Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. Betting Favorite to Go No. 1 in NBA Draft 

It’s been some time since we’ve experienced an NBA Draft like the one we’re preparing for Thursday night. 

Over the past several weeks, the odds have continued to shift on who the Orlando Magic will select with the first overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. It’s the fourth time Orlando has landed the No. 1 pick, and if history is any guide, they’ll have an all-time player on their hands after Thursday night. 

In 1992, the Magic selected LSU center Shaquille O’Neal first overall, then took Chris Webber out of Michigan the following year before trading with Golden State to acquire Penny Hardaway out of Memphis. In 2004, Orlando landed high school center Dwight Howard, who eventually led the Magic to an NBA Finals appearance. 

Orlando will have its pick of the litter Thursday, as they’ll choose between Jabari Smith Jr. of Auburn, Paolo Banchero of Duke, and Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga. 

The odds have been swinging drastically over the past several days, but at the moment, Smith is the favorite to go No. 1 overall. Check out the odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

Early this morning, Smith moved to the betting favorite to go No. 1, now sitting at -480 favorite to be selected by Orlando, with Holmgren -550 to go No. 2 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Banchero -380 to the Houston Rockets at No. 3. 

ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski backed up the odds early Thursday morning, saying that the top three selections are “increasingly firm.” 

 

The SEC Freshman of the Year is a cant-miss prospect, a 6-10 forward who can really shoot. In his lone year at Auburn, Smith shot 42% from beyond the three-point line and 42.9% overall. Smith averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game on a Tigers team that quite frankly should have fed him more. 

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl called him one of the best shooters he’s ever coached. 

“What makes him [Smith] No. 1? For his size, he’s the best jump shooter I’ve seen in college in over 20 years,” Pearl told Yahoo Sports. “He’s about as ready, as far as a one-and-done, than I’ve ever seen and he is going to make Orlando win.”

Smith’s addition next to Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, and Cole Anthony immediately make Orlando an NBA League Pass favorite. 

Holmgren probably has the highest upside of any player in the draft, but he’s also the great unknown. The 7-footer weighs just 195 pounds and will need to put on muscle in order to handle the banging that is to come at the NBA level. But Holmgren has all the skills. 

In his one year at Gonzaga, Holmgren was the perfect example of the new type of big man at the NBA level. He’s an elite shot-blocker, averaging 3.7 blocks per game at Gonzaga. He can handle the basketball and has a smooth jumper. Holmgren shot 39% from the three-point line at Gonzaga, averaging 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 3.7 blocks per game as a freshman. His addition next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be fun in OKC. 

For Banchero, his draft odds have been swinging wildly, with the Blue Devil rising to the betting favorite to go No. 1 early Thursday morning. 

Banchero led Duke to a Final Four appearance, and at 6-10, can handle the ball and finish down low. He’s not an elite shooter, shooting 33.8% from three in his lone season at Duke, but he shot 47.8% from the field. 

In his freshman year at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. 

Things will get very interesting starting with the Sacramento Kings at No. 4, where a bevy of players could land. 

FanDuel currently has Jaden Ivy out of Purdue and Keegan Murray from Iowa as the betting favorites to the Kings at No. 4.

Written by Joe Morgan

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