How A ‘Woj Bomb’ That Proved To Be Incorrect Blew Up NBA Draft Betting Markets

Written By Drew Ellis on June 24, 2022

The NBA Draft is always a pretty chaotic night.

But a “Woj-bomb” from ESPN’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski early on Thursday morning ended up making the 2022 NBA Draft even more chaotic for Michigan sports bettors and sportsbooks.

His indication that Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. would go No. 1 sent oddsmakers scurrying to make him as high as -10000 at some sportsbooks.

But when the Orlando Magic turned in their selection, it would be Duke’s Paolo Banchero instead.

The NBA Draft and NFL Draft certainly are the two major sports drafts that get the most media attention. That also means sportsbooks have a lot of financial interest in them.

When top insiders tweet about the draft, especially on the day of, it greatly impacts betting markets.

Can Thursday’s surprising change atop the NBA Draft be a lesson in how media and sportsbooks will approach things in future drafts?

The ‘Woj Bomb’ that shook up the odds

A declaration before 9 a.m. from NBA’s top insider, Adrian Wojnarowski spelled out what he believed would be the top 3 picks of Thursday’s draft.

That tweet completely changed odds for the night, even forcing some books to remove selected draft markets.

Here’s the tweet from Woj:

As team boards finalize today, the 1-2-3 of the NBA Draft is increasingly firm, per sources: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero to Houston.

Throughout Thursday, Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. was the odds-on favorite to go No. 1. Some books had him as high as -10000, while most had him at at least -6000 for stretches of time.

BetMGM indicated to PlayMichigan that the biggest impact a tweet from an insider like Wojnarowski can have is them taking odds off the board. BetMGM did just that for a stretch on Thursday prior to Banchero getting back in the mix.

“The NBA Draft is a difficult event to handicap. Rumors and leaks can cause wild line movement,” Christian Cipollini, Sports Trader for BetMGM, said in an email.

As the evening approached, Banchero started skyrocketing up the No. 1 odds market. Woj even said on the ESPN telecast he was hearing Banchero would be the top pick. Lo and behold, the Orlando Magic selected Banchero.

Those who were willing to ignore Wojnarowski’s earlier tweets possibly came out with a big pay day. While some books, that had a lot of handle on Smith, had a big win.

The timeline of NBA Draft odds chaos

Here’s a complete rundown of how the day played out for the sportsbooks.

Morning Woj Bomb

  • 8:41 a.m.: Wojnarowski sends out the tweet listed above.
  • 9:52 a.m.: FanDuel Sportsbook tweets updated No. 1 odds with Smith at -6000 and Banchero at +550.
  • 11:14 a.m.: CBS Sports CBB Insider Jon Rothstein posts a tweet with FanDuel’s latest Top 3 odds. Smith was -3500 to go No. 1. Chet Holmgren was -3500 to go No. 2. Banchero was -1050 to go No. 3.
  • 12:04 p.m.: DraftKings tweets to Wojnarowski, asking him to “stop spoiling draft picks so we can bet on it.”

Banchero’s climb

As we got closer to the NBA Draft, Banchero started making his way back toward the top. FanDuel was quicker to push him up than others, but all started to recognize that Smith wasn’t a slam dunk at No. 1.

  • 3:55 p.m.: FanDuel Sportsbook updates its odds, with Smith listed at -280 to go first, while Banchero was at +200. FD notes that Smith was at -10000 earlier in the day.
  • 7:15 p.m.: BetMGM updates its odds with Smith at -800 to go No. 1. It also had Holmgren at -1000 to go No. 2 and Banchero at -700 to go No. 3.

Woj changes course as draft begins

In the 30 minutes leading up to the NBA Draft’s 8 p.m. start, all hell broke loose.

  • 7:40 p.m.: Woj officially changes course on Twitter, posting: “As I just reported on our NBA Draft Show on ESPN, Duke’s Paolo Banchero has joined Auburn’s Jabari Smith under serious consideration to be franchise’s No. 1 overall pick, sources said. There’s a real chance draft boards could get blown up at the top of the lottery.”
  • 7:55 p.m.: Wojnarowski tweets that Banchero is “now officially the frontrunner” to go No. 1.
  • 7:57 p.m.: BetMGM tweets “Woj this morning: ‘Jabari Smith is the clear choice to go first overall,’” then includes a winking Kathryn Hahn from WandaVision.
  • 7:59 p.m.: DraftKings Sportsbook listed Banchero at -200 to go No. 1, Smith at +150.

Big Banchero Bettors

Banchero’s rise to being the No. 1 pick was quite a crazy one, even beyond Thursday’s theatrics.

Last Sunday, Banchero was actually listed at +2000 to be taken No. 1 at DraftKings Sportsbook. On that day, some lucky bettor placed a $2,000 wager on the Duke forward, earning himself a $42,000 payout on Thursday night.

BetRivers Sportsbook really took a hit on the top pick market. Banchero accounted for 54.5% of their wagers and 43.4% of their handle.

Four different wagers on Banchero paid out over $10,000 at BetRivers, while another 14 paid out at least $4,000.

BetMGM comes out strong

While BetRivers and other operators may have taken a hit by the confusion, BetMGM seemed to come out on top.

As of Thursday morning, BetMGM had 70.7% of its handle for the No. 1 pick going on Smith to be selected. He was by far its biggest liability.

Smith had always been a steady favorite since the operator released odds. He opened at -105 and was up to -550 prior to Woj’s tweet.

Will this change how insiders operate?

In the past, many wouldn’t have batted an eye at a top insider saying one thing in the morning and it being completely different by draft time.

But, money talks.

Drafts are now heavily wagered events, with a lot of money being passed around across the country. These insiders carry a lot of weight when it comes to odds markets, as proven by Thursday.

Will operators, or even the leagues themselves, hold these insiders responsible for their information leading up to a betting event?

Could we see league’s be more stringent with what they allow insiders like Wojnarowski or Adam Schefter to put out on draft day?

It’s fair to think some changes could be on the horizon after Thursday’s roller coaster.

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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer for PlayMichigan, and has contributed for multiple Play sites around the Midwest. Working in sports media since 1998, Ellis has over a decade covering sports betting before expanding into US casino markets in 2020.

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