2021 NBA Draft Odds & Betting Guide

While the NBA continues play returning from a several-month layoff from activity due to the coronavirus, some sports bettors are trying to gain a head start on the NBA draft, which is sneaking up on sports fans quickly. Drafts are a great night for young athletes, their families, the leagues and fans being introduced to the game’s next stars. For the purpose of this article, it’s a fun night to be a sports bettor.

The 2020 version will probably look a whole lot different from any NBA draft we’ve ever seen. In the spring, we saw the NFL go to a virtual setting with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing several picks live from the basement of his house with live shots to the athletes and their families celebrating the once-in-a-lifetime moment. The original idea was met with scrutiny, but the NFL pulled it off flawlessly. The NBA is likely to follow suit as COVID-19 lingers across the country.

If you decide to bet on the NBA draft, you have plenty of options to choose from surrounding the event, including the first overall pick, which team will select a certain player and many more opportunities for sports bettors. Draft night is fun for casual fans and bettors and draws an audience that includes NBA and college basketball fans and experts.

In this post, you will learn everything you need to know before you decide where to place your bets on NBA draft night. The event could provide a solid return and give you a head start on the NBA gambling season.

Best apps for betting on the NBA draft

Sports bettors in select states may choose to bet on the NBA draft using sportsbook apps to place their wagers. Here are some of the top options to choose from when it comes to basketball draft betting.

DraftKings

One of the leaders of the daily fantasy sports industry has emerged as one of the main places to go for legal mobile sports betting in the United States.

DraftKings offered plenty of NBA draft betting options for 2019 that may return in 2020:

  • Over/under draft picks by college conference.
  • Second overall pick.
  • Over/under freshmen in the top 10.

FanDuel

Like DraftKings, FanDuel became known for its DFS options and entered into sports betting as well. For the 2019 NBA draft, FanDuel offered plenty of gambling options, including the following:

  • Player draft position.
  • Number of players drafted in the top 10 by college team.
  • First overall pick.

BetMGM

MGM is among the leaders in sports betting and is looking to separate itself with its high-quality BetMGM app that will feature similar NBA betting options to the other sportsbooks mentioned.

In which states can I bet on the NBA draft?

As legal sports betting continues to increase across the United States, the industry continues to boom. Sports betting legalization has been up to individual states for more than two years.

In that time, several states have progressed forward with legalization, and full mobile betting is allowed in New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Indiana and Nevada.

Is the NBA draft still on?

Yes. The 2020 NBA draft has been rescheduled a few times from June 29 to Oct. 15, and now it is scheduled to take place Oct. 16, three days after the last possible game of the NBA Finals. It is unknown where and how the draft will take place, and whether it will be in person or virtual because of the pandemic.

The NCAA’s deadline for college underclassmen to withdraw from the draft has passed, and the lottery to determine the draft order took place virtually with team representatives appearing via Zoom on Aug. 20.

Aside from the 105 players who would be invited, no announcement has been made when the NBA draft combine will take place or if it will happen at all. This will make the evaluation process even more difficult for NBA front offices as top prospects may not be able to show off their skills in front of an audience of league general managers and scouts. As of now, NBA player evaluators only have college and overseas film in some cases to go off of.

How to bet on the NBA draft

The 2019 rookie class made a big splash in the NBA this season, highlighted by New Orleans Pelican and Duke basketball star Zion Williamson. Will this year’s draft provide that type of star power at the next level? It’s tough to say, but what draft night does is bring hope to franchises across the league.

For sports bettors, the draft offers plenty of gambling opportunities to choose from, and here are a few items you may come across:

  • First overall pick.
  • Over/under on player draft position.
  • First player drafted by position.
  • Top three picks in order.
  • Number of players picked from a specific college.

There are several more ways to place a bet on draft night, but that’s a quick example of items you may see on the basketball betting board.

How do NBA draft betting odds work?

For more experienced bettors, you probably understand how to look at betting lines and what they mean, but even you had to learn the language of a betting board. For the gambling beginner, this one’s for you.

For this example, let’s go back to the days leading up to the 2019 NBA draft. According DraftKings Sportsbook, there was an NBA draft prop bet that asked which player would be drafted first between former Kentucky teammates PJ Washington and Tyler Herro.

The oddsmakers listed Washington as the favorite over Herro, and the odds looked like this.

Which player will be drafted first?

  • PJ Washington (-190)
  • Tyler Herro (+155)

So what do those numbers mean?

A minus sign typically signifies the betting favorite when comparing two items. A good way to remember the payouts is to consider a wager of $100. Washington at -190 means you would need to bet $190 to earn a $100 profit if your bet on him going first is correct.

On the other side, if you think Herro is the way to go, he has a plus in front of the number, which usually signifies the underdog bet. In this scenario with +155 odds, a $100 bet on Herro being drafted before Washington would win you $155 in profit.

In another example, let’s say you want to pick which player will be the first overall selection in the 2020 NBA draft. According to DraftKings as of June 22, here’s a look at some of the top players to be selected along with their NBA draft betting odds.

  • Anthony Edwards (-110)
  • James Wiseman (+175)
  • LaMelo Ball (+250)
  • Obi Toppin (+1000)
  • Deni Avdija (+1500)
  • Killian Hayes (+1500)
  • RJ Hampton (+2000)

After doing the necessary research, you decide Obi Toppin has the best value and you want to take a flier on him as a bit of a longshot. According to DraftKings Sportsbook as of June 22, Toppin had the fourth best NBA draft betting odds at +1000.

