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Paolo Banchero emerges late as betting favorite for No. 1 pick

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It looks like the Rockets have been picking Duke’s Paolo Banchero for over a month now. By all accounts, Orlando selected Jabari Smith at No. 1 overall and Chet Holmgren at No. 2, with Houston remaining to select Banchero after the top two.

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Suddenly it turns out that perhaps everything has changed.

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Despite being a distant favorite throughout the process, Banchero is suddenly the favorite to win overall in today’s NBA draft and his odds are down to -200. As of early Thursday morning at the betting shop Tipicothe odds of picking No. 1 were Bunchero at -200, Smith at +115 and Holmgren at +700.

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In the future, a payline of -200 means implied probability approximately 66.7% for this particular event.

What does this mean?

The simplest interpretation is that Orlando could take Banchero for themselves. He has the stature that his main office craves, and his size and combination of points make him a potential star.

It could also signal something less obvious: a sign that Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is gearing up for a pick trade.

Houston reportedly had a crush on Banchero throughout the process, and they may have been keen to get their top pick on draft day. They have the number 17 pick in the first round, the number 26 pick, players like KJ Martin and Eric Gordon, and future picks to discuss with the Magic to see if a trade can be made.

When Philadelphia traded with Boston to go from 3rd to 1st in 2017, the Sixers traded a future first-rounder. in 2018 or 2019 it depended on protection. In a draft with equally mixed ratings around the top three, could Houston find something similar?

Or will the Rockets be content to stay where they are and maybe Smith or Holmgren will drop to them at three o’clock?

Finally, it is also possible that the reaction is simply based on false information and the lines moved as other players followed the trend. So far, as of early Thursday, no major NBA insider (eg, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, The Athletic’s Shams Charania, etc.) has named Bunchero as a likely choice for the Magic, or even a strong possibility.

Fans will have to sort through the noise and wait to see what happens on draft night, which can be found on ESPN or ABC at 7:00 pm CST.


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