The deepest draft in years will certainly yield gems for the teams at the top and should deliver a few profitable opportunities for you to wet your beak on props.
Although shops will likely offer varying proposition wagers come Thursday, the numbers this column will work with were available online (BetOnline.ag) Monday afternoon.
Boston has already made major waves by trading the No. 1 pick away, preferring to cash in on Philadelphia’s devotion to guard Markelle Fultz as the player they want to pry from this class. The 76ers moved the No. 3 pick and a future first-round pick with “favorably protected rights” to the Celtics for the right to draft the Washington freshman.
GM Danny Ainge believes he’ll get a player that he possibly would’ve selected first at No. 3, so he’s going all-in on Fultz potentially not developing into the can’t-miss standout that most project he’ll be. Whether he selects Kansas wing Josh Jackson, North Carolina forward Jayson Tatum or even UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, this decision will always hang over his head.
Fultz is -5000 to hear his name first and will. It’s his job to make the decision look foolish, while Ainge will move forward with a player he likes third while adding another future lottery pick that can potentially sweeten the deal when packaged with all of his many other pieces to land Boston a long-coveted franchise player.
After the Lakers make their choice between Ball and Jackson -- and it would surprise me if it wasn’t the Chino Hills star, Ball -- the Celtics are likely to decide between Jackson, an Ainge-type player, and Tatum a skilled combo forward who would definitely give the Celtics a piece they currently lack.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough has called this a Top-3 draft in terms of talent since he entered the league in 2003, widely considered the best in this century since it included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, among others. That means there will be a piece he likes at No. 4, where Jackson, Tatum, Kentucky point guard DeAaron Fox and anyone else they may have grown enamored with will undoubtedly fall.
It would be surprising to see the Suns pull the trigger on Fox, but a team that likes the UK point guard would be wise to swing a deal because he won’t slip past the Kings at No. 5. That makes the draft props of Fox and Tatum interesting because both are being listed at 4.5. Currently, I’d have to ride with Tatum over Fox as the player who goes first.
Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, a 6-foot-11 pterodactyl of a combo forward whose raw skills merit a look, has said he’s only working out for the top four teams, which makes his prop (6.5) awfully intriguing. The Suns have reportedly met with him twice, but they drafted two versatile frontcourt pieces last year in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. Orlando could take the Seminoles standout, which would please many in the fan base who got a good look at him all year.
Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen (7.5), Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk (8), N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (8.5) and French League standout Frank Ntilikina (9.5) are among players listed among the Top 10, and I recommend taking the under on Monk, an elite scorer who could go as high as No. 6 to Orlando but shouldn’t get past the Knicks at 8, which gets you a push.
It will be interesting to see whether Markkanen, a native of Finland, or the Belgian-born Ntilikina will be the first European-born player selected, so there’s no great feel there at the moment. Duke’s Luke Kennard (12.5) is the draft’s top shooter at a time when that skill is in higher demand than ever before, but there is enough depth that he could potentially fall out of the lottery.
Duke forward Harry Giles (15.5), at one point the No. 1 prep prospect in this class before injuries derailed him, could also be a lottery selection despite having a limited impact with the Blue Devils due to a knee injury that may scare teams off. Still, he’s a marvelous athlete who plays with great energy when healthy and looms as a risk-reward play that should land him in the top-half of the first round.
As things stand, this first round should feature the most freshmen ever, shattering the mark of 13. Since everyone understands this, the number being placed at 16.5 seems a little high. The number of internationals selected has been set at 4.5. With clarification as to who is considered what since there are a few gray areas, take the over on that.
Among colleges, Duke (3.5), Kentucky (2.5), UCLA (2.5) and UNC (1.5) each have props up on the number of first-rounders they’ll produce. While Tatum, Kennard and Giles are locks, it’s unlikely that freshman guard Frank Jackson will sneak in the Top 30.
Riding rival North Carolina looks like the lock of the prop game, since you can expect both freshman center Tony Bradley and small forward Justin Jackson to represent the defending champs among the top 30 picks.
Meanwhile, the OVER for the ‘Cats, and Bruins look strong since I expect Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo to be selected, joining Fox and Monk as draftees. Forwards Ike Anigbobu and TJ Leaf should join Ball and rep UCLA.