Hyperbole is everywhere when it comes to the NBA Draft. Each offseason the greatest prospect in years, the purest shooter of the last 20 seasons or the player with the most upside we’ve seen in decades seems to pop up.
Pick a hyperbolic statement and it can usually be attached to a few of the top players in each draft class, leading to unrealistic expectations that get us excited before the player even steps onto an NBA court for the first time.
So pardon us a moment for this hypocritical statement when we say that Duke forward Zion Williamson is a generational talent, the best NBA prospect since Anthony Davis and the best athlete the NBA has seen since LeBron James in 2003. And you'd better believe there's some NBA betting action available on him already.
Even those living under a rock have heard of Williamson, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound bulldozer who in three months at Duke has put together a highlight reel most players won’t put together in a lifetime. He’s a wrecking ball at the rim, has an excellent handle with court vision, is lethal in transition and is an elite defender who moves exceptionally well for his size and weight.
Nitpick his outside shooting if you’d like – he’s shooting 29.8 percent from - deep but Williamson has it all, averaging 22.0 points on 68 percent shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.3 steals per game. Oh, and he’s doing all that in just 29.0 minutes.
So it’s no surprise that he’s the unquestioned top prospect in this year’s class. There’s a chance he and two other teammates – R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish – make draft history by being the first three picks off the board, but there’s no denying who will be first. Williamson fits any and every scheme and if a team doesn’t have room at the forward position, they’ll make it if they earn the top pick.
Let’s not get cute here. Futures odds are all about finding value early but there’s only one bet to make on the 2019 NBA Draft: Zion Williamson will be the first pick. He’s -2000 on 888Sport.com, and frankly he could be even higher and we wouldn’t bat an eye. Only injury or major scandal is keeping Williamson from being the top pick, and that might not even be enough to deter a team from selecting him with the first pick. The combination of him being a generational talent and this year’s class not being all that deep is the perfect recipe. He’s the only option.
OK, you want a dark horse? If you really want to go against the grain look no further than Murray State point guard Ja Morant. The sophomore’s incredible rise from unranked college prospect to a potential top-3 pick has been remarkable. He’s got a little bit of John Wall and a lot of Russell Westbrook in his game, and he’s tearing it up to the tune of 23.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game.
He’s got the size at 6-foot-3 and can jump out of the gym. He’s also got a bit of a 3-point shooting issue (32.7 percent from deep) but makes up for it just about everywhere else. If a team really needs a point guard and has the gall to pass on Williamson, Morant is their guy. He’s got +650 odds to be the first pick.
The NBA changed the Lottery odds for the 2019 NBA Draft, as the bottom three teams will now have identical 14 percent chances at the top pick. It’s ironic that in an attempt to keep teams from actively tanking, there’s now a race to get to that bottom three in order to have a chance at Williamson.
The Cavaliers, Knicks and Suns currently have the three worst records, and they lead the way with +450 odds each to land the top pick. There’s no real strategy here because it’s dependent on the way the Lottery balls bounce, but if you’re looking for some current value the Bulls may offer it. They currently sit one game behind the Cavaliers for a coveted top-3 spot and have lost a franchise-worst 11 straight home games.
If they can find a way to “jump” Cleveland and get into the top-3, they’d have the same odds as the Knicks and Suns to get the top pick, and they currently have +600 odds to obtain the first pick. That’s good value if you believe they can be two games worse than the Cavs the rest of the way.
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