We’re covering the NBA Draft here since it comes up later this week, but we have to get congratulations to LeBron James out of the way.
The last two columns in this space advised against backing a Cavs comeback when down 2-0 and talked about the end of LeBron’s pursuit of Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time since he was about to go 2-5 in NBA Finals.
Golden State helped with its implosion, but giving credit where credit is due, James was great. He inspired teammates and dominated games at both ends. Ending Cleveland’s 52 year drought without a championship adds to his legacy and gets him halfway to M.J. As far as G.O.A.T is concerned, it keeps him in the fight.
On to the draft, where we’ll hope to atone for missing out on a huge payday taking a stab at the Cavs series price by dominating props (odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag).
Their first prop worth looking at pays +500 if Ben Simmons doesn’t go first and Brandon Ingram second, making it -900 chalk.
The 76ers will be keeping their pick and using it on Simmons, the Aussie who had a disappointing season at LSU due to bad coaching but still looked like the best prospect in this draft despite his team’s struggles.
The Lakers won’t pass on Ingram, a lanky high-scoring forward who fits in well with the team’s young nucleus and is generally considered a potential Kevin Durant-like talent. Simmons and Ingram will go 1-2, in that order.
Washington forward Marquese Chriss and Providence point guard Kris Dunn are the two names being most discussed at No. 3 for the Celtics, and are paired in a prop between who goes first, with both set at -120.
Teams love the 18-year-old Chriss’ upside, while Dunn is ready to contribute immediately at both ends. The fact Boston has made no secret of the fact the pick is available makes the situation even murkier, but the lean here is to expect Chriss’ upside to win out. Concerns over Dunn’s shooting struggles may force him to slip.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, the reigning College Player of the Year, has had strong workouts and drew Steph Curry comparisons due to the dominant seasons both had, but concerns over his lack of size and the fact he’s an older prospect at 22 make him worth fading in an individual prop against Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, an elite shooter. The Canadian 19-year-old is -110 against Hield (-130) and is the pick here in this prop.
German 18-year-old Dragan Bender is likely to feed off Kristaps Porzingis’ success last season in landing in the lottery, but he’s paying +150 on a prop against Cal’s Jaylen Brown (-200) that isn’t worth biting on either.
Brown is just 19, but physically, he’s ready to contribute now and may go as high as 3rd to Boston. At 6 foot 7 inches, 225, Brown is a natural small forward who can’t miss as long as he continues working on his jump shot. The 7-foot-1 Bender has admirers, but all agree he’ll need plenty of seasoning. In this case, count on Brown going earlier as the top prop available.
Another pairing that might raise eyebrows has Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson (-260) teamed with North Carolina forward Brice Johnson, a consensus First-team All-American who enjoyed a much larger national profile as one of college basketball’s best rebounders. Despite netting +180 against Jackson, there are concerns that Johnson isn’t a true power forward and doesn’t have the versatility to step out and play at the three, which would allow defenses to leave him open and make him a liability. Jackson, a natural point guard with a bulldog-like tenacity, will certainly hear his name called first.
Finally, look for Gonzaga forward Domantas Sabonis to be picked inside the first 11 selections, winning a prop set at 11.5. Utah center Jakob Poeltl will likely go later than the 10.5 he’s been set at, while Syracuse wing Malachi Richardson has been working his way up draft boards and should complete his rise by going higher than the 17.5 he’s listed at.
View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com.