Last year, there was a ton of mystery surrounding who would be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
At various points in the process, Pablo Banchero, Jabari Smith, and Chet Holmgren were rumored to go first — and the sports betting markets moved accordingly.
Even as late as draft day, the odds shifted dramatically, culminating in ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski dropping a patented “Woj bomb” early in the day, alerting the world Smith would be going first to the Orlando Magic.
Banchero was the favorite before the bomb, and Smith quickly became the favorite — to the tune of -10000.
As team boards finalize today, the 1-2-3 of the NBA Draft is increasingly firm, per sources: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 23, 2022
Well, as the day wore on, the odds started to fall, and then five minutes before the draft — literally — Woj dropped another bomb: Banchero was going No. 1, and he closed at -5000 at FanDuel.
It was one of the nuttier days in the legalized era of sports betting.
Different year, different tune
This year’s NBA draft will not have that kind of drama, as Victor Wembanyama is going to be the first pick in the draft. His odds are -20000 at DraftKings, which is offering +2000 for the “the field” against Wembanyama. Your best bang for the buck, however, is at BetMGM, where you “only” have to lay 100/1 to bet on the French sensation.
This stepback three that Victor Wembanyama hit yesterday is simply unguardable. pic.twitter.com/rxLPUZptMo
— Bradeaux (@BradeauxNBA) April 16, 2023
To be clear: Wemby is going No. 1.
The question then becomes … who gets him?
The Detroit Pistons have as good a chance as anyone, with their lottery odds sitting at 14% after their league-worst 17-65 campaign. They’ll find out on May 16, when the lottery occurs.
The Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets are all tied for the best odds to get the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft lottery.
They each have a 14% chance.https://t.co/KWe0BOYqB1
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) April 10, 2023
If they don’t get the first pick …
Of course, a 14% chance also means the Pistons have an 86% chance of not landing the No. 1 pick. They are guaranteed a spot in the top five however, and while Wembanyama is a foregone conclusion at No. 1, it’s certainly worth peeking under the hood to see what the Pistons may do should they not get lucky.
Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite is widely considered the second-best prospect in the draft, and the odds show it: He’s -200 to go No. 2, and his odds would probably be even higher if — well, if the Pistons weren’t involved, for starters.
Henderson is a dynamite guard, and the Pistons — with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and the much-improved Killian Hayes — aren’t exactly in need of a guard.
So if the Pistons land at No. 2, there very well may be a trade brewing.
Another option for the Pistons at No. 2, and, quite frankly, perhaps the best fit for the team right now, would be Alabama forward Brandon Miller, who is at +145 at DraftKings to go second in the draft.
And if the Pistons fall out of the top two? Best bets include the Thompson Twins, Amen and Ausar of Overtime Elite, a pair of combo players who would certainly see time on the wing for the Pistons. Jarace Walker of Houston would be another option should the Pistons decide to go the forward route.
So there are plenty of options for the Pistons should they not land the No. 1 pick. But the team — and its fans — clearly want Wembanyama.
To butcher Frank Sinatra: Luck be a big square card with the Pistons logo on it come May 16.
Photo: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images