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David Thorpe's take on the top 5

 

The lottery and Chicago combine are behind us, and Chad Ford has already produced two mock drafts. Chad's work deals with figuring out what teams are going to do, but I'm more interested in what they should do. With that in mind, let's look at the lottery from two perspectives -- need and value.

No. 1 Washington Wizards

Need: The Wiz need help everywhere. Their best player is Gilbert Arenas, but he'll be on the trading block every day for the rest of his contract, so there's no worry about his meshing with whomever Washington takes. And that person pretty simply has to be the best player from this class over the next five-plus years, not the best guy today. That kind of superstar should help create a new identity and sell tickets. In essence, with this pick, need equals value.

Value: The best prospect in this class, when character, maturity and talent are all mixed in, is clearly John Wall. If DeMarcus Cousins had Wall's head and polish, he'd be in the mix here. But Cousins showed up fat in Chicago, clinching the deal for Wall. The fact that Wall seems ready to take on the burdens of being a superstar, loves to pass and is a competitive jet -- meaning he'll be fun to play with -- is an added bonus.

 

No. 2 Philadelphia 76ers

Need: The Sixers were in the bottom third of the NBA in almost every team statistic. They are a poor shooting, poor defending, poor rebounding and poor passing team. That said, they have to love Jrue Holiday as a building block at a vital position -- point guard. The rest of the roster is muddled. Andre Iguodala is the best player, but just an average shooter; Elton Brand isn't living up to his contract; and Thaddeus Young is trapped between the two forward positions. Based on need, the Sixers should grab Cousins, Derrick Favors or Evan Turner, in that order.

Value: The Cousins/Turner/Favors decision here is one of the more interesting stories of the draft. Turner is the most NBA-ready player in the class, and his versatility would help him fit on this team (and pretty much every other). But there is a fair concern that he's too similar to Iggy as an all-around talent but not a shooting threat. That said, a trio of Iguodala, Holiday and Turner would excel defensively and could lead a fast team (especially with Young and Marreese Speights up front). There's actually a stronger argument for Favors. He's just 18, and in time, experts think he could end up being the second-best player in this class. Turner might help Philly win more games immediately, but a Sixers team featuring Holiday and Favors will almost assuredly end up with a top-five pick against next season. Much in the way Oklahoma City built its roster with additional lottery picks, I like the way the point guard/post combo sets up Philly's future by grabbing Favors here. Cousins, though, is the top value pick, as the best available player with the brightest upside, if he can be mentored.

 

No. 3 New Jersey Nets

Need: The Nets couldn't have been more dysfunctional last season, which masks a surprising fact: This team has talent. Brook Lopez has potential franchise talent at the 5, Terrence Williamswill be a strong rotation player and Courtney Lee is a proven starter as a fourth/fifth option.Devin Harris should rebound from a poor season and even Yi Jianlian showed signs of life. Granted, this team still could use talent anywhere, but whomever the Nets get at No. 3 can't expect to start right away. Based on need, I'd suggest that Favors is the slight favorite.

Value: Either Turner or Favors will be here. Chad has the Nets grabbing Favors, and he'll have every opportunity to start alongside Lopez, which would really help the Nets' interior D and form a nice rotation with Yi in the mix. That said, I like Turner here better because he'll be ready to play right away, which is an added bonus because the Nets will be chasing free agents in July. Plus, his playmaking skills are a good fit next to Harris, who prefers to score. With Turner, and almost any solid free agent, the Nets should be the league's most improved team.

 

No. 4 Minnesota Timberwolves

Need: The Wolves have three main holes to fill: They need an organizing force at point guard, a wing scorer and some help in the paint defensively. Ricky Rubio is their point guard of the future, unless he is moved for someone similar (and then Jonny Flynn becomes a serious Sixth Man Award candidate). Corey Brewer improved dramatically in his third season, but will never be a big-time scorer (especially when he's playing at the 2). And Darko Milicic showed flashes of starter talent after he arrived, but he's a long way from a sure thing. The Wolves would love Turner, who's a perfect match for Brewer, but they would settle for Wesley Johnson.

Value: Chad is going with Johnson currently, but I don't love his upside or his long-term prospects here. This is where the Chicago camp hurts Cousins. If he had shown up in great shape and with added polish, he'd be a lock for this spot, even if it's not a great fit. But he didn't, and now it's a scramble. Johnson would help the Wolves, but they'd still need a high-scoring wing. If they acquire one, Brewer and Johnson would battle it out at the 3, and Brewer has three years of experience and a better defensive future. Johnson would be an excellent backup, but that's a high price to pay for the No. 4 pick. Al-Farouq Aminu gets into the equation, as his ability to score around the basket gets utilized well in the triangle. His upside suggests more value here, so he'll have his chances at this spot.

 

No. 5 Sacramento Kings

Need: At season's end, the Kings' two best players were in their backcourt. They have two lottery guys in their frontcourt, and two late first-round picks at the small forward spot. It's fair to say they could use help at any of those three spots, but more likely their most pressing need is a front-line scorer who can help shore up a very bad defensive team. Neither Spencer Hawesnor Jason Thompson has evolved into anything more than a rotation big, at best. Without a doubt, Cousins is the perfect fit here. He's what they need on offense and the boards.

Value: Getting Cousins at No. 5, as Chad currently predicts, looks like it's a can't-miss proposition for the Kings. He's probably the second-best prospect in this draft, even with his immaturity issues and his overweight frame. Coach Paul Westphal is a friendly guy who has the ability to reach a player like Cousins. The Kings are well aware of the red flags surrounding Cousins, and might look at Aminu to shore up their small forward spot. Neither Omri Casspi norDonte Greene has earned a guaranteed starting spot there going forward, and Aminu would give them a scorer, an athlete, and more importantly, a rebounder and a defender. Both guys have the upside to make them value picks at this spot, but Cousins gets a big edge in that department. It's possible that he could be a Day 1 starter and be the second consecutive ROY in Sacramento.

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