DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky) - Al Jefferson
Strength: Size. Cousins is a huge basketball player. He weighed in at 292 pounds at the Combine, and although 16.4% of that was body fat, Cousins has remained surprisingly nimble. He clogs the lane and contests seemingly every shot attempted in the lane.
Weakness: Maturity. Shocker here right? An overwhelming amount of digital ink has been spilled discussing Cousins' apparent character problems, from his altercations with opposing players to cursing out his coaches at Kentucky to his recent profanity-laced tirade via Twitter. There is a difference between being of poor character and being immature, and I hope for his sake that his recent problems will one day be chalked up to "kids being kids".
Verdict: Cousins has overwhelming physical skills. He has great hands, uncommon touch around the basket, and what appears to be an above average motor. If properly motivated and developed, Cousins could certainly become a franchise player. However, that's a fairly substantial hypothetical, especially considering the risk involved with using a top five draft pick on a hit-or-miss prospect.
Best Fit: Whether in basketball or in life, Cousins needs to find a role model. Detroit would be a great fit for him because of team need, but also because of a strong "alumni" network of former players.
Cole Aldrich (Kansas) – Emeka Okafor
Strength: Defense. Aldrich is a very good rebounder and a consistent shot blocker. He is solid offensively, but his calling card at the next level will be his ability to change the game defensively.
Weakness: Athleticism. Centers aren't widely regarded as the best athletes on the floor, but Aldrich is a sub-par athlete even by big men standards. He jumped just 25" at the Combine, and his foot speed and lateral quickness are areas of concern as well.
Verdict: For whatever reason, I have injury concerns about Aldrich (his knees especially), but barring that, he should have a very productive career. I don't ever expect him to be an All Star, or average more than 15 points per game, but he'll have an impact for a team looking for a defensive-minded center and a fourth scoring option.
Best Fit: Utah and Toronto both provide nice fits in the second half of the lottery. A frontcourt of Andrea Bargnani and Aldrich is especially intriguing.
Hassan Whiteside (Marshall) - Tyrus Thomas
Strength: Shot blocking. Whiteside made a huge impact in his only season at Marshall, averaging 5.4 blocks per game. There are some holes in his game, especially offensively, but his length (7'7" wingspan) and shot-blocking instincts are very valuable at the next level.
Weakness: Maturity. Like Cousins, Whiteside has some serious red flags. Despite his freakish size and athleticism he was hardly recruited because he only played two years of high school basketball. He ended up at Marshall, where he reportedly dropped his spring coursework as soon as possible with the intention of entering the draft. There have also been media reports that several teams where less than impressed with his performance in the interview process at last month's Combine.
Verdict: I think Whiteside has bust written all over him. He has good size and shot-blocking instincts, but has very little basketball background. This all seems to reminiscent of another overvalued big man, Michael Olowokandi.
Best Fit: Whiteside needs to land with a team that will bring him along slowly and provide him with a mentor who can show him the ropes. If Whiteside slides on draft night as expected, the Timberwolves and head coach Kurt Rambis wouldn't be a bad fit at #16.
Daniel Orton (Kentucky) - Brendan Haywood (Early years)
Strength: Potential. That was a tough choice. After averaging just three points and three rebounds as a freshman at Kentucky, even the most well-informed basketball minds are still unsure about Orton.
Weakness: Weight issues. Aside from the obvious lack of experience, Orton is troubled by weight problems, much like his Kentucky teammate Cousins. He posted 13.8% body fat at the Combine, which is less than stellar.
Verdict: You might as well ask your Magic 8-Ball. Orton could develop into a solid player with a high motor, who contests every shot he comes near. He could also become more interested in his weekly commute to cash his paycheck. At this point, no one really knows for sure. Until he proves himself, I expect to remain cynical.
Best Fit: Orton is another prospect in need of some serious seasoning. Therefore, it's paramount that he finds a team which will bring him along slowly, but challenge him in practice. There are rumors swirling that the Thunder have promised to pick Orton with one of their picks in the 20's, and I think that would actually make a pretty nice fit, though I think San Antonio would be better if Greg Popovich was willing to take on a project.
Solomon Alabi (Florida State) - Nazr Mohammed
Strength: Size. As expected, Alabi measured easily over seven feet in shoes at the Combine, making him the tallest player in this draft class.
Weakness: Toughness. Alabi has developed the reputation of playing soft. He has yet to truly develop his low post game, and while he is an adequate shot blocker, a man of his size should be even better.
Verdict: Like Hasheem Thabeet last year, Alabi will benefit from the old adage that "you can't teach size". Thabeet went second overall and did nothing, and Alabi is even further from being ready to contribute. It will be a long road for him, and I wonder if he's committed enough to see the process through to the end.
Best Fit: Slipping out of the first round would actually be a blessing in disguise for Alabi because it would force him to fight for his NBA dream on a daily basis. I think a team like the Knicks or the Heat could consider him in the late 30's or early 40's.