8 Big Questions Surrounding the 2018 NBA Draft
Hoops fanatics rejoice! The NBA Draft is finally upon us.
Yes, it's been less than two whole weeks since the Golden State Warriors completed their four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers to become back-to-back champions, but as we've come to know, the NBA truly never sleeps. Whether it's a player punching his own teammate in the face, another throwing a bowl of soup at an assistant coach, or a general manager's alleged-but-actually-his-wife's burner accounts, there's always a story brewing out in the #NBATwitter world.
And draft week has been no exception. We've had mock drafts, no-names rocketing up draft boards, players (and Jay-Z) signing on with... Puma and, in true NBA fashion, teams asking prospects some very odd questions.
So, don't worry -- if you're not tuning in to see if you win the NBA Draft Challenge, there's a lot of stories to follow tonight. After all, that's why we're here.
In the spirit of numberFire, we're utilizing prop odds from Sports Betting Dime (some via BetOnline) and BetDSI to identify what questions you should be looking to have answered as you drink (coffee, of course) to words like "upside" and "wingspan" during tonight's festivities. Let's check it out!
Which Players Go 1 and 2?
Unlike other years, there is little to no drama around this year's number one overall pick. Arizona big man Deandre Ayton is expected to come off the board first, and Sports Betting Dime's (Dime) NBA Draft Rankings Tracker echoes that belief. And the same goes for their -2500 odds, as well as BetDSI's -1500, on the 19-year-old to be the Phoenix Suns' top selection on Thursday.
Needless to say, it's very unlikely that Phoenix sends the pick elsewhere. At -750, the implied probability (88.2%) of them not trading it is more than five times greater than the Suns' probability (16.7%) of shocking the draft, at +500 on BetDSI.
Shifting from the known to the unknown, who could go next with Ayton presumably off the board? Among the top candidates, according to BetDSI, are Duke's Marvin Bagley III (-250), Real Madrid's Luke Doncic (+250) and Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. (+500) followed by longer shots in Michigan State's Jaren Jackson (+5000) and Oklahoma's Trae Young (+7000). The field is at +6500.
As recent as last night, Bagley was believed to be the favorite for Sacramento at two, but Doncic was ahead of him on Dime's draft tracker just three days ago, and there's a chance that the euro star's use of the shaka emoji is a nod to Vivek Ranadivé and the Kings. For what it's worth, Porter has also said that he's received interest as high as second overall. If the Kings are willing to overlook the 19-year-old's medical concerns, it could be a risk worth taking.
How Far Could Luka Doncic Fall?
The odd thing about Doncic is that, depending on who you ask, he could realistically go anywhere from the Kings at two to the Dallas Mavericks at five. As a matter of a fact, Doncic is more likely to go third or worse (-240) than second or better (+190), per BetOnline. Of the potential outcomes, the most rumored landing spot has been the Atlanta Hawks at three.
So why is this odd? Well, because there isn't much more a kid (he's 19) can do to cement himself as a top-three pick. Not only did Doncic, at age 16, become the youngest to ever suit up for Real Madrid in the Liga ACB and EuroLeague, but he won the EuroLeague Rising Star and ACB Best Young Player Award in 2016-17 before leading the Slovenian national team to its first EuroBasket title in 2017. This past season, he led Real Madrid to their 10th EuroLeague title, becoming the youngest to ever win the MVP and Final Four MVP as he averaged 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 25.9 minutes per game.
He's considered a generational talent and is capable of putting up triple-double numbers, so what gives? Maybe it has something to do with the unknown that comes with an overseas product.
Maybe this is a trend, though. With the over/under on first round international selections set at 2.5 on Dime, the under should be the clear favorite. France's Elie Okobo -- a 6'3" point guard -- is the only other international prospect expected to go in the top 30 picks.
How High Could Trae Young Climb?
Is Trae Young the next Stephen Curry? He may or may not be, but one thing is certain: the 19-year-old point guard is a polarizing prospect.
Standing 6'2" and weighing in at 178 pounds, Young is considered "the first child of the Curry generation", with his ability to hit from anywhere beyond the arc. Teams have the same doubts as they did with the undersized Curry, and some have gone as far as saying they wouldn't touch the high-upside talent.
