Nobody made out better in the May 21 NBA Draft Lottery than the Washington Wizards. No, they didn’t land the top selection but nabbing the No. 3 pick when they were projected to pull in the eighth selection or worse is an obvious home run for the former Bullets. Now the head scratching really begins.

Should Washington go with the hometown product Otto Porter, a lanky wingman with a high IQ? Or should they go with UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett, a combo forward and Larry Johnson clone who can score in bunches?

Wizards watchers will definitely be in complete chaos as late June approaches but it’s really only one option that makes the most sense for Washington: Trade the pick to Sacramento in exchange for DeMarcus Cousins.

Washington doesn’t need a small forward in Porter when it has a pretty good rotation in Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. And while Bennett’s skills are attractive, no one knows where to play him at only 6-foot-7.

However, Cousins, a 6-foot-11 center who just finished last season averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds, would look nice in the red, white and blue. Cousins, 22, would be a college senior coming out had he stayed alongside John Wall for four years in Kentucky.

But Cousins, like Wall, took advantage of a prosperous freshman year and declared early. But since his entry in the league, Cousins, like Wall, has gotten off to a slow start behind a floundering franchise. He’s been labeled a head case, immature and a spoiled brat but his overall skill level is way beyond his years. Bottom line: Cousins is still a promising center playing for a team that doesn’t want him and Washington is a team that needs an impact frontcourt player. The pairing couldn’t be any more perfect.

In a draft lauded for its lack of depth, trying to make steaks out of appetizers isn’t going to do Washington any good. Typically in weak drafts, analysts try to supersize average talent into more attractive prospects for the sake of media hyperbole.

Without a headliner at the top of the 2013 class and with Wall and other Wizards already campaigning for the front office to trade the pick, bringing in Cousins makes the most sense. He’s Wall’s good friend, a tantalizing big man and still young enough to provide a world of upside. In three full NBA seasons he’s a 16 and 10 guy and inserting the mobile mammoth into the middle of the Wizards lineup with Wall and Bradley Beal flanking him would be a Big Three to build upon for years.

The original plan stated three years ago to build through the draft as laid out by owner Ted Leonsis sounded intriguing but it hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. If Leonsis wanted to build his team like Oklahoma City or Golden State then he should’ve been at Howard University trying to medically clone Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. Superstar talent doesn’t arrive every NBA draft, just ask Jan Vesely.

But it should also be noted that building through the draft doesn’t require simply picking in the top five every year. It could also mean acquiring the necessary pieces to make for a huge move and with another top five selection in this year’s draft, Washington has one of the biggest pieces to make a huge move.

The last great point guard/shooting guard/center combination to attack the Association is still running strong in San Antonio. The Spurs are on the verge of their fourth Finals appearance behind the core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. Should the Wizards land Cousins then the core to compete would be in place. The only thing left to do would be to find willing contributors as its core matures.

Washington’s biggest needs at the moment are at the center position. And while there isn’t a dominating, scoring center available in this year’s draft, there is one available that can be had with Washington’s draft pick.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO