This article is part of our NBA Draft Strategy series.
DraftKings recently posted a variety of new 2023 NBA Draft wagers. Let's break it down and try to find value.
8th Overall Pick: Anthony Black (+330)
The odds-on favorite for the eighth overall selection is Cam Whitmore (+275). Detroit, Orlando and Indiana -- the teams with picks 5-7 -- could pass on Whitmore's tunnel vision scoring and prioritize other needs. Whitmore is a pure scorer and fine defender, but Washington has plenty of those. He is a good bet for starpower, however.
If Washington wants to continue with its win-now agenda, Black is likely the best selection for the franchise. His feel for the game, offensive processing and playmaking is rare. Free agency will be pivotal for Washington, as the status of Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis will be determined. Black can be an asset regardless of how things shake out, given his abilities to facilitate for the stars or make young players around him better. Free agency occurs after the draft. Advantage: Black.
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6th Overall Pick: Gradey Dick (+800) and Kobe Bufkin (+10,000)
0.5 and 0.33 units.
Orlando's No. 6 selection could be on the trade block, complicating this immeasurably. Trade speculation aside, Orlando is in a fantastic position to add to a promising core of Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and (underrated) Markelle Fultz. Key contributors Wendell Carter and Cole Anthony are supplemental core pieces. A safe selection like Dick is very plausible:
- Orlando ranked 26th in team 3P% (34.9 percent), and Dick canned 40.7 percent of 5.7 3PA per game at Kansas.
- The Keegan Murray effect: Drafting a plug-and-play contributor. It's conducive to existing offensive growth already in place, and it's good for the prospect.
- Orlando collecting pieces to trade for a superstar could be on the table one day. Dick would be valued anywhere.
Kobe Bufkin, on the other hand, being selected at No. 6 would be an example of falling in love with a player. He is a late riser on draft boards, and there are a lot of intriguing skills. Bufkin is also a dark-horse candidate for Utah at No.9, Orlando again at No.11, and Toronto at No.13.
Bufkin is a 6-foot-5, smooth lefty guard with ambidexterity, craft and athleticism around the rim. Bufkin is a blossoming passer, fluid scorer and active two-way rebounder. His do-it-all style allows him to play on-ball and off-ball. The growth is ongoing. In Michigan's final 12 games, Bufkin averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals/blocks per game while shooting 52.0 percent from the field and 45.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Player Draft Position
Jarace Walker o6.5 (+110)
Detroit at pick No.5 is the only realistic spot for Walker in the top 6. The top three is a near lock. Houston and Orlando have no need for him. The Pistons are a potential Walker destination as the franchise seeks someone of the ilk of a Jerami Grant replacement. Walker's skills as a passer would compensate nicely for Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey's lack of floor general prowess. However, there are other fits for Detroit to consider also:
- Cam Whitmore is a better scorer than Walker.
- Ausar Thompson is a better defensive prospect and athlete than Walker.
- Whitmore and Thompson are also traditional wings/forwards, which Detroit needs.
- Taylor Hendricks is the better rim protector. He's potentially more switchable too.
- Walker shot 34.7 percent on 101 3PA at Houston. Whitmore and Hendricks posted superior efficiency on bigger volumes.
Detroit would have to be in love with Walker's game for this bet to miss. That is possible, so the best course of action is to sprinkle on this.
Ausar Thompson Draft Position: u5.5 (+210)
Cade Cunningham is a fan of the Thompson twins. The Pistons, and perhaps the Rockets, are the only teams in the top five that stand a chance of picking Thompson. Houston is more likely to choose the twitchier, multidimensional Amen Thompson (-150 a No.4 slot and -5000 to go top 5).
Ausar Thompson is a gifted defender and athlete who stands at 6-foot-7 with excellent bounce. Detroit, meanwhile, ranked 28th in the league by allowing 119.2 points per 100 possessions.
He is a polarizing prospect due to the Overtime Elite program being inferior competition to the NCAA. Some franchises buy in, and others want no piece of it. Also, Thompson is already 20 years old, facing mostly younger competition. If the Pistons like the skills and the mental, he's a viable selection.
Player to be Drafted First
Keyonte George over Jordan Hawkins (-150)
In a battle of dynamic scoring versus specialized archetypes, I lean towards dynamic scoring and, therefore, George. Hawkins' rare movement shooting skills are inherently taxing on a defense. Whether he's hot or cold, sticking a quality defender on Hawkins is nearly mandatory in competitive contexts.
That being said, George could be the total package. The 18-year-old is a skilled attacker, drawing fouls on 15.4 percent of his possessions while demonstrating contortion and ambidexterity around the basket. George's 33.7 percent clip from beyond the arc was subpar, but he shot 38.1 percent from three in high school. The more significant red flag was his 37.6 percent shooting overall. He will play within himself more in an NBA system. The leash will be shorter.
Additionally, George is a scrappy, energizing defender with good strength. His Baylor film underwhelms since George was hobbled with an ankle injury down the stretch. All it takes is one team to take the gamble on talent. George's playstyle pops. Hawkins is much more tailored.
Ausar Thompson over Jarace Walker (+115)
I've already discussed the ceiling of Thompson as a top-5 pick. Combined with my lower-than-consensus ranking on Walker, this bet is a no-brainer to me subjectively. Unfortunately, for the people reading my betting advice, I am not in the front office of an NBA team.
I have concerns about Walker as a 'tweener positionally, and I don't know if he can stick with shiftier players. I'll scream it from the rooftop also -- anybody who is 250 pounds and is going to be a top-10 NBA pick cannot be a finesse forward…Walker is. He drew a foul on just 10.5 percent of his offensive possessions and made just 35-of-65 layups during his freshman season at Houston.
Advocating for Thompson, my basketball ideology places a healthy importance on defensively capable wings. Looking back at the 2022 draft, the first pure wing drafted was Jalen Williams, who finished the season as a top-three rookie in the league. Thompson is much more raw offensively than Williams, but Thompson is the superior athlete and likely the superior defender. Christian Braun had less hype but is still playing meaningful minutes on the finals-bound Denver Nuggets.