As far as his draft range, Young is unlikely to go later than the New York Knicks at nine. The Cavs, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic and Hawks -- who could reportedly trade back -- have also been the subject of rumors, meaning that Young has quite the range of outcomes, starting at three. But while he sits at -115 odds on both sides of his 5.5 over/under at BetDSI, he's favored (-145) to go eighth or worse, compared to seven or better (+115), over at BetOnline.
The safe bet would be somewhere between picks 8 and 10 with the over at 5.5 ultra-appealing, given the Hawks' likelihood of trading down if they decide to go with Young.
Will Teams Be Scared Off Michael Porter?
As we alluded to with the Kings, whichever team decides to be the one to pull the trigger on Porter is doing so at a risk. On one hand, Porter is a freak 6'11" guard-forward combo with a 7' wingspan and unlimited upside in the right situation, but he missed most of his single collegiate season with a back issue and recently pulled out of a workout citing hip spasms. After undergoing evaluation, Porter said he's feeling better and he thinks "teams are comfortable" with the results.
As a result of the past week, Porter's dropped to pick 7.4 in the rankings tracker. On BetDSI, the over is +110 at pick 4.5 with the under the favorite at -140. Given Ayton as the shoo-in for one, Porter would have to go two to Sacramento, barring another team trading up. It wouldn't be a shocker to see that happen, but as it stands, the over, and its higher return, is more attractive with the youngster's shaky medical outlook.
Will Mo Bamba Avoid the Grizzlies?
According to reports, everyone wants in on the Mo Bamba sweepstakes. The long list of teams includes the Knicks (in the event of trade) and the "buzzing" Bulls, but one team it doesn't: the Memphis Grizzlies. Bamba has made his disdain for the franchise known publicly, refusing to work out for the team or disclose his medicals. The young seven-footer isn't a great fit for the Grizzlies' win-now culture anyway, but if he slips to four, things could get interesting.
Could the Texas product really drop that far, though? While there's no prop bet saying "yes" or "no" to Bamba landing with the Grizz, BetOnline does have him listed as -240 to go fifth or better and +190 to go sixth or worse. As such a heavy favorite (71% probability), it would a major upset to see Bamba go beyond the Mavs at five.
Which Bridges Goes Higher?
This year's draft could get interesting quick, but in the case it doesn't things are almost certain to heat up from the eighth overall pick (owned by Cleveland) on. It's in this range that we see a pair of Bridges -- yes, with a capital "B".
Out of Villanova and Michigan State, respectively, Mikal and Miles Bridges share much more than last names. Both were very productive college players in high-profile programs under future Hall of Fame coaches, and both are expected to go in the lottery portion of tonight's draft, with Mikal averaging pick 8.6 and Miles at 10.8 in the rankings tracker. Mikal has the edge among the public and the oddsmakers.
As for who goes first, Mikal is at -800 (88.9% probability) odds with Miles set at -250 odds to go 12th or worse. The latter could play a negative role in the two possibly going with consecutive picks, which Dime has at +350. Mikal is the odds-on favorite to go to the Knicks, and even if he doesn't, the Sixers are big on the homegrown 'Nova product.
What does that mean for the over/under (19.5) on the duo's combined draft positions? If Mikal goes at 9, Miles needs to go at 10 to hit the under. An eager team could take Philly's pick and do that, but the odds favor Bridges going somewhere between the Charlotte Hornets at 11 and the Denver Nuggets at 14.
Go over on the Bridges (I had to do it).
More Wildcats or Blue Devils in Round 1?
Mikal Bridges was just one part of Villanova's run of two championship in three seasons. Both Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo also played roles -- albeit smaller ones -- in the team's first title in 2016, and they're also looking to make the jump to the NBA. But could they help 'Nova hit the over/under of 3.0 first-round picks?
