right now, but we will highlight a few spots we still think are playable. We did put some plays in ETR’s subscriber-only Discord a few days ago, and we’ve already gotten massive CLV on those. It’s unfortunate that most value spots have dried up, but that’s just how it is with the draft only two days away.
Our goal today is to be as actionable. That means two things:
- We want to be as accurate as possible. We don’t have any inside information, but we have been following mock drafts and rumors from people who do for weeks.
- We want to be transparent about which spots involve more guesswork. Sometimes we have actual news on which teams like which players, but often it’s just, “This team might want this position, and this guy has the highest stock of anyone in that mold.” You’ll see that a lot near the end of this mock because there’s a huge tier of guards who could go anywhere from just outside the lottery into the second round.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
1. DETROIT PISTONS – CADE CUNNINGHAM (GUARD, OKLAHOMA STATE)
Barring something unforeseen, Cade Cunningham is going to be the first overall pick. There’s not much else to say here. The Rockets are trying to trade up but reportedly haven’t had much success. We fully expect Cunningham to don a Pistons hat come Thursday night.
2. HOUSTON ROCKETS – JALEN GREEN (GUARD, G LEAGUE IGNITE)
There was some uncertainty early in the process about whether the Rockets would prefer Jalen Green or USC big man Evan Mobley, but Green is the runaway favorite now. According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Houston hasn’t even been able to bring in Mobley or Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs for a workout. Givony also noted that some team executives view Green to the Rockets as “close to a lock.” The Rockets are reportedly desperate to trade up for Cunningham, but a deal appears extremely unlikely given how clearly the NBA sees him as the best prospect in the draft. Their consolation prize will be Green, who dazzled against other professionals in the G League. Most books have Green at around -300 (75.0% implied probability) to go second overall. The real probability might be even higher, but it’s difficult to lay the juice here when there are spots with better value.
3. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – EVAN MOBLEY (BIG, USC)
The Cavaliers are more likely to trade this pick than the Pistons or Rockets, but it’s still an unlikely occurrence. Mobley is almost unanimously mocked at #3, as most people think he is neck and neck with Green as a prospect. With Houston likely taking Green, that leaves Mobley for the Cavs.
4. TORONTO RAPTORS – JALEN SUGGS (GUARD, GONZAGA)
Toronto has worked out projected #5 pick Scottie Barnes, but Jalen Suggs has rounded out the first tier throughout the entire process, and that notion might be solidifying only a few days before the draft. Givony wrote that “The league overwhelmingly expects the Raptors to end up with Suggs,” and it makes sense for them to prepare for life without Kyle Lowry. On the other hand, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie reported that this pick isn’t a lock because the Raptors could either take Barnes or trade down. It’s probably Suggs, but more surprising things have happened.
5. ORLANDO MAGIC – SCOTTIE BARNES (FORWARD, FLORIDA STATE)
Barnes has been the biggest winner of the predraft process, rising from the middle of the lottery to a locked-in top-five pick barring trades. Chad Ford is the only trustworthy insider who doesn’t have Barnes going #5 – and he has him going #4 to the Raptors. Barnes to the Magic is pretty much consensus at this point.
This is a great spot for bettors to still get some action if they are willing to stomach the juice. Barnes draft pick u5.5 can be found at -200 still on FOX Bet, which is similar to his price just to go #5 at other books. Even -270 on FanDuel likely undersells the actual probability of Barnes going within the first five selections.
6. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – JAMES BOUKNIGHT (GUARD, CONNECTICUT)
Here’s where it gets interesting but not yet completely chaotic. If there aren’t trades, I feel pretty good about the first five picks going in the above order. The Thunder, however, have a real decision.
According to Givony, the Thunder were interested in Bouknight in the 2020 NBA Draft before he opted to return to UConn for his sophomore season. Similar to Barnes, he has rocketed up draft boards throughout the predraft process, starting as a lottery candidate and ending as a consensus top-eight pick. This could easily be G League Ignite’s Jonathan Kuminga, but we lean Bouknight here because we have heard more about Oklahoma City liking him, whereas Kuminga is more just a highly touted prospect who happens to be available.
7. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – MOSES MOODY (WING, ARKANSAS)
The Warriors want to win now. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are only getting older, so it doesn’t make sense for them to take a raw ceiling play like Kuminga. If they want a win-now player, it could be anyone, but Moody is an intriguing fit in the plug-and-play 3&D mold.
Moody’s draft position prop is set at 11.5, but we do not think that’s a play despite mocking him at #7. The Warriors could go several different routes here. They may even decide they can not pass up on Kuminga’s monster upside and take him despite the fact that he probably won’t contribute much immediately. They could also trade this pick in a package for Bradley Beal. We don’t really know, but Moody has worked out for them multiple times, could contribute right away, and fits an attractive archetype as a 3&D wing.
