Oddsmakers fall victim to the smokescreen with choice number 1

As sports betting becomes legal in more and more places across the country, more and more markets are available to bettors. In recent years, draft betting for leagues such as the NBA and NFL has become increasingly popular. It’s already an exciting time with a new group of youngsters joining the league, but it gets even more exciting if you’ve got a few dollars up for grabs, predicting how things will evolve.

Betting on drafts is fascinating. In theory, there are people out there who know exactly what is going to happen. It is one of the few markets where you can have secure information and profit from it. You’ll never know exactly how a game will turn out, but if your neighbor is Orlando Magic’s General Manager, you may very well know who they’ll splash with their first pick.

Rumors on the internet and leaks from reliable sources can cause a wild movement that sends the market into a frenzy. This is exactly what happened this week with the first pick of the NBA draft.

Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero

Jabari Smith opened as a betting favorite to be the first pick of the NBA draft. The Auburn forward was a unique SEC freshman of the year, winner of the year, despite being an All American second-team and All-SEC first-team champion. Smith opened as a favorite with -105 odds to be the first player to enlist and kept the role of choice throughout most of the pre-draft process.

Behind Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren were the only other two names considered for the first pick. Holmgren opened at +145 for being the first pick, while Banchero was at +350 for being first off the board when the odds were initially released.

Throughout the end of May and the beginning of June, Banchero became an ever bigger target to finish first overall. Last week at this time, Banchero was 23 to 1 for being the top pick in some places in the industry. Here’s how Banchero’s shares moved over the past week:

Despite the shared opinion that Jabari Smith would finish first overall, Banchero’s odds continued to move lower and lower. In fact, Banchero even became the betting favorite to finish first overall at some point at the end of Wednesday. It sure seemed that some people knew something that was not widely reported. Strong money and steam were definitely favoring Banchero over Smith.

One tweet caused more chaos

As mentioned above, the most fascinating part of drafting betting is that there are people out there who know the information. Reports, rumors and leaks could put the odds in a precarious position.

One person who may be more involved in the NBA than anyone else on this planet is Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s Senior NBA insider. He constantly declares NBA news, signings and trading. When Woj tweets something, it’s pretty safe to take it as a fact. Early Thursday morning, Wojnarowski tweeted this:

With one of the NBA’s most respected insiders reporting that the overall first pick was “getting firmer,” the odds understandably took the odds off the scoreboard. Late in the afternoon, the oddsmakers reopened the market with Smith as the -800 favorite to be the first player off the board. At those odds, they were calling for action on Banchero, who reopened as a +300 loser to be drafted first.

About half an hour into the draft, Wojnarowski told the ESPN draft broadcast that Banchero was back in the game for the first pick, and had emerged as a “significant possibility” of being the Magic Pick. The betting market reacted again, with Banchero and Smith closing with nearly identical odds before the market was taken off the board at the start of the draft.

The Magic ended up making Paolo Banchero out of Duke the first overall choice. One of the most respected people in sports was wrong and the betting market was right. Wojnarowski was obviously the victim of misinformation and may have fallen victim to a smokescreen. Oddsmakers decided to put their faith in the NBA elite insider and they paid the price.

Paolo Banchero was the first pick of the NBA draft, to the delight of bettors. (Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

It will be interesting to see what this means for our ability to bet on draft in the future. In the latest NFL draft, the betting market was the first to see Travon Walker as a real chance to finish first overall. While NFL speakers talked about Aidan Hutchinson, bettors were throwing serious money at Walker. Now, NBA insiders have reported that Smith would be the first to come off the scoreboard, but bettors were riding with Banchero.

In both scenarios, the bettors ended up being fair. Will this change the way bookmakers are willing to offer proofs of props in the years to come? It seems like it could cause them huge responsibilities and it must be tedious to adjust the odds after each minor relationship. All we know at this point, if you want to know who gets drafted ahead of time, check out what the betting market thinks.

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