How to Bet the NBA Draft

Paolo Banchero #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the second half of the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

Now that the NBA Finals are over and the champion has been crowned, the attention shifts to the teams at the other end of the spectrum. The NBA Draft is the fastest way for a have not to become a have. The worst teams in the league will get first crack at selecting from the top college and international prospects entering the league. 

In addition to giving losing teams a chance to improve, the Draft gives you a chance to continue betting on the NBA. Here’s how you can pick who they’ll pick—the top ways to bet on the NBA Draft. 

How the NBA Draft Works

Like most pro leagues, the worst teams in the NBA get to pick first and the best teams last. Unlike the NFL, however, the NBA Draft order isn’t entirely based on records from the previous season. 

In an attempt to prevent the worst teams from tanking—losing games on purpose to improve their draft standing—the NBA installed a Draft Lottery. The worst teams are put into a pool, and a random drawing determines the top three picks in the draft. 

The worse a team was, the higher its odds of getting the top pick, but the lottery does add some uncertainty. The team with the worst record in the league has ended up with the top pick just four times in the last 10 drafts, and not since 2018. 

They’ve already held this year’s lottery, and the Orlando Magic, who had the second-worst record, leapfrogged the Houston Rockets (who had the worst record) to get the first pick. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who were fourth-worst, also leapfrogged the Rockets to get the second pick. 

Who are These Guys?

Back in the day, the NBA Draft focused almost exclusively on NCAA Basketball. The top players selected were among the best players from the recently completed college season and were household names to basketball fans. 

As basketball has become a global game, the focus of the draft has shifted. Now, many players drafted, including players taken near the top of the draft, will be players who have not appeared in a college game, instead playing in their home countries, overseas. 

The NBA also puts a high value on potential—so young players who could eventually be superstars will be much more highly valued than players with plenty of college experience, and fame, who are merely stars. 

A final pool of draft eligible players are former high school stars who bypassed college and spent a year in the NBA G League. Over the last few years, the G League has offered a prospects team to allow players to get a taste of the pros before entering the draft, while keeping players with no interest in college from being forced to spend a year on campus. 

In other words, trying to pick the top picks in the draft to beat the NBA odds will require some research, rather than just relying on name recognition. 

You might recognize Duke’s Paolo Banchero (expected to go in the top three) and even Gonzaga freshman Chet Holmgren (also expected to go near the top), but also getting the call early on draft night will be France’s Ousmane Dieng, the G League’s Dyson Daniels and Shaedon Sharpe, who didn’t play for Kentucky this past season but will enter the draft after sitting out the year. 

Betting Options

Among the markets you can bet surrounding the NBA Draft are wagers on who will be the top pick. After he is off the board, however, you can bet on the draft position for various players (over or under pick 5.5, for example). 

You can also place prop bets in a variety of categories. Some examples are: Who will be the first center drafted, when will the first point guard be taken, and how many Duke players will go in the first round (a total of five Blue Devils left early to enter the Draft). You can also bet on who various picks will thank first when interviewed.