8. ORLANDO MAGIC – JONATHAN KUMINGA (FORWARD, G LEAGUE IGNITE)
Kuminga’s slide stops here, as the Magic would be hard-pressed to pass on his combination of athleticism and upside. Once a projected top-five pick, Kuminga has fallen during the process as teams question his offensive ability, especially as a shooter. He was horribly inefficient in the G League but indubitably possesses the athletic gifts necessary to be a difference-maker in the NBA. We have Bouknight at #6, but Vecenie mocked Kuminga in that spot. On the Thunder’s decision between the two, he wrote the following:
The Thunder are notoriously secretive, but the name that has come up most as a potential party-crasher in the top-six is James Bouknight. A Bouknight choice would particularly create some confusion down the order, as there is some uncertainty regarding how teams below this level feel about Kuminga.
An even further fall doesn’t sound like it’s out of the picture, but it’s more likely he falls somewhere in the #6-8 range. I would not feel comfortable betting on his draft pick prop at 7.5 (and it wouldn’t surprise me if we slide Kuminga to #7 when we update this over the next two days).
9. SACRAMENTO KINGS – FRANZ WAGNER (FORWARD, MICHIGAN)
One of the most versatile defenders in the class, Franz Wagner to the Kings is one of the most popular selections in reputable mock drafts. We don’t know if that’s because everyone got the same intel or if it’s the result of groupthink and/or insiders copying each other, but we aren’t going to go against such a strong consensus. Givony wrote that “Wagner’s name has gained traction in Sacramento despite a mysterious pre-draft process that included no NBA combine and few individual workouts,” so everyone might just be copying one another for this pick. The Kings are also reported to be shopping this pick. For those reasons, we are staying away from Wagner’s draft position prop (currently 9.5), even though he’s being mocked to Sacramento across the industry.
10. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – JOSH GIDDEY (GUARD, AUSTRALIA)
This was originally the Pelicans’ pick, but they agreed to swap picks with the Grizzlies in return for Jonas Valanciunas and Memphis taking on Eric Bledsoe‘s contract. Minutes after the trade, Givony reported that the Grizzlies are interested in Giddey. Multiple sources say the Grizzlies are trying to trade up even higher for Bouknight or Kuminga, but we’re buying the Giddey smoke for now since the Grizzlies still have #10.
11. CHARLOTTE HORNETS – KAI JONES (BIG, TEXAS)
Kai Jones has one of the wider ranges among lottery prospects, but Chad Ford reported that “There’s a growing belief among rival executives that Michael Jordan and GM Mitch Kupchak are going to take Kai Jones at 11.” Jones’ draft position prop is set at 15.5 but juiced heavily to the under, so I’m not betting on him until we get a lot more confirmation that the Hornets want him. It’s far from a certainty right now, but he’s the only player who has actually been tied to Charlotte.
12. SAN ANTONIO SPURS – ALPEREN SENGUN (BIG, TURKEY)
Alperen Sengun will enter the NBA as one of the more productive European prospects in recent memory after winning the Turkish league MVP as an 18-year-old. The Spurs have never shied away from international prospects, plus they’re looking for a long-term big man. Givony mocked Sengun to San Antonio and noted that he could come off the board even higher after strong workouts in front of numerous lottery teams.
13. INDIANA PACERS – DAVION MITCHELL (GUARD, BAYLOR)
Once upon a time, Davion Mitchell was being mocked to the Warriors at #7 overall, but Givony, Vecenie, and a host of other insiders have reported he could slip a little on draft night. He’ll be a 23-year-old rookie and he only shot 64.1% from the line last season, an ominous sign for those who believe his 44.7% three-point percentage will translate to the NBA. Granted, he’s one of the best guard defenders in the draft, but he seems likely to slip to this range. I wrote this on Monday when Mitchell’s draft prop was widely available at 9.5 or 10.5, and you can still find some of that if you look (even on legal books). DraftKings now has him at 12.5, which I’m not interested in.
14. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – CHRIS DUARTE (WING, OREGON)
Arguably the draft’s greatest riser, Chris Duarte went in for his second workout with the Warriors over the weekend. He’s already 24 years old, but he’s one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the class as a pure sniper who shot 42.4% from distance and 81.0% from the line last year. Givony, Vecenie, Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer), Jeremy Woo (Sports Illustrated), and Jonathan Wasserman (Bleacher Report) all have him mocked at #14. It’s unclear whether they all have intel or they’re succumbing to groupthink, but the Warriors have at least expressed interest in Duarte by working him out multiple times. Plus, he fits their timeline as an immediate contributor in a valuable role.