We know Bridges will be a lottery pick, and the lesser-known Omari Spellman is almost certain as a second-rounder. It comes down to the guards in DiVincenzo and Brunson. The former is +175 to be drafted 18th or higher and -220 to be 19th or worse, and the latter is at +115 odds to be a first-round selection, compared to -145 not to be. It would seem that, no matter where he goes, DiVincenzo is a first-round pick in the late teens to early 20s. Brunson will be the ultimate decider between a push, at exactly three, and the under. BetOnline's odds (59.2% probability) point toward the under.
In a similar way, Duke carries an over/under of 2.5 first-rounders, per Dime. At least at face value, this appears low given the list of five possibilities -- Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval -- two of whom are certainties in Bagley and Carter, both projected top-10 guys.
We won't get into Duval, as he appears to be a mid-to-late second rounder, but the first-round odds are listed for both Trent (No -150, Yes +120) and Allen (Yes -180, No +150) over at BetOnline. Despite what Trent's father has to say, it's looking more likely that he goes in the early second than early first. And it all comes down to America's sweetheart, Allen. With his tendency to trip opposing players, there aren't many non-Crazies in the Grayson fan club. But he is 20% more likely to have a team take a chance on him and his talents in the first.
Whether the Barclays Center boos him when he's picked is a bet you can take to the bank at -400 odds.
Will There Be a Trading Frenzy?
We've already alluded to a few potential trades, like those involving the Knicks, Hawks and Sixers. If early chatter is any indication, there could be a lot of movement early on and throughout this year's draft. But how many deals exactly?
BetDSI has the over/under set at 13.5 with -115 odds on both sides. Given that last year's draft featured 14 draft-day trades (ones prior to draft night don't count), and that 2016, 2015 and 2014 featured 11, 10 and 15, respectively, this is reasonable for a draft where names are expected to be exchanged with high frequency. Buy into the hype and hope for a night full of Woj bombs and Shams scoops.
As Yahoo's Chris Mannix pointed out, the madness could start quite quickly, as soon as the top five picks. Of the five teams occupying those slots, we know that the Suns are the least likely to move, but the Mavericks possess the highest odds at +1100. Those aren't crazy odds, and we've already seen a reason -- cough, Bamba -- to believe the Grizzlies (+1500) could decide to do the same. That being said, the smart bet is to go with none of them at -500. Over the last 10 years, a team hasn't dealt a top-five pick during the proceedings.
A team trading up is much more likely. Dime has five teams listed with odds, led by the Boston Celtics and 76ers at +100 and +200, respectively. The Mavericks have the longest odds (+2500) to make a move up the top five, but if I were to pick one or the other, I'd lean toward them trading down more than up. Even with the two favorites' tendencies to get trade-happy, the Los Angeles Clippers, equipped with back-to-back picks at 13 and 14, are a team to watch in the pursuit of the Grizzlies' fourth overall pick and Jaren Jackson. They're worth a hard look at +700.
Don't count out Philly for a trade at some point, though. They've already dealt the 39th selection to the Los Angeles Lakers and, at +5000, they're longshots to hold on to their remaining five picks. Part of that reasoning stems from the cap issues that they'll eventually be put up against with Joel Embiid's massive deal and an extension down the road for Ben Simmons, not to mention the possibility of landing a max guy in LeBron James (via free agency) or Kawhi Leonard (via trade). They can't afford to have more cap holds for young players.
On the complete opposite of the spectrum, which team without a first-round pick is most likely to get themselves in the mix? According to Dime, the Toronto Raptors are the favorites at +250. The Miami Heat (+300) aren't far behind, but there's no point in going further with all the chatter about Toronto going after Kentucky Wildcats guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Reports tell us that the Raptors have made everyone available with the hopes of acquiring the Toronto native.
Last but not least, could Kawhi Leonard be traded on draft night? We've already evaluated the betting odds on Kawhi's potential landing spots, but the odds for him being traded (+450) pale in comparison to those (-650) in favor of him staying put, at least until after the draft has concluded. We know how conservative the San Antonio Spurs can be, though it's worth noting that Leonard is rumored to have directly told coach Gregg Popovich that he no longer wanted to be in San Antonio. A trade isn't out of the cards, and the Lakers did just make a move to add another asset ... at 11:00 p.m. on a Wednesday.
The NBA never sleeps. Fuel up!