NBA Draft Tiers

In the NFL Draft, teams break down prospective players into tiers. You have some players ranked slightly higher than others but all players in the same tier are ranked relatively close to each other. There is usually, and there should be, a noticeable difference in talent between tiers.

The main purpose of a tier system is too ensure you don’t reach for a player, usually out of need. Why not just rank the players 1-100 and take whoever is ranked highest when it’s your turn to pick? By tiering players, you’re saying that these players graded out very close to each other so I’m free to take whichever one fills a position of need for me. For example, let’s say you have 4 players in Tier 1 that graded out at 91, 90, 90, 89. Even though the 89 score is the lowest score in the tier, if that guy plays a position that fills a need, you probably take him over the guy that scored 91. The difference in talent is so small you can justify taking the guy with the lower score because he fills a need. However when you look at Tier 2, they graded out at 81, 81, 80, 78. Even if a Tier 2 player fills a need, you don’t take him till there’s no one left in Tier 1. This is because there’s a sizable difference in talent between Tier 1 and Tier 2.

I’ve taken the Tier approach to the NBA Draft (I needed a break from work). There is a natural gap in talent at four different places so I created 4 tiers for the top 21 players in this draft. Other than a few players outside of the top 21, I’m not familiar enough with them to make a 5th Tier.

Tier 1

Karl-Anthony Towns - could go 1-2, good at everything, but not great at much. I’m not as high on him as others are.

Jahlil Okafor - could go 1-4, a more athletic Al Jefferson that has good passing ability. I have him ranked #1

D’Angelo Russell - could go 2-4, great shooter but didn’t play as well against good competition

Kristaps Porzingis - could go 3-6, if it wasn’t for the failure of other euro bigs, I’d have him at #2

There is talent in the top tier this year, but I don’t think it’s elite talent. Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker would both be drafted #1 if they were in this draft. However, those were the only two players I had in Tier 1 last year. This year I have four players; it’s a deeper draft. atf edit: Jabari Parker could perhaps go #1 in this draft, but many teams like Towns and Okafor quite a bit so Parker might have slid to 2 or 3 if he was in this draft.

Tier 2

Emmanuel Mudiay - could go 4-6, more athletic than Russell but isn't as good a shooter. Also, apparently Russell is a better fit for the triangle offense that NY, who has the 4th pick, is trying to install (I don't know why)

Willie Cauley-Stein - could go 4-8 - won’t make a bad team good, but could be the x-factor that makes a good team great. His next coach will stay up all night thinking of ways to use Cauley-Stein in games. He could very well have a Deion Sanders type effect defensively.

Justise Winslow - could go 4-8, the Stanford block says it all.

Mario Hezonja - could go 5-8, would love to see the Jazz trade up for him.

Stanley Johnson - #9 is the logical place for him. He is the only Tier 2 player that could possible slide to #12.

This is where the draft get interesting. The Tier 2 and Tier 3 talent this year is strong. Mudiay could end up being a franchise point guard. He’s not in the top tier because I haven’t seen him play professionally. I love Cauley-Stein’s potential as a defensive stopper. Most of the best players in the League are small forwards and stretch 4’s. He has the length and athleticism to guard, or at least frustrate, all of them. He's also a rim protector. Regarding the Jazz’s draft, Mario Hezonja is the best player that fills a need that we have a realistic chance of trading up for. If he falls to #7 or #8 we have the ammo to probably pull off a trade w/out having to trade one of our core players.

Tier 3

Frank Kaminsky – could go 10-16. I like him a lot and think he's underrated. His offensive skill set is amazing. I'm gonna get ridiculed for this, but if he goes to the right place he will be an allstar.

Devin Booker – could go 8-14, needed another year of college, however, has Ray Allen type form on his release.

Myles Turner – could go 10-15. a risky pick because he moves mechanically.

Kelly Oubre – could go 10-16. See Devin Booker.

Because some teams behind us will probably reach for Tier 4 players, most of these players should be available when we pick at #12. However, regardless of the position, if a Tier 2 player falls to us (Stanley Johnson is the most likely candidate) we take him because there is a higher level of talent in Tier 2 than Tier 3. Barring that happening, I think Frank Kaminsky should be the guy. He fills our two biggest needs (back-up center and stretch 4). His defense and rebounding are underrated and he's proven that he'll work on his deficiencies to get better. Myles Turner fills the same two needs but I think he’s too stiff. He may grow into his body, or he may not; it’s a gamble. Oubre doesn’t fill a need so I don’t know why so many mock’s have Utah selecting him. Booker may be gone but if he’s available I guess I’d be ok taking him because his combine #’s were surprisingly good, but he's still a risk. A player like Booker would normally be in Tier 4, but because of his 3 pt % teams are willing to reach for him so I put him in Tier 3. If you watch the tape though, many of his 3's were uncontested. RJ Hunter's 3 pt % was also around 40% as a freshman but each year teams increasingly focused their defense on him and his 3 pt % fell each year. Who knows what % Booker would have shot next year as defenses key on him now instead of Towns.

Tier 4

Cameron Payne – could sneak into the top 10 and leapfrog most of the Tier 3 guys

Bobby Portis – A taller Trevor Booker, not really interested.

Trey Lyles – could sneak into top 10 and leapfrog all of the Tier 3 guys. I'm not sure why though.

Kevon Looney – If Frank Kaminsky is already taken, the Jazz may trade down and take Looney.

Jerian Grant – Older player, I’m cautious about him

Sam Dekker – 0-6 on 3’s in the championship game. Another player I’m cautious about

Tyus Jones – reminds me of Trey Burke and not a position of need

Robert Upshaw – would do backflips if the Jazz got him. Elite rim protector to backup Gobert.

The Tier 4 guys are slightly ahead or on par with most year’s Tier 4 guys. Fit is very important for each of them as most of them could turn into good players in the right system or buried deep on the bench in the wrong system. The only two that I really like are Kevon Looney and Robert Upshaw. If the Jazz trade down in the draft I hope it would be for both of them. I think Kevon Looney could develop into a great stretch 4 and he played at UCLA (UCLA players have a good track record in the NBA). I think Robert Upshaw has the talent to be in Tier 1. I doubt many teams have him ranked this high though due to character concerns. We would have 24/7 elite rim protection with him, Gobert, and Favors.

I’d be interested to see if someone could make a Tier 5. I'm guessing a Tier 5 would cover the remaining players that are likely to get drafted in the 1st round.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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