Most of the value has been sucked out of this one, and we do not recommend betting on his prop at 15.5 (which is already -135 to the under).
15. WASHINGTON WIZARDS – COREY KISPERT (WING, GONZAGA)
Perhaps the draft’s most prolific shooter, Corey Kispert would be a Day 1 contributor for the Wizards. Bradley Beal‘s status is still up in the air and Washington would probably opt for a ceiling play if he forces his way out, but Kispert fits right now with Beal and Russell Westbrook on the squad. Anthony and I also considered putting Trey Murphy – another shooter – here, but we eventually settled on Kispert because he has been regarded higher throughout the predraft process. Basically, we expect them to take a shooter here (although that is not set in stone by any means) and Kispert has the highest stock of the remaining players in that archetype.
16. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – KEON JOHNSON (WING, TENNESSEE)
Despite recording the highest vertical leap in NBA Combine history, Keon Johnson is tumbling down draft boards at a frightening pace. NBA teams reportedly view him as an upside swing due to concerns about his skill level (i.e. he has the athleticism but maybe not the talent). The Thunder are taking the long view with a myriad of picks over the next decade, so they make the most sense as a landing spot since they can afford to wait and see on his development.
Once projected to go as high as #8, the betting market is still catching up to his new expected draft position. We are slightly hesitant to bet the over on 11.5 or 12.5 at FanDuel and DraftKings, respectively, but pay close attention to the news in case any clarity comes out about where he is currently settling with teams.
17. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS – TREY MURPHY (WING, VIRGINIA)
I mentioned that we debated Murphy at #15 to the Wizards since they may be looking for a shooter, which then leads us to the Pelicans taking him at #17. Basically, we think both teams want a shooter. That was Murphy’s specialty at Virginia in 2020, as he shot 43.3% from beyond the arc and 92.7% from the line.
Chad Ford also reported that New Orleans is interested in both Kispert and Murphy, supporting the notion that they want a sniper. It’s possible Murphy is gone here and Kispert is not, in which case we’d expect them to take the former Gonzaga Bulldog.
18. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – ISAIAH JACKSON (BIG, KENTUCKY)
Isaiah Jackson said he’s worked out for the Thunder, plus Vecenie mentioned him as a possibility for one of Oklahoma City’s two picks. A defense-oriented big, Jackson needs some development offensively, and this would be a perfect spot for that since the Thunder aren’t trying to compete right now. Usman Garuba and Jalen Johnson are both frequently mocked here, and we considered them before landing on Jackson. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Thunder take one of them though, or they could go in another direction entirely.
19. NEW YORK KNICKS – USMAN GARUBA (BIG, SPAIN)
Usman Garuba challenges Mobley for the best defensive player in the draft, a distinction that likely endears him to Tom Thibodeau. He’s also represented by CAA, something the Knicks have shown a preference for in the past. SI’s Jeremy Woo reported the Knicks are interested in Isaiah Jackson, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they take him if he’s still available. New York also has the 21st pick, so they could take another position altogether here or trade out of this pick completely. Basically, we’re not overly confident in this pick, but Garuba is one of the players who would make sense.
20. ATLANTA HAWKS – ZIAIRE WILLIAMS (WING, STANFORD)
Ziaire Williams marks the start of a large tier of guards who are expected to go at the end of Round 1 or the start of Round 2. We’re mocking the Stanford product here because he has the highest consensus stock, but he is being mocked all over the place right now. Case in point: Givony (who also had him at #20) reported Williams has helped his stock in recent weeks with predraft workouts and could go as high as #7, while Vecenie mocked him at #27 overall. Woo believes the Hawks will take a guard with this pick and Williams is the most highly touted one remaining. Interestingly, Anthony and I both had Williams here despite the uncertainty.
21. NEW YORK KNICKS – CAMERON THOMAS (GUARD, LSU)
Cameron Thomas is a bucket. He scored 23.0 points per game in his lone season at LSU, leading the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament berth. Like Williams, he’s in that tier of late-first-round guards who could go anywhere, and he also seems to be one of the more favored players in that group. As such, this is right around where he’s expected to go, but we aren’t too confident in him going to New York in particular. The Knicks may also be looking to trade their pick(s).
22. LOS ANGELES LAKERS – JARED BUTLER (GUARD, BAYLOR)
Jared Butler had a scare early in the process when the NBA didn’t clear him due to a heart condition (which he already knew about during his time at Baylor), but the league has since given him the go-ahead. With that news, his stock has soared back into Round 1. Woo, Givony, and BR’s Jonathan Wasserman all have him going 22nd overall to Los Angeles, and most mocks have him going somewhere in the early-mid 20s.
