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With North American sports still suspended, and the 2020 NFL Draft now in the books, the betting world’s attention has shifted to the NBA Draft. The NBA season has not yet been completed or canceled, but PointsBet already has first overall pick odds up for bettors to engage with. There are five players expected to vie for first overall status, so we will touch on each to determine which player represents the top value on the board. Let’s dig in.
Number 1 Draft Pick odds via PointsBet
James Wiseman (C – Memphis) +180
James Wiseman is a magnificent big man who any team picking at the top of the draft will be interested in. He has not shown that he can hit the three with any regularity, something that the potential absence of an NBA Draft Combine may prevent him from displaying. Even without the presence of anything beyond a mid-range game, Wiseman is a tremendous prospect. He looks as ‘can’t miss’ as a prospect has looked in the last few years, and should quickly become one of the premier big men in the NBA. An excellent rebounder who runs the floor extremely well, Wiseman will be a seamless fit in almost any offense. Wiseman is an excellent value at +200.
LaMelo Ball (PG – Illawarra Hawks) +300
The younger brother of New Orleans Pelicans point guard, and former number two overall pick Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball is a better prospect than his brother was. Widely regarded as the most talented of the Ball brothers, LaMelo is a 6’7 point guard who still appears to be growing. He is an excellent shooter who is also a creative finisher in the paint. He has all the tools to be a future all-star and will be a strong consideration at first overall. If the team that wins the NBA Draft lottery has a need for a point guard, Ball will be a lock to go first overall. If they need a shooting guard or small forward, Ball may still be considered due to his size and his scoring ability. Ball is an excellent value at +325.
Anthony Edwards (SG – Georgia) +100
The current favorite to be the number one overall pick, Anthony Edwards had a terrific freshman season. It was so good that he was able to pass the maligned James Wiseman to become the betting favorite to be the first player picked in the 2020 NBA Draft. However, while he has displayed some college three-point range, he is far from a good shooter. As such, Edwards was overly reliant on beating men with his athleticism while at Georgia, a facet of his game that may not translate as well in the pros. He is still a lock for the top five, but his prospects of going first overall are entirely team dependent.
Deni Avdija (SF/SG – Maccabi Tel Aviv) +525
A 6’8 wing from Israel, Deni Avdija has a legitimate shot to go first overall. For proof of this, we need to look no further than his flashes on tape, and the Warriors visits to scout him. He played sparingly in the Euroleague, but it was his performance at the 2019 U-20 FIBA Championship that really got scouts excited enough to get their general managers to take a trip overseas. Avdija is an excellent passer, but still has enough work to do in developing a consistent shot that he should not be a serious consideration to go first overall for most teams. However, it just takes one team, and there are expected to be teams in the lottery who will view Avdija as an option at the top of the draft.
Obi Toppin (PF – Dayton) +600
Obi Toppin is a 6’9 power forward who makes up for his lack of size with a 7’2 wingspan. He burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore and is now regarded as a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He was not even highly regarded enough to earn an invite to the 2019 NBA Draft Combine, but would now be able to skip the event (if it is held), and still be a top-five selection. An exciting blend of explosion and athleticism, Toppin has enough length and defensive acumen to play some small-ball five. He is the dark horse to be selected first overall but has a better chance than the odds may suggest.
Whether or not a particular prospect goes first overall in this class is ultimately going to come down to which team wins the NBA’s Draft Lottery. Positional needs based on current roster construction will play a correlative role, as teams who have identified core players at a certain position may be more likely to fade a prospect for other players who fit the roster. Obi Toppin is the best odds value at +600, but the true value appears to be James Wiseman at +180. Anthony Edwards passed him up as the favorite to be the first overall pick at some point in the college season, but if Wiseman had the chance to play the whole NCAA season, we would be talking about a consensus number one overall pick.
The Golden State Warriors have the worst record in the NBA, and as such are currently the favorites to land the number one pick. If Golden State were to win the lottery, Anthony Edwards would likely fall from the favorite to the player with the third-best odds to go first, with both James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball potentially passing him. Wiseman’s current odds of +180 imply a 33.3 percent chance that he is drafted first overall, this number is likely closer to 35 or 40 percent. James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, and even Obi Toppin would all be much better fits for a team like Golden State. Wiseman should re-emerge as the favorite to go first overall if the NBA deems it safe to hold the NBA Draft combine. Failing that, he should rise in the lead up to the actual 2020 NBA Draft. Lock Wiseman in as a two-unit play before PointsBet adjusts their odds.
The pick: James Wiseman +180