After the NBA Lottery screwed them, where do the Nets go from here?

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cousins.jpgSo, that didn’t go so well for the Nyets.

The franchise savior will be headed to Washington, or, if they lose their minds, Philadelphia. The odds of landing LeBron, Wade, Bosh have just shrunk to tiny proportions, and they’re looking at the third pick in a two-superstar-pick draft. That’s a pretty big fall on the first big day of the new Nets, or whatever they’ll be called.

But third pick it is, and they’ll have to try and come up with the best option available. So what do they need?

Obviously, Devin Harris isn’t going anywhere. Brook Lopez is their best player now that Wall’s out of the picture. Courtney Lee can work as a two guard. Terrence Williams showed a lot of promise at small forward. So that just leaves power forward, if we’re going from a true need standpoint. Yi Jianlian has not been a viable option from production or injury stability so that’s the easiest way to go. Let’s look at some options.

1A. Derrick Favors, PF/C, Georgia Tech: The (un)sure thing. You can go ahead and take the “/C” off Mr. Favors. Brook Lopez is the big here. Favors is the easy choice. 6-9 and change (depending on who you ask), with a good frame and excellent athleticism, he’s got a lot of the words you want associated with a third overall pick as a forward. But while everyone seems to be certain that this is where the Nets should go, there have to be some doubts.

For starters, and most glaringly, is the situation of redundancy. Lopez provides them with a superb all-around big. He has touch around the basket and an arsenal of moves, but also the brute strength to rebound and fight down low. Adding Favors as a superfreak athlete doesn’t really address their biggest need from an offensive standpoint, and that’s a forward that can stretch the floor. An ideal candidate would have Favors athleticism but a more polished offensive game. Even a handful of post moves would be handy. But at Georgia Tech, in a limited system, albeit, Favors failed to showcase that kind of potential.

The Nets geared their strategy around getting Wall and signing free agents. They now do not have Wall, nor Turner (most likely), and going with Favors would be acquiring another hyperathlete that can’t necessarily move the NBA’s worst offense forward.

1B. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Kentucky: The headcase.  Cousins is at least one spot lower than he should be, and possibly two, based solely on his maturity level. Which is remarkably questionable. Cousins is a massive headcase, prone to fits, tantrums, freak-outs, and mouthing off. Let me put it this way. If we’re taking bets on “Most likely to say something in the press that will result in a NBA veteran destroying him” for the 2010 rookies? The money line is Cousins (-50) and field (-7000). He’s got the potential to rival Sheed in technicals by the end of his career. So he certainly deserves a drop and that may be too much for the young Nets.

But on the flip side, it’s hard to find a prospect outside of Wall with as powerful a combination of immediate impact and upside as Cousins. He has the most impressive set of physical assets of any big in the draft, with length, frame and muscle all to the standard of an NBA starter from the get go. Give him the ball, and he knows what to do with it. At Kentucky he showed not only a patience in working to develop a shot but a ridiculous ability to draw fouls. He’s just too big and physical to contain. Pair that polish and aggressiveness with Lopez and you have a pretty killer frontcourt.

Cousins is questionable defensively but that’s tied into the headcase thing. When motivated, he can be smothering, and between he and Lopez, opponents might never see the light of day again.

Cousins is a remarkably risky pick but has the highest chance of making an immediate impact.

2a. Wesley Johnson, SF/PF, Syracuse: The complication. Okay, let’s say the Nets decide that the Orange wing is the way to go. He’s simply not big enough to play power forward in the NBA, but that’s alright, because Terrence Williams logged most of his time at the shooting guard position anyway. So you push Courtney Lee to the bench, move Williams to the 2, slot in Johnson as your dynamic three, figure out something at power forward, and keep Lopez banging along. Not a bad option. Even Courtney Lee as the backup shooting guard seems like a good plan. But it does create somewhat of a glut at the position, particularly if the team elects to re-sign troubled but talented wing Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Having too much talent isn’t exactly something New Jersey needs to be concerned with right now, but in planning for the future, a small forward that has difficulty in creating his own shot might not be the best option.