23. HOUSTON ROCKETS – JALEN JOHNSON (FORWARD, DUKE)
Jalen Johnson has one of the wider ranges in the draft after opting out of the second half of Duke’s season. Vecenie made this abundantly clear in his most recent mock:
I’ve talked to a couple of executives for teams in the teens that have told me their team will not be selecting him. I’ve also talked to four different sources that seem to think Johnson is a lock in the lottery.
It’s notable that multiple teams in the teens have stated they will not be picking him because that’s exactly where his ADP is right now. He could still go in the late lottery or to the Thunder with one of their picks (he fits the swing-for-the-fences mold they’re looking for), but Houston makes sense as a destination if he slides a little.
The Rockets may also trade one or both of these picks (they have #23 and #24), which would shake things up. For the time being, we’re mocking as if they will be picking here.
24. HOUSTON ROCKETS – MILES MCBRIDE (GUARD, WEST VIRGINIA)
Another pick, another low-confidence projection on a likely Round 1 guard. Once a projected second-rounder, Miles McBride‘s stock has risen to a point where Vecenie said, “McBride’s range starts in the mid-teens and extends into the 20s.” Again, we haven’t heard much about which teams want him, but he figures to go somewhere in this range.
25. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – TRE MANN (GUARD, FLORIDA)
Three mocks – Wasserman, O’Connor, and The Athletic’s Zach Harper – have Tre Mann going #26 to the Nuggets, but he might not make it to them (plus, they have another prospect they like, which we’ll get to in a minute). The Florida product figures to go somewhere in this range, but it’s tough to predict exactly where he lands based on the current information. The only insight we have on this pick comes from Woo, who indicated they may want a guard:
The Clippers have primarily been linked to guards at this spot, but have needs across the board, with much of their veteran supporting cast hitting free agency in the next couple of years.
26. DENVER NUGGETS – JOSHUA PRIMO (WING, ALABAMA)
Another guard, but this pairing has actually started to become more common in mocks, which leads me to believe insiders could actually have a scoop. Joshua Primo doesn’t turn 19 until December and profiles as a future 3&D option given his shooting ability and athleticism. Givony and Vecenie – the two insiders I trust most for draft information – both have the Nuggets taking Primo with this pick. Wasserman also reported the Nuggets are frequently tied to Primo or Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu here.
27. BROOKLYN NETS – DAY’RON SHARPE (BIG, NORTH CAROLINA)
Sharpe’s odds of going in Round 1 are increasing by the day, so we like betting on his draft position u30.5 at -120 on DraftKings. He is most frequently mocked to the Clippers at #25 or the Nets at #27, although he could go anywhere late in Round 1. Givony said that he has helped his stock as much as anyone by flashing floor-stretching ability and a boisterous personality during the predraft process. Similar to Primo and the Nuggets, Sharpe to the Nets is a popular enough pairing that it could be based on actual information rather than pure speculation.
28. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – JADEN SPRINGER (GUARD, TENNESSEE)
It was fun having some (although not much) information for the last two picks, but we’re back to semi-randomly pairing guards with teams who need them. Vecenie briefly mentioned in his last mock that Springer was in play as early as #17 – before the Grizzlies moved up – so it’s probably fair to assume he could go much earlier than this. Still, this range is so clogged with viable guards that some of them have to slip. Nobody has tied Springer to any particular team, so it’s your best guess who stops his skid. Givony, Woo, and Kevin O’Connor all have Springer going within the last three picks of the first round.
29. PHOENIX SUNS – SHARIFE COOPER (GUARD, AUBURN)
Another guard with a late-first grade, Sharife Cooper appears to be falling as the process progresses. Wasserman reported that he could even slip into Round 2:
Auburn’s Sharife Cooper was not on the green room list, which suggests most teams don’t have him in their top-20. Scouts I’ve spoken with sounded more surprised that Florida’s Tre Mann wasn’t invited. Cooper is a decent bet to slide into the late 20s or early second round.
With the air coming out of Cooper’s stock over the past couple of weeks, we like playing the over on his draft prop at 20.5.
30. UTAH JAZZ – NAH’SHON HYLAND (GUARD, VCU)
Nah’Shon Hyland (nicknamed “Bones,” which is cool) propelled himself into the first-round conversation after a monster performance at the NBA Combine. Most mocks have the Jazz going guard here, but there is no consensus on who they prefer. This could be any one of a number of guys, and Hyland’s name is certainly in the conversation.
Thanks for reading! I’ll do my best to update this throughout the week as we get more information.