The 2017-18 NBA season is officially in the books. Most of the playoffs were tightly contested and entertaining, but they ended with the Golden State Warriors sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Those teams have now met in four straight Finals series and Golden State has won three of those series.
There is hope that this offseason will bring more excitement to the league, though. The offseason’s first big event is the annual NBA Draft that will take place on Thursday, June 21 (7pm ET on ESPN).
BetOnline has released odds, in its ‘futures’ section, on which player will be selected first this year. The answer is not a totally obvious one, so it is worth discussing here. The Phoenix Suns currently own the first pick and will make the selection, barring a trade.
Let’s evaluate the four different betting options available to you. Then, for the overall draft pick predictions, this preview will advise which betting odds are smartest to take and which are not as safe.
Betting Options for the NBA No. 1 Draft Pick
DeAndre Ayton, Arizona Center (-700 at BetOnline)
Ayton is easily the most likely player to go to the Suns at No. 1. The former Arizona product would be staying in state by joining Phoenix and center is also a relative position of weakness for the Suns. They have two very solid guard and wing prospects in Devin Booker and Josh Jackson, but they don’t have a foundational big man who can lead the team’s efforts near the basket on both ends of the floor.
The 7’1” Ayton is a long, explosive big man who dominates the glass and finishes very well underneath the basket. He also has a decent jump shot that could extend to NBA three-point range. While he does shuffle his feet decently against guards on switches, his defensive awareness needs a lot of work. With the way the NBA is trending towards versatile defenders, this could be a major issue.
Right now, we are looking at a guy with tantalizing physical tools who needs some work on his basketball IQ on both ends of the floor.
Luka Doncic, Real Madrid Guard/Forward (+300 at BetOnline)
The drafting of Doncic by the Suns would signal that the team is all-in on positionless basketball. Doncic would join Devin Booker and Josh Jackson to create a trio of 6’7” to 6’8” guys who can all handle the ball, shoot and make plays for themselves and others. It wouldn’t matter who was playing which position, as their responsibilities would shift depending on the matchup.
Phoenix also tabbed Igor Kokoskov as its new head coach last month. Kokoskov coached Doncic at EuroBasket 2017 in leading the Slovenian team to a gold medal. The two have proven to mesh well, definitely.
The knock on Doncic is the fact that he is just an average athlete in terms of running and jumping. He has fantastic skill and instincts with and without the ball, but the physical limitations could hurt his defensive upside and potential as a No. 1 source of offense in the NBA.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State Forward/Center (+4000 at BetOnline)
Jackson is the main dark horse for the No. 1 pick in this draft class. Despite being the youngest player in the draft at just 18 years and fewer than nine months old, he is already an extremely polished defender with an explosive 6’11” frame. He can protect the rim and individually guard players of a variety of sizes and skill levels.
The former Spartan also has a nice jump shot, though his overall offensive skill set needs plenty of work. Any team taking on Jackson should be getting immediate defensive impact, but he may struggle with foul trouble and offensive production right off the bat.
The Field (+1600 at BetOnline)
There are probably about three players here with a somewhat reasonable shot at going No. 1: Duke forward Marvin Bagley, Texas center Mohamed Bamba and Oklahoma guard Trae Young.
Bagley is a lefty and even more athletic than Jackson, but his lack of strength and fundamentals do hurt him on defense. He is a very high-upside pick with great scoring ability around the basket.
Bamba and Young both have at least one elite skill but aren’t super well-rounded. Bamba’s wingspan is a freakish 7’10” and he is a dominant rim protector, but he is raw offensively. Young is an amazing shooter, but he has a slight 6’2” frame and is not a good defender.
None of these guys seem very likely to be the top pick at all. Bagley and his combination of athleticism, rebounding and scoring prowess is the most likely underdog candidate to go No. 1.
Overall Draft Picks Final Recommendations & Predictions
The first piece of advice I have is to avoid placing a bet on Ayton with these odds. Sure, he is definitely the United States’ betting sites’ favorite to go No. 1, but a moneyline of -700 is very risky to bet on for a guy who isn’t an absolute lock.
In the week or two remaining until the draft, scouts will be picking apart Ayton’s deficiencies on defense. We have seen in the past couple of years how big men with issues on defense have sometimes been rendered unplayable against good teams because of how opposing offenses target them. Don’t be surprised if Ayton’s lack of defensive instincts eventually scare away the Suns, who have had a bottom-three defense for the past two seasons.
Jackson, meanwhile, is a big man with no questions about his defense. He doesn’t quite fit the franchise center mold because he is not quite skilled enough on offense, but Phoenix may elect to go with the more versatile, defense-oriented player given the way the NBA is heading.
The second-best choice would probably be Doncic, who has ties to the Suns through Coach Kokoskov. He is also a more versatile option than Ayton, which could lead the Suns to change their minds in the next week or two. He and Ayton were also considered equally likely to go No. 1 until recently, so don’t be surprised if the Suns’ preferences tilt back that way in the next several days.
- However for the overall No.1 draft pick betting prediction, consider Jackson the best bet here, taking into account his very long odds @ +4000 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.