2b. Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF, Wake Forest: The reach. Aminu brings a lot of what the Nets are looking for. Versatility, an ability to spread the floor, enough size to play 4 in a jam, enough versatility to play 3 as a natural position. He’s long, talented, has good work ethic and can score at the rim. He doesn’t have terrific range, but the other wings for the Nets have those things. The problem is that he’s simply too much of a reach. He’s not considered on level with Wesley Johnson, Cousins, or Favors, and is part of the “soup” of picks between No. 5 and No. 12 in most mocks.

If the Nets can move down a few slots to take him and either pick up another pick (to bundle together for a later trade) or a veteran that can contribute, that might be a wise move. The Nets have so many concerns from a talent standpoint that trying to maximize their options may be the best approach. Getting Aminu would serve a lot of needs while not necessarily solving any, and a move down would relinquish them of the intense scrutiny of any of the other picks listed.

3a. Cole Aldrich, PF/C, Kansas: The bust. This would be a disaster. Aldrich was a phenomenal college athlete but his upside in the pros is limited, as is how he would fit in with Brook Lopez. The Nets would have a considerably bigger team, but how much that would help given their other deficiencies has to be a concern.

3b. Greg Monroe, PF/C:
The slip. Monroe was as high as No. 3 in some drafts earlier in the year, but a subpar season along with a poor showing in the tournament has left him plummeting back down to double digits. Monroe’s offensive game is developed enough for him to play at the four and his size is a huge plus at 6-11, but a lack of passing ability and limited athleticism have him hampered. And the reach factor again comes into play here, as Monroe would be available later. There’s also a similar concern as with Aldrich as to his ability to fit in with Lopez. Monroe may be the most ready to make an immediate impact but his longterm viability and upside may render this too much for the Nets to go for.

4a. Trade the pick:
The gamble. The Nets have three of the first 32 selections in the 2010 NBA Draft, including the number three. They aren’t tethered to anyone but Lopez in terms of a talent standpoint, and have the cap space to take on any large contract a team would need to dump off in a talent upgrade. While the biggest prizes of the summer may be out of reach, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options if Thorn is willing to pursue them.

The Nets are in the weeds, but at least there are some choices. For the sake of the franchise, they’d best tread carefully though.

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.

Kevin Durant says Nike didn’t influence his free-agency decision

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses for NBA team photographer Noah Graham during the Golden State Warriors Media Day at the Warriors Practice Facility on September 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Many different factors went into Kevin Durant‘s decision this summer to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors — basketball fit, location, his friendships with Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, and more. But one thing he wants to make sure you know didn’t influence him is Nike. Durant told reporters this week that the shoe company, which he endorses, didn’t steer him one way or another in free agency, and they didn’t even know his plans beforehand.

It’s a little hard to believe that Nike had zero advance knowledge of Durant’s plans — if not a hard answer, at least a strong indication of which way he was leaning. Durant was one of the most popular players in the league in Oklahoma City, so Nike would have been fine either way. But his presence in Golden State, a much bigger market and the dominant story in the NBA this season, will only help them. It doesn’t hurt, either, that they now have one of their biggest athletes in the same market as Stephen Curry, who had been taking advantage of all the attention on the Warriors to raise Under Armour’s profile. Now, Nike can get some of that spotlight back in the Bay Area.

Barnes, Bogut highlight latest round of changes for Mavs

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are in, Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia are out and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has a retooled roster for the sixth consecutive time since winning a championship.

“Well, we love it,” Carlisle said at media day this week as someone chuckled. “What’s more exciting than getting seven new guys? New blood. It’s fresh every year.

“Really, that wasn’t meant to be a joke,” he added. “If you view it as a negative, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be a negative. I don’t look at it that way.”

