The 2020 NBA draft on Wednesday night is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable NBA drafts in recent memory. There is no consensus No. 1 pick. There are plenty of teams in the trade market. The coronavirus pandemic has squeezed the off-season to two months. Put it all together, and it’s combined to make predicting what’s going to happen difficult bordering on impossible.
For instance, let’s take a look at the hometown Detroit Pistons, slotted to pick at number seven. Right now, the mocks seem to be circling in on two players: point guard Killian Hayes, who is currently playing in Germany, and Florida State forward Patrick Williams.
Sportsbooks are diving into that uncertainty with the Pistons pick, as the over/under on each player’s draft position is 7.5 at DraftKings with Williams at +105 to go under and Hayes +110.
FanDuel’s odds, however, are strikingly different. They have Hayes at 7.5 as well, and are offering a more attractive +118 on the under. But Williams? FanDuel has the over/under on him set at 8.5, with the juice on the under at -122.
But to give you an idea of how wacky this draft might get, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has Hayes as the single best player in the draft. While it’s highly unlikely a team would grab Hayes at number one, you could get that at +30000 on DraftKings. Yes, $1 to win $300. (Please note that while odds are being posted here, Detroit’s three casinos cannot accept wagers on the NBA draft, as the market is not explicitly spelled out in the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s sports wagering catalog. The tribal casinos, however, are allowed to offer markets on the NBA draft if they so choose.)
Then there’s Tyrese Haliburton of Iowa State, another guard who the Pistons are rumored to be interested in. He’s at -155 to go under 7.5 at DraftKings — and -144 on FanDuel — and we’ve yet to spot a mock draft that has him slipping past Detroit. You hate to give up -155, but Haliburton — who has seemingly every team ahead of the Pistons interested — at under 7.5 might be the surest thing in this filled-with-no-sure-things draft.
Draft day trade for a superstar?
Of course, just because the Pistons have the #7 pick doesn’t mean they are actually going to be choosing a player with it. The Pistons are one of six NBA teams that currently have salary cap space. And while the exact number has yet to be determined, the Pistons should come in around $30 million under the cap heading into free agency.
Now, just because the Pistons have the money doesn’t mean they’re going to attract the talent. After all, this is a team in rebuilding mode. Additionally, the unrestricted free agent market is pretty thin. The top two unrestricted free agents available are Toronto guard Fred VanVleet and Los Angeles Clippers center Montrezl Harrell. Very good players to be sure, but not exactly players who are going to lead Detroit back to the White House for congratulatory photo ops with the president.
But again, this is a rebuilding team and … wait … did you hear that? Oh my goodness, that’s Russell Westbrook’s music!
Bear with us here. Last week The Athletic reported Westbrook wants out of Houston. Doesn’t want to be second fiddle to James Harden. Wants his own team to lead.
Westbrook shot down the report, but come on: This is the NBA. Smoke equals fire, and you can be sure the Rockets are exploring all options.
The major stumbling block for any team that might want to trade for Westbrook is his contract. He’s owed $132.6 million over the next three years, which would make him the second most expensive player ever traded. The first? Um, Blake Griffin, who the Pistons took on in 2018 with his $153 million contract.
But as already mentioned, the Pistons have the money to spend, and Westbrook’s style of play — basically, angry and at full speed — certainly fits in with the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” history. Additionally, Westbrook, a healthy Blake Griffin, and a resigned Christian Wood would form a pretty fearsome trio. Could this team win the NBA championship? Well … probably not. But they could certainly make the playoffs, and instead of rebuilding now, the Pistons could choose to rebuild in two years and keep things entertaining in the interim.
LaMelo Ball, the most interesting player on the board
And then there’s LaMelo Ball, who won’t be falling to the Pistons at #7. But he may be the most interesting player to look at from an odds perspective.
Ball might very well end up being the number one pick, though the experts are split. The Timberwolves, who hold the pick, are probably going to take him or Anthony Edwards, a wing from Georgia. The best price for Ball at number one can be found at BetMGM, where he is -159. BetMGM also has the best price for Edwards to go at number one at +115.
The interesting thing about Ball is if he doesn’t go at number one, he’s almost certainly dropping to at least number three, as the Golden State Warriors, with the second pick, have expressed limited to no interest in Ball. As such, Ball’s over/under is at 2.5, and he’s +225 to go over that number at FanDuel and +265 to go over at DraftKings.
All told, expect the unexpected come Wednesday night. The Pistons could easily come out of it with their point guard of the future — or, perhaps, their point guard for the next two years. Or maybe another top front court guy to pair with Blake. Or they might trade down, maybe with the Celtics. Or trade up, as the Warriors are rumored to be looking to deal … it’s a little wide open, in short.
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