The 2022 NBA Draft begins on Thursday night as the college basketball's top prospects await their turn to become a central piece of an NBA franchise.
This year's draft features plenty of questions regarding the top picks. Will the Orlando Magic pick Auburn sharpshooter Jabari Smith with the No. 1 pick or go with Duke star Paolo Banchero or Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren? Will the Sacramento Kings decide to trade the No. 4 pick? Is there a prospect outside of the top four who could rise on draft night?
Our experts have you covered with all of the answers to help you make the best wagering decisions for this year's draft.
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
Jabari Smith is the odds-on favorite to be selected No. 1 overall. Is Smith a safe bet to go to the Orlando Magic or is another prospect like Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero a better pick?
Doug Kezirian, ESPN Betting Analyst: This is a hard pass for me. While I personally would draft Smith, there is enough buzz surrounding Holmgren and Banchero. Draft betting is pretty wild, so I always prefer to avoid laying juice unless I feel extremely confident. Smith should be the guy, but there's no need to force this wager. Banchero's odds steamed from 14-1 to +175 in a matter of days so the value is all gone. There's too much noise right now.
Eric Moody, ESPN Betting Analyst: Instead of going with Smith, I would recommend going with Banchero at +175. He is the best available player, according to NBA Draft analysts. Banchero averaged 17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 3.2 APG in 39 games for Duke. He scored the most points of all true freshmen, ranked sixth in rebounding, and ranked fifth in field goal percentage. The Magic were 29th in PPG (104.8) last season and could use a scorer. With his unique blend of size and agility, Banchero can score at any level.
Andre Snellings, ESPN Senior NBA Writer: All the reporting suggests that Smith to the Magic is so widely expected that it would be a major upset for anyone else to be the pick. But, according to ESPN's NBA Draft Projections, Holmgren and Banchero are tied as the best prospects in the draft, with Smith third. The latter will be a point of discussion on draft night, through their rookie seasons and likely over the course of their career. These three players will always be compared to each other, but for the sake of draft betting, Smith seems like the safest to go to the Magic.
What play offers the best value in this NBA Draft?
Erin Dolan, ESPN Betting Analyst: Keegan Murray over 5.5 (+210). The top three picks (Smith, Holmgren, and Banchero) are seemingly set, despite arguments about the order. That leaves the Sacramento Kings at No. 4 and Detroit Pistons at No. 5. Since the Kings reportedly have considered trading their pick, I think Murray will go over 5.5. He doesn't fit the typical profile of an athlete that goes in the top five. He'll be 22 years old next month and the top five picks in the NBA Draft the past two years have all been freshman. Secondly, he scored most of his points at Iowa in the low post and at 6-foot-8 he isn't tall enough to score there against the top defensive players in the NBA. He averaged 24 PPG and nine RPG during his sophomore season, which is impressive, but it would not surprise me if he is drafted after the No. 5 pick.
Tyler Fulghum, ESPN Betting Analyst: E.J. Liddell over 21.5. Liddell was a great player for Ohio State, but at almost 22 years of age, he's one of the older prospects in this class. He doesn't offer elite length or athleticism either. Expect a team to target him near the end of the 1st round or top of the 2nd round.
Kezirian: Bennedict Mathurin under 6.5. I honestly feel this prop will close at 5.5. Mathurin has serious buzz to go fifth and I have heard on two podcasts he's not falling past sixth. His odds to be the fifth pick have crashed from 20-1 to +240 over the past week. His prop of 6.5 only saw the juice shift. This is a very strong play.
Moody: Jalen Duren under 10.5. Duren is a post-centric player and one of the youngest prospects in this class. He averaged an impressive 12.0 PPG and 8.1 RPG as a freshman with Memphis. Duren recently worked out for the Portland Trail Blazers, who hold the No. 7 pick, but I'd like to see him go to the San Antonio Spurs. They don't have an immediate need for a center, but the quality of the big men available as well as the uncertainty surrounding Jakob Poeltl's contract could lead to them to draft one this year. In a few years, Duren might become quite the force if he can develop and maximize his fundamentals. San Antonio would be a great landing spot for him in a program that nurtures players. Duren's chances of being drafted early are excellent either way.
Snellings: Shaedon Sharpe under 7.5 (+160). Sharpe had a series of outstanding private workouts that skyrocketed him up draft boards. He was the No. 1-ranked player in his high school class and is one of the youngest top prospects in the draft with incredible physical tools, explosiveness and shooting ability.
What are you looking for when betting on the NBA Draft? Are there any other prospects beyond the top four (Smith, Chet, Paolo, Ivey) that intrigue you for the top 10?
Kezirian: In all drafts, the top of the first round is easier to predict than the bottom. Value sometimes does exist with over/under totals of draft position, but the odds have all shifted dramatically by now. So the best approach is to attack it early and then continue to consume information.
Moody: Drafting for fit is not recommended by most draft analysts. As a result, you should take the best prospect available, since you never know how your roster will look in the years to come. While this is true for the top of the draft, finding the perfect fit for your team in the mid-to-late first round can improve a team's probability of success. Dyson Daniels, who signed with the G League Elite last summer, intrigues me. The 19-year-old guard offers immediate and near-term value on both offense and defense and the Atlanta Hawks could be a perfect landing spot for him. The Hawks don't tend to score a lot of points when Trae Young is off the court. Last season, Atlanta scored 119.3 points per 100 possessions played with Young, compared to 109.4 points without him. The addition of Daniels could help fill that void.
Snellings: I look for informed momentum, fit and a combination of upside and risk/reward vs. each team's situation. While I believe teams should draft for talent near the top of the draft, if the talent is similar, then fit, upside and risk/reward factor into play. I'd expect a team like the Rockets, for example, to swing for the fences on upside because that's where their team is. It would make no sense for them to lean into the most NBA-ready player at the expense of upside, because they aren't ready to win anyway. As for 'informed momentum', when it comes to a situation like the three players and teams at the top of this Draft, I think the preponderance of reporting around the expectations of who a team likes plays a significant part in prognosticating where they are.
Sharpe is the prospect that catches my eye the most because he has the highest ceiling. His successful string of workouts indicates that his upside is realistically attainable.
Fulghum: Sharpe has an athletic build, standing 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan, massive hands and a reported 49-inch vertical leap. He was widely regarded as the best prospect in the 2023 class before reclassifying to the 2022 class. He didn't play a single game at Kentucky last season, but NBA GMs and scouts shouldn't hold that against him. He's just 19 years old, and his physical traits are reminiscent of Ja Morant. Sharpe has the fifth-shortest odds to be the No. 1 pick, so the market is indicating what teams think of his potential. After dealing CJ McCollum to New Orleans, the Trail Blazers would be wise not to let Sharpe slip past them at No. 7.
Do you expect any surprises in this draft? Prospects who could go higher than their projected draft position on Caesars?
Kezirian: There will always be surprises. The question is where -- and I actually think we could see one with the second overall pick. Sam Presti is not afraid to take risks, and I would not be shocked if he drafted Jaden Ivey with the No. 2 pick. Ideally he would trade down and still draft Ivey but sometimes there is no one willing to trade up. Presti once reached for Russell Westbrook, who had a very similar draft profile to Ivey. The Purdue guard is 20-1 to go second.
Moody: One name that immediately comes to mind is Ousmane Dieng. The 19-year-old just finished his first season with the NBL's New Zealand Breakers. At 6-foot-10, 200 pounds and with an over 7-foot wingspan, Dieng offers a lot of upside as a forward in the NBA despite his underwhelming averages. He could possibly emerge as a top-12 pick on Thursday night.