Matt Moore's NBA Draft Betting Card: The Scoot Henderson Paradox

Action Network Senior Writer Matt Moore gives his five betting picks and predictions for the 2023 NBA Draft.

Last year’s draft was an absolute gold mine for bettors who paid attention to the markets when they moved on the rumblings about Paolo Banchero. Despite mainstream reporting rebuffing every thought that the Orlando Magic would do anything but draft Jabari Smith Jr. No.1, bettors kept riding momentum in the markets behind Banchero, and the payouts for some were massive.

It’s a lot harder to find value this year.

With Victor Wembanyama a stone-cold 100% lock at No. 1 and the markets reflecting that since the beginning, the question has been about what happens in the rest of the top 10. Many of the opportunities to bet situational over/unders on various prospects have come with extremely juiced lines.

My biggest read on the draft markets is that the best value is in longshots this year, with the understanding that the uncertainty bends both ways.

That said, here’s a look at what I’m betting in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

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NBA Draft Betting Picks

Top 3 Exact Order: 1. Wembanyama 2. Henderson 3. Miller (+410, FanDuel)

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has consistently reported Miller is going second. For all the talk of Woj getting tripped up by the Magic’s crossover last year, betting against Woj is a fool’s errand in the long run. Multiple established draft experts have moved back to having Miller at No. 2.

This is not a bet that Henderson going second and Miller going third is a greater-than-50-percent outcome.

It’s that it’s greater than the 20% implied.

Every single source I’ve spoken to around the league, from scouts to draft consultants to executives, has said Henderson is the No. 2 guy in this draft, that he’s the one with future-MVP potential, and that he would definitively be the pick for them at No. 2. The whole reason that the Portland Trail Blazers have been able to pursue big trades is the idea that Henderson will be there at No. 3.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid enough or new to the NBA to think that the Charlotte Hornets are incapable of galaxy-braining this decision away. If Miller’s No. 2 on their board, he’s No. 2 on their board.

But I was told by several people who know the ins and outs of draft talk on Wednesday that Miller’s representation was confident he was going second but that the Hornets were still maintaining they did not have a pick.

That might be because they’re still soliciting trade offers.

But eventually, we get to the simple fact that it doesn’t intuitively make sense for the Hornets, with the second overall pick, not to take best player available.

You can even make an argument that Miller might be the best player on the board. One expert put it to me this way: Miller’s floor is higher than Henderson’s, given Henderson’s shooting struggles. But Miller’s ceiling is also significantly lower.

This is not an unload your bankroll type of bet. It’s your standard unit type wager on the uncertainty built in. This isn’t sources telling me it’s going to be Henderson. It’s that I cannot escape the game theory that either the Hornets take Henderson or a team trades with the Hornets to take him.

I’ll also note that I have bet Amen Thompson third at +1600 (FanDuel) and 1. Wemby, 2. Henderson, 3. Thompson at +3500 (DraftKings) as well. I think it is more likely that Thompson jumps Miller if Henderson goes No. 2 than Thompson jumps Henderson, even if both are still unlikely.

Jarace Walker Under 6.5 (+100, DraftKings)

The danger here is Ausar Thompson, and if you want to arbitrage this with Ausar Thompson No. 5, it’s not a bad idea.

The Detroit Pistons at No. 5 have been high on both Ausar and Walker. The window here is narrow; at No. 6, the Magic have been dialed in on a guard, specifically Anthony Black, and they’ve relayed certain assurances about his role if they select him. The Utah Jazz may also trade up to No. 6 to take Black.

If Detroit takes Ausar and Orlando takes Black, the bet loses. But I continue to believe that Walker is highly regarded by teams in the top six, and there are enough permutations where he goes fourth, fifth, or sixth either to those teams currently there or in trade.

Derek Lively Top-10 (+170, DraftKings)

I’ve reported all week that the number of teams interested in Lively is long, and it includes the Dallas Mavericks with the 10th pick and a number of teams that have talked to Dallas about a trade for that pick to take Lively.

The way this loses is if someone reaches (and I mean reaches) for Bilal Coulibaly or Kobe Bufkin, the two hot names this week. Then Lively is the loser. This is a bet against that, with a little built-in possibility that Cam Whitmore’s slide will carry him into the teens.

There are more teams that make sense to move up for a big man like Lively than taking a swing on the others.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. Top-20 (+125, FanDuel)

Not only has Jaquez seemingly crushed every single workout he’s been in, but there are rampant rumors that he has a promise in the mid-to-late teens. That’s enough in this range with a lot of good-not-great options to bet it.

Gradey Dick Over 11.5 (-190, BetRivers)

  • Wemby
  • Scoot
  • Miller
  • Amen
  • Ausar
  • Walker
  • Black
  • Hendricks
  • Whitmore
  • Lively
  • Bufkin
  • Coulibaly

Those 12 names have either teams attached to them or significantly more hype than Dick, who projects as a pure Kyle Korver clone. I can see one name sliding, but the odds are just as good another moves up to take their place. So I’ll lay the juice for a player with very little oomph behind his stock going into Thursday night.