By using what you learned earlier, a $100 bet on Toppin would net a $1,000 profit.

Another thought to keep in mind when analyzing what to bet on is shopping around at different NBA draft betting sites. Oddsmakers will usually have similar betting lines to go off of, but it doesn’t hurt to look and find the best offerings.

2020 NBA draft order

The 2020 NBA draft order was decided on Aug. 20 during the NBA draft lottery.

2020 NBA draft — top player profiles

This is the fun part of professional sports drafts no matter the sport. Analysts and fans get the chance to debate the best players and who will translate the best at the next level. Some college stars don’t really cut it in the pros, and some NBA stars didn’t have the best college basketball careers. That’s why this job is so difficult for NBA front offices, especially with an offseason like we’ve seen in 2020.

Here’s a look at the players with the best odds to be selected first at their position.

  • Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia: Edwards is widely considered to be a top player selected in this year’s draft after one season at Georgia.
  • James Wiseman, C, Memphis: Wiseman had a bizarre experience in college basketball with NCAA eligibility issues, but it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock as one of the best big men in the draft.
  • LaMelo Ball, PG, Australia: How many more of these guys are there? Ball is the latest of his family to play professional basketball after a season in Australia.
  • Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton: Obi Toppin brought Dayton to national prominence before the NCAA tournament was cut short. We’ll be seeing Toppin NBA highlights for years to come with his athleticism.
  • Deni Avdija, SF, Israel: This is another scenario where front offices likely haven’t seen Avdija much or at all, so they’ll be relying on game film to evaluate him as the highest pick among small forwards according to oddsmakers.

How does the NBA draft work?

Unlike the NFL, the NBA draft is a single night event that features two rounds with 60 picks overall.

The draft lottery determines the draft order for all the teams who did not make the playoffs. The rest of the draft order is decided by how teams finished in the postseason. The worst teams typically get the best players, while the best teams pick later in the draft to improve parity throughout the league.

Teams are allowed to trade draft picks with one another in exchange for players and picks.

Players must be 19 or older to be eligible for the draft. Oftentimes, the top players will play one season of college basketball before leaving school early for the draft. Players outside the United States are eligible to be drafted, as well.

When/where is the NBA draft?

Here are the details on the 2020 draft:

  • Date: Friday, Oct. 16
  • Location: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
  • TV: ESPN
  • Rounds: Two
  • First pick favorite: Anthony Edwards
  • Draft combine: TBD, may not be held
  • Draft lottery: 20 in a virtual setting

NBA draft betting tips

  • Get in early: If you have a good feel for a particular NBA draft longshot bet, it might make sense to place your wager as soon as possible. As it gets closer to the draft, news will typically start to leak what will happen, and the betting odds markets will adjust accordingly.
  • Identify team needs: NBA players are so skilled that positions do not matter all that much anymore, so instead of basing needs on height and body types, identify statistics teams need to improve on. If 3-point shooting was a struggle, maybe look at the best player from long range to be selected. If rebounding was an issue, look at the statistics to identify a solid rebounder.
  • Consider style of play: If a team’s philosophy is to move at a fast pace and shoot lots of 3-pointers relative to the rest of the league, identify a player who would fit into the system right away.

NBA draft trends

Whenever you’re looking to make a wager, always be sure to do your homework before the event takes place no matter what it is. Here are some identifiable trends that may help on draft night.

  • Freshmen go first: The last 10 players selected first overall in the NBA draft have been those who played one year in college. The last multi-year college player to go No. 1 was Blake Griffin, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers out of Oklahoma.
  • Centers are trending down: In the last four seasons, Deandre Ayton is the only player listed as a center to be picked inside the top five. He was taken first overall by the Phoenix Suns out of Arizona.
  • International players are being avoided: In 2018, Luka Doncic was the only non-college player in the first 28 picks. Last season, the first international player went 15th overall (Sekou Doumbouya).

Recent NBA draft lottery picks

Draft night is so exciting for a variety of people, and it’s a celebration of young athletes reaching their ultimate dream of playing professionally. Some of the players we see go early in the draft are guys we watch over the next 10 years as faces of the NBA.

Let’s take a look back at the top five picks from each of the past three seasons.

2019

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State
  3. New York Knicks: RJ Barrett, SG/SF, Virginia
  4. Los Angeles Lakers: De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

2018

  1. Phoenix Suns: Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
  2. Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
  3. Atlanta Hawks: Luka Doncic, PG/SF, Real Madrid
  4. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Michigan State
  5. Dallas Mavericks: Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

2017

  1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz, PG/SG, Washington
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
  3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
  4. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
  5. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky

NBA Draft FAQ

What is an NBA mock draft

An NBA mock draft is put out by sports journalists or analysts in an effort to predict where each player will go and which team will select them. It’s incredibly difficult to predict, so after the first few picks, the mock drafts are quite inaccurate.

What is the NBA draft lottery?

The NBA draft lottery determines the draft order for the 14 teams that did not make it to the playoffs. It is designed to help prevent teams from tanking late in the season to guarantee a higher pick.

How many rounds are there in the NBA draft?

The draft consists of two rounds for a total of 60 picks overall.

How can I watch the draft?

You can watch the NBA draft by tuning in to ESPN as well as the Watch ESPN app.