The Mavericks have made the playoffs all but one season since the constant turnover started after owner Mark Cuban chose salary cap flexibility over keeping a few key players when a new labor agreement was reached six months after his team won the title in 2011.

But Dallas still hasn’t won a postseason series since beating Miami in six games in those NBA Finals.

Repeated efforts to land big names in free agency failed, which this year led to the additions of Barnes and Bogut from 2015 champion Golden State after the Warriors lured Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City and had to unload both starters to make cap room for the four-time NBA scoring champion.

Barnes headlines the group of newcomers because he’ll be a top option on offense after signing a four-year, $94 million max contract. Over his four seasons with the Warriors, he was always a role player behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“It’s going to be bigger expectations and I’m going to have a larger role on this team,” Barnes said. “I feel like we have a lot of pieces this year, either coming back off injury, guys who are motivated, have a lot to prove. So hopefully we can all come together and do something special.”

There’s actually some stability in the starting five because point guard Deron Williams is back for a second season with his hometown team.

Nowitzki, going into his 19th season at age 38, says Williams was the best player on the team at times last season, and the Mavericks missed him in their five-game loss to Oklahoma City. He was limited by a sports hernia injury that required offseason surgery.

Parsons signed a max deal with Memphis, and Pachulia went to the Warriors after the trade that landed Dallas the 7-footer Bogut, who should be a much stronger shot-blocking presence than his predecessor.

The changes fit the formula of at least two new starters each season going back to the title year.

“There are similarities to other years,” Carlisle said. “The ability to add Bogut and Barnes was huge for us. We caught some good luck on that.”

The other notable newcomer is Curry’s younger brother, Seth Curry, who is on his fifth team in his fourth season but finally had a more prominent role last season in Sacramento. Former Baylor standout Quincy Acy is in Dallas after bouncing around his first four years.

The Mavericks are deep at guard with holders J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind Williams and Wes Matthews, in his second season as the shooting guard and now more than a year removed from tearing an Achilles tendon his final season in Portland.

Also returning are athletic young forwards Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell along with 7-2 Tunisian center Salah Mejri, a surprising shot-blocking presence last season as a 30-year-old rookie.

“They’re definitely athletes and we should be able to have a great defensive lineup once I’m out,” said Nowitzki, poking fun at his defensive skills. “I think we have a (backup) lineup out there that could be really, really good, and obviously youth and athleticism is a big part.”

Barnes wanted to be a part of it even though the Mavericks appear further from championship contention than other Western Conference teams.

“I think when you look at what this franchise has done year in, year out, stable on their ship,” Barnes said. “And be able to learn from a guy named Dirk who’s done it year in, year out. He’s pretty much built this place through his work ethic.”

And now Nowitzki is getting used to another new collection of teammates.

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Jazz’s Dante Exum says his knee is completely healed from 2015 ACL tear

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 17:  Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz drives to the lane during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 17, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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After a promising rookie season, Dante Exum missed all of 2015-16 rehabbing a torn left ACL he suffered during an exhibition game with the Australian national team in summer 2015. As the Jazz kick off training camp, Exum says he’s fully recovered after his year off and he’s ready to go.

Via Jody Gennessy of the Deseret News:

“I was just excited to get back out there,” Exum said after the first of two practices Tuesday. “I was feeling good. … I was just ready to come out there, talk when I can and run between every drill.”

Both his attitude and his body were at 100 percent as he returned from a yearlong rehab that followed his September 2015 surgery on his left knee that had been injured in a friendly international game with the Australian team.

With the Jazz’s trade for George Hill over the summer, Exum won’t have to be the starting point guard, which will take some pressure off of him to get back to full strength right away. A torn ACL is something that usually takes time to return from, and having guard depth to ease his workload will help with the transition. If the Jazz get good production out of Exum, it will be a bonus for what looks to be one of the most exciting young teams in the Western Conference.