You know the name and you have seen his highlights.
Duke’s freshman sensation Zion Williamson has been a walking highlight reel for the past few years. Long before the 6’7″, 285 pound 18 year-old donned a Blue Devils’ jersey, Zion shocked and wowed social media audiences with in-game dunks and highlight reels that looked as if they came right out of a video game.
The North Carolina native was ranked first in his recruiting class by 247sports.com, and it was clear that his sheer size and talent would make him an equal threat at the collegiate level as he had been through his high school and AAU runs, and at only 19 games into the season, Zion has managed to live up the hype.
Now the 18 year-old is the odds-on favorite to be taken first in the 2019 NBA Draft, and to little surprise, many pro franchises are fully engaged the annual race to the bottom for a better shot at landing what could be the most exciting draft prospect since LeBron James.
Many NBA greats chimed in on the young stud over All-Star Break, and it was evident that neither Charles Barkley or Shaquille O’Neal are drinking the Kool-Aid. Each took jabs at Zion’s height and ultimately questioned where he would fit on the floor and which position would he cover on defense, but in a world where hot takes get the coverage, these comments must be taken with a grain of salt.
NBA commentator Kenny Smith called Zion was a bit kinder with his words, calling him the “most unique” prospect in that we have seen in the last 10-15 years, but not necessarily the “best player”, comparing him to a Blake Griffin rather than a LeBron James caliber of prospect. Griffin made an immediate impact on the league when he entered, but he hasn’t aged as well as other top draft choices, and these concerns are real when looking at a player who is built and plays as explosively as Zion
NBA Draft Odds
NBA draft odds have surfaced earlier in the season, but with a clear front runner, many have chosen to pull the lines down. Dave Mason of BetOnline is no stranger to the world of prop betting, and he has seen his share of draft props for most professional sports leagues come and go.
“We initially offered draft odds earlier in the season, but traditionally pull them down after a while” shared Mason. “That being said, despite such a hefty frontrunner, we will absolutely reopen the markets as the draft buzz comes back around, and maybe even before.”
DraftKings Sportsbook took to releasing odds this week, with Zion Williamson listed as the -2000 favorites to go first in this year’s NBA Draft, meaning that a $100 bet would net only $5. Odds this steep suggest that barring any significant injury or Williamson deciding to return to Duke, this pick is all but locked in. Fellow Blue Devin RJ Barrett is is the next top choice, currently sitting at +550 on the boards. Further down the list, we see Ja Morant of Murray State at +650 and Duke teammate Cam Reddish at +2000.
For now, nearly every mock draft shows all roads leading to Zion, so a wager on anyone else at this point would be betting on an injury. On the contrary, a bet on Williamson going first yields so little, it’s hardly worth the effort unless you are risking a hefty lump of change. Bettors can fully expect books to get creative and offer further options on the rest of the first round, ranging from who gets selected with the second pick to how many Duke players will be chosen in the top three selections.
Where Will He Land?
Odds are also on offer as to which team will be lucky enough to secure the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft, which, unlike the NFL Draft, uses a lottery system to select the order of picks. This lottery gets an update this year, with the bottom three teams each having a 14% chance at the top selection, fourth place with a 12.4% chance, and fifth with a 10.5% shot.
The following odds are on offer at DraftKings and reflect the current team standings through the NBA All-Star Break.