The NBA has confirmed that the next generation of superstars will be selected later this year. NBA draft odds reveal that the class of 2021 isn't considered to be at the same level as the past few years. However, changes to NBA lottery odds have made the draft more unpredictable than ever.
The odds for the 2021 NBA Draft are currently unavailable, in particular, the odds for the first player to be picked. The odds are subject to change and were last updated on January 28, 2021:
No other sport features an entry draft that’s as high-profile and impactful as the NBA. A couple of good draft years can solidify the future of a franchise for decades. The Lakers drafting Kobe and Magic is a prime example. Wasted draft picks can set teams back by multiple years – just ask the New York Knicks.
Lottery picks are considered to be valuable enough to sacrifice multiple seasons in the hunt to select top young talent. The 76ers rebuilt through “The Process”, which involved tanking multiple seasons in a row so badly that they were all but guaranteed multiple picks within the top five. They’re now stocked as one of the most talented teams in the eastern conference.
Technically, the first entry draft took place all the way back in 1947, when the league was called the Basketball Association of America. However, the invention of the lottery draft was in 1985, which now forms the heart of the modern NBA draft. The lottery is intended to promote improved long term competition in the association by giving losing teams the first shot at young talent about to enter the league.
No doubt inspired by the ratings generated by LeBron’s decision, the NBA has turned the lottery into a full-blown television event, complete with its own quirky customs and traditions. Some general managers and league execs even have a pair of lucky socks or a ritual that’s intended to raise the odds as much as possible when the lottery balls begin to fall into place.
NBA First Overall Pick Odds back in 2020
The 2020 NBA draft will take place on October 15th, 2020, while the draft lottery has been postponed to August 25th, 2020. At the moment, it appears that the final standings are yet to be etched in stone, despite the long break due to COVID-19.
The plan calls for 22 teams competing in what’s referred to as “seeding” games to complete the regular season. A total of eight games will be played, with the ability for teams to sneak into playoff spots or rise a few places in the standings for a favourable path to the NBA Finals. As such, a few of the teams still playing will have a slim chance of moving up in the draft because they didn’t make the playoffs.
This will also be one of the stranger drafts because of the talent on the board. Some of the top projected picks decided to skip the NCAA and play in pro leagues around the world. LaMelo Ball joined the Australian league, which has specifically set up a path for younger players to learn the pro game in the land down under instead of playing in the NCAA without a paycheck at all.
In 2020, NBA draft betting odds will depend on the team that wins the lottery. There’s no slam dunk number one like Zion Williamson or Anthony Davis and the class of 2020 will not resemble the class of 1984. Different teams have different holes to plug in their lineup, and the projected top two will be selected first overall depending on the team that wins the draft lottery.
For now, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are considered the best prospects by far, especially with LaMelo Ball operating in the shadow of his father and brother. However, James Wiseman left the Memphis program in December, which leaves Anthony Edwards as a lukewarm favourite to go number one.
However, if a team like Golden State hits the jackpot, James Wiseman is the type of player that fits into the Warriors' needs. Wiseman is an athletic seven-foot baller who has shown the ability to plow through defences and would fit in where the Warriors previous seven-footer, Kevin Durant, played. Nonetheless, expect surprises for the draft of 2020.
NBA First Overall Trends
Despite the importance of getting the selection right, the first overall pick has a surprisingly long history of missing the mark. Considering the lack of a consensus for the 2020 draft, and the varying needs of lottery teams, there’s a good chance that the first overall pick will not be able to live up to expectations.
Typically, teams tend to lean towards drafting for size first, athleticism second, and prior success a distant third. Since the NBA is an extremely exclusive group of elite athletes, teams look for players with high-end physical skills to mould into great players. A look at the draft since the year 2000 shows that centers and power forwards are much more likely to be taken first, with guards rarely selected with the first pick.
In fact, since 1985, only three pure guards were taken first overall: Allen Iverson, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving. Centers have been among the biggest busts, while forwards, including small and power forwards, have been the most popular first overall pick.
NBA Draft Props
NBA draft prop bets can involve a wide range of different propositions, but the majority of props offered will fall within specific categories. As the draft lottery solidifies at the end of the regular season, expect sportsbooks to provide updated odds for NBA draft props in 2020.
Team-specific Props – Focuses on predicting which players will land with which teams. This is extremely unpredictable after the first few rounds. After the top players are taken, teams are much more likely to go off the beaten path when drafting their first-round pick.
Player-specific Props – Predicting various aspects of players being drafted into the NBA is one of the prop bets that can be placed. For example, a sportsbook may accept a prop that revolves around predicting the colour of the suit that the draftee will wear when their name is called.
College Conference Props – Props for college conference draft odds predict the college that will send the most players to the NBA in the draft. However, considering the trend of many players skipping college, this type of prop will be less important to bettors than before.
Draft Position Props – The first few picks of the draft tend to be the most hotly debated. Prop bets for the draft include picking the player that will be drafted in a specific position, especially with the first three picks.
NBA Draft Lottery Odds
There have been several changes to the NBA draft lottery that determines the picking order during selection night. Incredibly, the NBA used a coin flip between 1966 and 1984 to determine the first overall pick from the worst team of each conference. Since then, the system has become much more sophisticated.
Ironically, the weighted lottery system was put in place to avoid tanking after the Houston Rockets and a few other teams were accused of losing on purpose to take part in the coin flip for the first overall pick. An envelope system the first three picks of the draft until 1990, with envelopes drawn to determine the lottery winners. The 1985 draft was controversial due to accusations of the NBA rigging the results so the Knicks could draft Patrick Ewing.
For the 1990 draft, instead of envelopes, the draft was weighted so that the worst team in the association would receive a one in six chance to win the first pick using lottery balls, with the odds of getting the first pick diminishing as your record in the standings rose. However, teams still tanked and put together losing seasons on purpose to maximize the odds of winning a pick that could alter the history of the franchise.
After several embarrassing years where teams like 76ers and Hawks did not put together competitive teams, the NBA decided to make further changes to lottery odds. Sam Hinkie referred to losing as a process and Magic Johnson assured Luke Walton that thy Lakers would have a top-four pick after Luke’s first year of coaching in Los Angeles.
In response, the top three teams were given the same odds for the first overall pick starting in 2019, with the fourth-place team narrowing the probability gap greatly. The worst team could fall as low as fifth, which is supposed to disincentivize losing for a draft pick.
However, it’s unlikely that the new odds will change tanking behaviour.
Best Sportsbooks for NBA Draft Betting
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Taking the time to learn about the different promos and services offered by sportsbooks will uncover the one that’s best for you. Ultimately, the sportsbook that you choose to wager with should match your betting preferences. Our reviews give you an in-depth look into the best sportsbooks available online.