Should Nets go safe or risky in draft?

When the Washington Wizards won the NBA Draft Lottery, they basically earned the right to select John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick.

That will, in all likelihood, leave the Philadelphia 76ers with versatile Ohio State product Evan Turner at second overall.

Then it'll get interesting on Thursday night.

The New Jersey Nets, now run by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, will have a major dilemma on their hands. It's far from a no-brainer for Nets GM Rod Thorn, his scouting department and new coach Avery Johnson.

Do you roll the dice on Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins, who has lingering character and work ethic concerns, or do you go with the squeaky clean big man in Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors?

There is also the possibility that Georgetown's skilled forward Greg Monroe and even Syracuse wing Wesley Johnson could be in play for the Nets.

Cousins is an enigma.

He came into college with a reputation as a hothead, unable to control his emotions. I've seen it with my own eyes on multiple occasions when he lost his cool on the court in the summer and nearly went after players and even referees.

But he was also regarded as arguably the most talented and dominant big man in the Class of 2009 -- and he backed it up with his play as a freshman this past season.

Cousins averaged 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds in just 23.5 minutes per contest. Sure, there were a couple of incidents -- such as the time he swung a forearm at Louisville's Jared Swopshire. There were even reports that Cousins took a swing at a South Carolina fan following a loss to the Gamecocks.

But for the most part, the 6-foot-11, 292-pounder was on his best behavior. Then again, it's all a matter of expectations.

The bar was set low.

Cousins became a media darling in Lexington due to his charismatic, engaging personality. Kentucky fans love Cousins, but then again, most of them backed Billy Gillispie until his final day in Lexington.

I'm not anti-Cousins, but I wouldn't risk my job on him -- and that's what Thorn and several other NBA general managers are contemplating in the hours leading up to Thursday's NBA Draft.

Taking Cousins with the third overall pick -- or at any point in the top 10 -- would be like playing craps.

Just roll the dice and pray because you have no clue what you're going to get.

Maybe you'll get Al Jefferson. But you might get Benoit Benjamin.

Remember Benjamin?

He was taken with the third overall pick out of Creighton back in 1985 by the Los Angeles Clippers and wound up playing for nine teams in his disappointing NBA career.

Calipari has had plenty of experience coaching guys like Cousins while he was at UMass and Memphis. He's a master at coaching at-risk kids and proved it once again with Cousins.

But Avery Johnson isn't Calipari. He hasn't dealt with guys likes Cousins. He had guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Van Horn and Shawn Bradley in his four-year stint in Dallas.

Then there's Favors -- nearly the antithesis of Cousins.

Favors is a 6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward with a squeaky clean image. His numbers (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg) weren't nearly an impressive as Cousins' and he may not be quite as ready to step into the NBA in certain aspects, but he also didn't have a point guard the caliber of John Wall.

And there are no off-court issues with Favors.

In fact, the knock on him is that he's too nice a kid.

"He doesn't like all the attention," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt told me earlier in the year. "He's old-school and just wants to play."

There are other factors for the Nets.

They already have a legitimate center -- and one of the most promising in the entire league in Brook Lopez.

Lopez averaged 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this past season and would likely mesh with more ease with a guy like Favors or even Monroe, a long and skilled forward that would allow Lopez to roam freely in the paint.

Cousins is a center. He scored nearly all of his points within a few feet of the basket -- 81 percent of them within five feet, according to one NBA executive. Favors also got most of his production in the paint, but would be more of a power forward in the NBA.

Then there's Monroe, Johnson and maybe even Turner if the 76ers pull a shocker and opt to go with Cousins or Favors at No. 2 overall.

However, in all likelihood, it'll come down to Cousins and Favors.

Thorn had better be careful with this one -- or it may cost him his job.