Here are Espns tier rankings for this draft
Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are the consensus top two picks ... but are they franchise players?
Every time I put up a new mock draft (Mock Draft 5.0 came out Wednesday), I get a lot of feedback from readers who wonder how I put it together and how it differs from the Top 100. This is how it works: Both pieces are reported pieces. In other words, I talk with NBA scouts and executives to get a sense of:
A. Which teams like which players (mock draft).
B. What the consensus is among all 30 NBA teams about who the best players in the draft are (Top 100).
I use the word "consensus" lightly. Often, even GMs and scouts employed by the same team can't agree on rankings of players.
I had a very interesting conversation in Treviso, Italy, last week with a number of NBA executives and scouts about just how subjective this process is, how many backroom fights go on and how, from time to time, teams literally don't make up their minds until they are on the clock. They gave me a lot of funny examples (off the record). The point was that every team does things a little differently, and even within a team, there often isn't much consensus.
Obviously, both the mock draft and Top 100 are imperfect because the draft is an inexact science. NBA teams do more than watch prospects play games. They work out players, give them psychological tests, do background checks and conduct personal interviews. All of this factors into the process and can change opinions.
Factor in the ranking wars with another age-old debate -- do you draft for need or for the best player available? -- and it's no surprise the draft can be so volatile. Many teams take into account holes at certain positions (i.e., the team has no small forward) or coaching/system preferences (i.e., the Knicks draft players who can fit into coach Mike D'Antoni's system) when making their decisions.
To make sense of disparate rankings and debates over team needs, the past few years I've chronicled a draft ranking system employed by several teams that have been very successful in the draft: what I call a tier system. Instead of developing an exact order from one to 60 of the best players in the draft, these teams group players, based on overall talent, into tiers. Then, the teams rank the players in each tier based on team need.
This system allows teams to draft not only the best player available but also the player who best fits a team's individual needs.
So what do the tiers look like this year? After talking to several GMs and scouts whose teams employ this system, I put together these tiers. (Because the teams do not want to divulge their draft rankings publicly, the teams will remain anonymous.)
Players are listed alphabetically in each tier.
Note: This category is usually reserved for guys who are surefire All-Stars/franchise players. Last year, John Wall was the only guy in this tier. In 2009, Blake Griffin was the guy here. This year, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are at the top of the draft, but neither guy is projected as a franchise player or a surefire All-Star.
Kyrie Irving (draft range: 1 to 2)
Derrick Williams (1 to 3)
Note: Irving and Williams are the top two players on the boards of the teams I spoke with, regardless of team needs. Both players are projected to be starters and potential All-Stars. While it looks like Irving has the best shot of going No. 1, there's still an outside chance it could be Williams.
Enes Kanter (2 to 6)
Brandon Knight (3 to 7)
Kawhi Leonard (5 to 9)
Jonas Valanciunas (3 to 8)
Jan Vesely (3 to 10)
Kemba Walker (3 to 9)
Note: This is a larger-than-usual Tier 3, and it says something about how NBA GMs are seeing this draft. They believe the six players above all have NBA All-Star potential, but all six have significant weaknesses that could keep them from living up to it. All six players were consensus top-10 picks. Leonard and Walker barely squeaked into this tier. A number of teams have them in Tier 4. Some teams believe Knight, Kanter and Valanciunas could all end up as Tier 2, or even Tier 1, players over time.
Bismack Biyombo (8 to 20)
Alec Burks (10 to 17)
Jimmer Fredette (7 to 15)
Marcus Morris (9 to 15)
Chris Singleton (10 to 18)
Klay Thompson (9 to 17)
Tristan Thompson (6 to 16)
Note: This is a smaller-than-usual tier, and it was difficult to find a real consensus. Teams are saying that these seven players likely will fill out the rest of the lottery. This is where the real depth of the draft is. Biyombo, Burks, Singleton and both Thompsons each got one or two Tier 5 votes. Since we've listed 15 players, one of these eight likely will slip out of the lottery.
Davis Bertans (17 to 29)
Marshon Brooks (13 to 20)
Kenneth Faried (13 to 21)
Jordan Hamilton (11 to 19)
Tobias Harris (14 to 22)
Tyler Honeycutt (18 to 30)
Reggie Jackson (17 to 31)
Nikola Mirotic (20 to 30)
Darius Morris (21 to 35)
Markieff Morris (13 to 19)
Donatas Motiejunas (12 to 20)
Josh Selby (17 to 28)
Nikola Vucevic (14 to 21)
Note: These players look like locks for the first round but most likely won't make the lottery. A few teams had Brooks, Harris, Markieff Morris and Vucevic in Tier 4 but not quite enough for them to make the cut; they were very close, though. Bertans, Honeycutt, Jackson, Mirotic and Darius Morris were borderline picks here. Every one of these players dropped out of the top 30 on at least one NBA team's draft board.
Tier 6 (All First-Round Bubble)
Jon Leuer Shelvin Mack
Note: This is what I would call the first-round bubble group, and this is where the consensus started to break down. A few teams had Harper, Jenkins and Tyler in Tier 5, but many did not. Overall, there are just two spaces left in the first round ... so most of the players on this list are falling to the second round.
So how does the tier system work?
A team ranks players in each tier according to team need. So, in Tier 4, if point guard is the biggest need, a player like Fredette is ranked No. 1. If shooting guard is the biggest need, Alec Burks or Klay Thompson is ranked No. 1.
The rules are pretty simple. A team always drafts its highest-ranked player in a given tier. Also, a team never takes a player from a lower tier if one from a higher tier is available. So, for example, the Bucks are drafting No. 10 (Tier 4 territory); if Kawhi Leonard (a Tier 3 player) is on the board, they take him regardless of positional need. If the Bucks have Klay Thompson ranked No. 1 in Tier 4, they still take Leonard, even though shooting guard is a more pressing need.
This system protects teams from overreaching based on team need. The Bucks won't pass on a clearly superior player like Leonard to fill a need with Thompson. However, the system also protects a team from passing on a player who fits a need just because he might be ranked one or two spots lower overall.
Last year, I gave you my favorite historical example from the Atlanta Hawks. Because of team positional needs, former GM Billy Knight took Marvin Williams ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2005 and Shelden Williams ahead of guards such as Brandon Roy and Rajon Rondo in 2006.
Here's another one: The Raptors selected Rafael Araujo with the eighth pick in the 2004 NBA draft because they needed a center desperately. Most teams had Araujo as a Tier 4 player, but the Raptors selected him in a Tier 2 category because there were no centers available in their tier.
If the Raptors had employed a tier system, they would have ranked inside the tier based on team need and fit rather than just ranking the prospects from 1-30.
In that case, the Raptors likely would have grabbed a player like Andre Iguodala instead.
Like every draft system, the tier system isn't perfect. But the teams that run it have found success with it. The system has allowed them to get help through the draft without overreaching. Compared to traditional top-30 lists or mock drafts, it seems like a much more precise tool of gauging which players a team should draft.