The league's annual selection process is a much different beast than other sports. Statistically, it's rare to find an All-Star outside of the top few picks in any given draft. It takes luck to finish high in the lottery and even more to unearth a star outside of the lottery.
The 2021 class is heralded as one of the best in recent history. With a clear top-three and then another tier of several excellent prospects, pundits believe there could be a lottery filled with quality contributors. Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham is believed to be the favorite for the No. 1 pick to the Detroit Pistons, but there are three other potential stars who could be vying for the top spot.
This is great news for teams at the top of the draft. However, it makes it fun for us to bet. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have specific prop bets for us to take advantage of. As usual, we have you covered for the best prop bets.
Exact Draft Position
We're looking for value but also having to read the tea leaves when it comes for the exact draft position within the top five. DraftKings offers specific draft positions for picks one through five. There's no value with the top pick seeing as Cade Cunningham is surely the choice for Detroit or whoever may trade up, but the rest of the board is worth taking even if we go chalk.
The second and third overall picks seem set as Houston and Cleveland have targeted their guys. Jalen Green (-160) has been heavily linked to Houston as soon as they finished second in the lottery. Evan Mobley (-150), universally seen as the best big man and potentially top overall player in the class, will go to Cleveland as they fill out their frontcourt.
It's always possible for the draft to go sideways but there's been zero intel these two won't go in this order. I'm pleasantly surprised to get these odds at this point and feel it's a home-run to put multiple units on them going second and third, respectively.
The fourth and fifth picks get more interesting. Jalen Suggs (-160) is a perfect fit for Toronto at four and is viewed as the last player in the top tier. He's an athletic point guard who can supplant Kyle Lowry if the veteran is poised to leave. But, there may be value in laying the +225 on Jonathan Kuminga if the Raptors seem inclined to let Lowry leave.
We haven't seen any indication the Raptors will sway away from the obvious pick, so we'll stick with Suggs. The fifth pick, where Orlando sits, is perfect for Kuminga. The long, athletic wing could end up as an elite player. At just -105 to go here, he's in competition with Scottie Barnes (+150). But Barnes is more loved in the media than by teams, from what I've gathered from some team sources.
Over/Under Draft Position
We also have some quick-hitting over/unders for the specific players. The over means the player will be picked higher than their line, and the under means they're falling deeper into the draft. There are four that stood out to us.
The over 13.5 (+115) on Alperen Sengun is too tempting to not take. While the Turkish big man is intriguing, and the late lottery is usually the range for foreign players who need time to develop, this is a deeper class than normal. The Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors bookend this line and it's hard to imagine either looking to forgo the chance to find a quality depth piece for someone who is several years away from contributing.
The common projection for Golden State's first pick is Davion Mitchell. His over 8.5 is at -105, so we get some value for Orlando picking right behind them. While it's true the Warriors try to be lightyears ahead, they also need some wing bodies who can contribute with a high basketball IQ. I'm buying the buzz on Mitchell to the Warriors.
Some hype I'm not buying is Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson. His under 18.5 (-110) is a coinflip pick by the odds. And looking at the board, I don't see anyone in that range except the Thunder possibly looking to add a developmental big man. Jackson is a talented mover but has little skill beyond that right now. Instead, I think he falls to the late first as teams take advantage of the impressive wing and guard depth.
The last pick we have is the over 13.5 for Jalen Johnson (-130). Johnson is a versatile wing from Duke who showed developmental prowess in his short stint in school. Everyone from the Orlando Magic to the Pacers in this range should have some sort of interest in him. It's hard to imagine both the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans passing on him, in particular.
Photo: Getty Images