NBA draft betting: sharp gamblers deal sportsbooks loss on top pick

Paolo Banchero, right, is congratulated by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as ...

The 24 hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft saw some wild swings in the betting odds on which player would be the top overall pick.

For weeks, Auburn’s Jabari Smith had been the clear favorite to go No. 1 to the Orlando Magic. That changed Wednesday night, when sharp money on Duke’s Paolo Banchero, who was 20-1 last week, made him the -200 favorite.

Nevada sportsbooks are required by the state’s Gaming Control Board to stop taking bets on the NFL and NBA drafts 24 hours before they begin. But at other books across the country, the odds swung back and forth Thursday between Banchero and Smith as the favorite.

Books took the odds on the No. 1 pick off the board Thursday morning after ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the first three picks were looking “increasingly firm” with Smith going No. 1, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren No. 2 and Banchero No. 3.

FanDuel sportsbook reopened Smith as a massive -10,000 favorite to go No. 1 and Banchero at 9-1 before the odds quickly moved to -700/+350.

When Wojnarowski tweeted Thursday afternoon that Banchero was still in the mix to go No. 1, Smith dropped from -750 to -250 at DraftKings sportsbook and Banchero moved from +450 to +150.

Minutes before the first pick was made, Banchero was again the consensus odds-on -200 favorite. The sharp bettors were on the money as the Magic took Banchero with the top pick and dealt books a loss on the information-driven event.

Las Vegas books also lost on April’s NFL draft for the sixth consecutive year.

“Bad outcome for us. Drafts are not my favorite events,” Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said. “We took some sharp action on Banchero at 16-1 in Nevada. The 24-hour rule helped us in Nevada but we also lost on him in Colorado and New Jersey.

“We closed it -220 this morning in the other states shortly after the Woj tweet but there was action all (Wednesday) night. Mobile app goes 24-7.”

Holmgren went No. 2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Smith went No. 3 to the Houston Rockets.

Caesars Sportsbook also lost on the draft.

“The money is always spot on with the draft markets,” Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said. “Nevada has it spot on closing these kind of markets 24 hours ahead.

“We avoided the news in Nevada. The rest of the country we saw very, very, very warm money for Banchero late (Wednesday) night. We were a small loser but it’s always tough to do well on those markets.”

Not every book lost on the draft. MGM Resorts director of trading Lamarr Mitchell said Nevada’s 24-hour rule helped MGM emerge a winner.

“It was a good decision for us with Banchero closing as the favorite at -200,” he said.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.