The 2017 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday, June 22 and, although we won’t know which team will own the first selection until the NBA Draft Lottery on May 16, many analysts have stated this is one of the deepest and talented drafts in many years. Normally it’s a bad thing when there’s no consensus number one overall pick, but this year that’s a positive. There are several potential franchise-caliber players; particularly at the point guard position.
Last year at this time it was a foregone conclusion that Ben Simmons would be the top pick, with the former LSU forward listed at -450 to be the first overall selection. This season there has been far more debate, although two freshman point guards have received most of the attention: Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.
Fultz is an excellent athlete with three-point range and the versatility to play both guard positions. This season he’s averaging 23.2 points/game, 6.0 rebounds/game and 6.0 assists/game while shooting 47.9% from the field and 42.1% from downtown. The biggest knock on Fultz is that, much like Ben Simmons last year, his team has struggled this season. Washington has a losing record (9-14) and will likely miss the NCAA Tournament.
Ball is a true point guard with ideal size (6’6″) for the position. He’s an unselfish player with an excellent handle, elite passing ability, fantastic instincts, and tremendous poise for somebody so young. He’s an explosive leaper, but Ball has an unorthodox jump shot which may scare some general managers. Despite that ugly form, Ball has been the height of efficiency, shooting 54.1% from the floor and 43.0% from deep on the season. Ball has also averaged 15.1 points/game, 5.8 rebounds/game, and 7.8 assists/game — which ranks second in the nation.
On Tuesday, January 24th, the offshore sportsbook BetOnline posted odds on the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft and Fultz (-120) was given a slight edge over Ball (+200). Roughly one week later they updated their odds, with Fultz listed as the -200 favorite. The table below tracks the latest odds and will be updated throughout the season.
|Player||School||BetOnline (2/7)||BetOnline (1/30)||BetOnline (1/24)|
|Dennis Smith||NC State||+1200||+900||+700|
Personally, I think there may be some value on NC State’s Dennis Smith. The freshman point guard is arguably the best athlete in the draft, and he seems slightly undervalued at +1200. Although he’s not an elite shooter and he looks disengaged at times, his talent is undeniable. At times he has proven to be unstoppable, like during NC State’s wins over Virginia Tech (27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 5 steals) and Duke (32 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists) and Syracuse (13 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists). If Smith becomes more assertive offensively, the comparisons to Derrick Rose seem inevitable.
It’s also worth noting that Ball and Fultz squared off on Saturday, with UCLA routing Washington 107-66. Both players were impressive, but Ball (22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) clearly had the better performance. Despite this one-sided matchup, Ball’s odds of being selected with the number one pick have actually dropped from +300 to +325 in the last week.
While we wait for this story to develop, make sure to track the latest odds and public betting trends on our free NBA odds page. Interested in following our winning picks? Sign up for a 4-day trial of our Pro subscription for just $49!
What do you think? Will Fultz be the first pick of the draft? Are oddsmakers overlooking potential sleepers like Malik Monk or Harry Giles? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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