NBA Draft Setting Up With Few Chances For Sports Betting Surprises

This sentence will probably be garbage by 8 p.m. Thursday, but here goes nothing: The 2021 NBA draft is shaping up to be short on surprises and as such, by the time it’s over, the whole shebang from a sports betting perspective will be the exception to the normal NBA draft rule. The sportsbooks will do just fine.

It’s a well-known fact the books hate drafts, as it’s purely an information game. If you somehow catch word that the Detroit Pistons aren’t going to be taking Cade Cunningham (best odds over at BetMGM at a heart-stopping -5000), well, congrats: You’re about to be wealthy.

But the chances of the Pistons passing on Cunningham are about as likely as us ever finding out just what the heck happened to Richie Cunningham’s older brother, Chuck. (That’s a Happy Days reference, and while it’s old, at least this whole paragraph is going to stand the test of time, right? I mean, no way the Pistons don’t take the Oklahoma State guard, right? Right?)

But yes, the NBA draft, while deep and full of what appear to be impact players, leaves little wriggle room for the intrepid draft futures bettor, especially this close to the draft.

And a-one, and a-two

For instance, as recently as last week, you could’ve gotten Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley going 1-2-3 for +120 on DraftKings. At the time of this writing, the best odds on that trio are over at PointsBet, but they’re all the way up to -193.

Green, of the G League Ignite, is the heavy favorite at -360 on FanDuel to go No. 2 to the Houston Rockets, and Mobley of USC is at -200 on BetMGM to go third to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

And looking at mock drafts from around the internet, the odds seem to be too low for all three, as finding a mock drafter that doesn’t have the three going 1-2-3 is harder to find than a girlfriend for Lenny and Squiggy. (You know, from Laverne & Shirley, the Happy Days spinoff? I’ll stop now.)

In fact, finding a mock draft that doesn’t have Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga going at No. 4 to the Toronto Raptors is also proving increasingly difficult. There’s so much consensus there, DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM all have it at -160.

Which leads to possibly the first halfway decent bet yet: FanDuel is offering -105 odds for the top four to be Cunningham, Green, Mobley, Suggs. 

Unless … 

Unless you take a gander at The Sporting News mock drafter, which has Jonathan Kuminga of the G League Ignite drafted fourth. That would be a surprise, as he can be had for as high as +550 over at DraftKings.

Any value out there?

The No. 5 pick might hold some interest, as most mocks have the Orlando Magic picking Scottie Barnes of Florida State, with DraftKings offering the best odds at -195. But over at the USA Today mock, Kuminga appears again and is slotted there. He can be had at No. 5 for +250 over at BetMGM. 

With Kuminga apparently getting some top 5 love, perhaps a decent spot is grabbing him at under 6.5 on DraftKings at -105.

But outside of a Kuminga surpise, it appears there will be little drama in the first four, and probably first five, picks.

So is there value to be had? Can a bettor find something with attractive odds on draft night, or should they just dribble themselves off the screen, like gool ol’ Chuckie Cunningham? (Sorry.)

Well, here’s a pair of bets that stand out a bit …

How about James Bouknight of UConn going in the top 10? I’ve yet to stumble upon a mock draft that puts him outside the top 10, and finding one where he doesn’t go in the top seven is an almost equally arduous task. Best odds of a top 10 finish for Bouknight are at -380 on DraftKings. Clearly, not great laying that much juice, but unless every mock drafter is wrong … (famous last words).

Another player that many mocks have going in the top 10 is Moses Moody of Arkansas. His over/under is set at 11.5 at William Hill, with -130 on the under. He’s also +155 to be drafted in the top 10 at DraftKings. That number might lead you to the promised land. You know, “Moses?” (And you thought it wasn’t going to get worse than Chuck Cunningham, right?)

Photo: Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY

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