Fab Five: The Best Picks Teams Can Make At The Start Of The NBA Draft
There are usually two to five players in every NBA draft class who have the potential to be the cornerstones of franchises.
These players give teams reason to believe it is worth losing games presently if it increases their chances for future success.
Here are the players the five winners of this year's lottery should select with their hard-earned picks:
Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
I love Jahlil Okafor, but Towns would be a better fit in Minnesota. First of all, Ricky Rubio is a great passer but a poor shooter.
Towns’ ability to both roll to the basket and pop out to the three-point line after setting screens should lead to Rubio both passing more and shooting less.
Towns’ ability to shoot will also allow him to play on the perimeter should Anthony Bennett or Andrew Wiggins move to the post to exploit a mismatch.
Towns is not super explosive, but he gets up and down the court well. He should see his fair share of putbacks following missed fast break field goal attempts by Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
Adding Towns’ length and shot-blocking abilities to an already young and athletic team gives reason to believe Minnesota could be one of the top defensive teams in the league by the end of his rookie contract.
Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
I don’t think Okafor and Julius Randle will work well together from a basketball perspective, but there is too much to love about Big Jah.
Both Randle and Okafor would operate more efficiently with a front-court mate who can step out and shoot.
Randle’s ability to use his body and explosiveness to take bigger defenders off the dribble from 15 feet and in is what makes him special. He can turn a high post-up into a facing-the-basket ISO situation whenever he wants.
Okafor has a very similar game. He is bigger and stronger than Randle, and although he has nice touch on his shots, his range is very limited.
Both players’ inability to extend the defense means defenders will be able to sag off of one to help on the other when Okafor and Randle try to give each other room to work.
Neither is a threat to knock down a long-range jumper, and neither is quick enough to make the defense pay when a defender leaves to help on another player.
Despite all of this, Okafor’s blend of touch, size and basketball IQ all but ensure he will be picked over everyone except Towns.
Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
This would be my pick for the Sixers even if they were drafting first or second.
Actually, I would have suggested they try desperately to trade down and then pick Russell, who will almost definitely still be available for the third pick.
The Sixers have Nerlens Noel and a well-rested Joel Embiid in place as their front court for years to come; now they need a backcourt. The reason Russell is the pick here, instead of the explosive Emmanuel Mudiay, is his ability to shoot.
With so much firepower in the post, it makes more sense to get someone who the big boys can kick it out to for an open three than someone who is more of a slasher.
The Sixers need a point guard, and although Mudiay is a better fit for that need in the macro sense, Russell is exactly what Philadelphia needs.
Though naturally a shooting guard, he showed the ability to handle the ball at Ohio State and take defenders off the bounce when needed.
New York Knicks: trade down for Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Oh, boy. Has New York ever been a less desirable destination for players? The Knicks need to do what the Charlotte Hornets did with the second overall pick in 2012.
Michael Jordan was determined to avoid picking yet another bust. He selected the incredibly versatile Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, opting to go with substance over flash. The Knicks’ long road back has to start with small steps.
It will not happen all at once. They need a low-risk player who is capable of contributing right away.
Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein is a perfect pick for the Knicks. He will give them defensive versatility and length from day one, while producing just enough highlight-worthy plays per game to keep the fan base intrigued.
A defensive star is more marketable now than ever before -- just ask Draymond Green. Should the Knicks agree with my synopsis, trading down in the draft and still getting Cauley-Stein will most likely be an option.
In doing so, they could get their guy and acquire an additional asset from a desperate team looking to move up a few picks.
The farthest I could see Cauley-Stein falling would be to the Indiana Pacers (pick 11), but it would be worth seeing if one of the teams picking five to 10 might consider switching places with New York for the rights to another young player.
Keep in mind I am a dreamer and most teams enter the draft with the intention of acquiring the most valuable asset available to them (which, at this point in the draft, will likely be Emmanuel Mudiay).
Should the Knicks decide to both draft and keep the speedy 6'5" point guard, I could potentially see him developing a nice little drive and kick routine with Melo. But, he cannot shoot and is not the long-term answer.
If the Knicks take Mudiay, they should immediately begin shopping him.
Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
The Knicks could also use this guy, but his game is pretty similar to that of overpaid, oft-injured Knick Andrea Bargnani.
Orlando has a young team loaded with athletes. With Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, the Magic have a solid foundation to build upon for years to come.
Porzingis would provide a skill set that lines up perfectly with the young Orlando core.
He would add a smooth outside stroke to a team without many true shooters, giving him the ability to clear out of the paint for his teammates without being rendered ineffective.
He is an incredibly fluid athlete for his size, which will allow him to get up and down the court with the team’s other speedsters.
To sum it up, Porzingis would bring a high-skilled, finesse element to a team that is currently reliant on toughness and athleticism.
His lack of girth will most undoubtedly be preyed upon by opposing veteran big men, but the defensive prowess of the other Orlando players should be enough to pick up the slack for the Latvian until he is able to grow into his body a little more.