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Placing 2014 NBA draft prospects into tiers

Jun 26, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

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Draft for need or take the best player available?

It’s the question as old as drafts themselves.Personally, I favor the middle-of-the-road approach – the tier system.I judge prospects on three attributes:

  • Current ability
  • Potential
  • Likelihood of meeting that potential

Obviously, assessing those attributes is not easy. It’s really hard.

That’s why I don’t like taking the best prospect – based on all three criteria – available. It’s just too difficult to split hairs between players with so many variables

.But overly considering fit is problematic for the same reason. Rosters churn, and it’s foolish to pass on a clearly better prospect – in the cases that becomes clear – just because he doesn’t fit the current version of the team.

So how does the tier system work?

Divide players into tiers based on their value regardless of fit. Don’t worry about differentiating prospects with nearly identical values. Find natural cutoffs.

Then, within each tier, rank the players based on fit for the specific drafting team.

Theoretically, a draft could have anywhere between 1 and 60 tiers. A 1-tier draft would mean every prospect – from the top pick to Mr. Irrelevant – holds the same value. A 60-tier draft would mean every prospect is clearly distinguishable based on value. Obviously, neither is likely.

The size of tiers should be organic, and therefore, the number of tiers is also organic. Naturally, tiers tend to be smaller near the top of the draft, where lines between players are sharper.

Here’s how I see the 2014 draft prospects splitting into tiers – at least through the first round. Within each tier I rank prospects as if they were being drafted by a team with a blank slate, but the order should be customizable by team.

Tier 1

1. Jabari Parker

2. Andrew Wiggins

Tier 2

3. Joel Embiid

Tier 3

4. Dante Exum

Tier 4

5. Noah Vonleh

6. Marcus Smart

Tier 5

7. Aaron Gordon

8. Julius Randle

Tier 6

9. Gary Harris

10. Nik Stauskas

Tier 7

11. Tyler Ennis

12. Elfrid Payton

13. James Young

14. Adreian Payne

15. Jusuf Nurkic

16. Kyle Anderson

17. Dario Saric

18. Zach Lavine

Tier 8

19. Doug McDermott

20. Shabazz Napier

21. Clint Capela

22. Rodney Hood

Tier 9

23. Cleanthony Early

24. Jordan Adams

25. P.J. Hairston

26. K.J. McDaniels

27. Mitch McGary

28. Jarnell Stokes

29. Nikola Jokic

Tier 10

30. T.J. Warren

31. Jerami Grant

32. Spencer-Dinwiddie

33. Glen Robinson III

34. Walter Tavares

  1. loubearkane - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    McBuckets TIER 9? HATER

    • loubearkane - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:35 PM


  2. 4thquartermagic - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    “Tier 1 should forever be known as “The Anthony Bennet tier”


  3. thraiderskin - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    I know Exum has become a very popular player during this process, but what makes u think he is in a different tier than Smart… isn’t his game still considered an unknown? I guess I don’t understand your tier system and what validates each player to end up in the tier u have them (except Parker and Wiggins).

    • Unidentified_Flying_Stiviano - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:24 PM

      – Current ability
      – Potential
      – Likelihood of meeting that potential

      That’s the tier system and what he was judging off of, that’s bullet pointed out. Did you read that or just skip down to the list? Probably why you aren’t understanding.

  4. cheeks9441 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    I don’t understand why none of these “experts” can form their own opinions on players. In every draft, some of the best players go, say, 5th, 8th, 13th, 22nd, etc. If we know that some of the best players in a draft will be later picks and that of the top 5 “can’t miss” prospects, odds are that 1 or 2 of them won’t live up to the hype, why are there never projections from these experts that go outside the box?

    Just once, somewhere, I want to see a big board with Noah Vonleh ranked 17th or Adreian Payne ranked 4th or Jusuf Nurkic ranked 42nd.

    These kinds of surprises and disappointments happen in every draft — and they’re not rare. They’re actually quite common. Yet, all of these mock drafts and rankings look virtually identical. In summary, come up with your own opinions people. Because the majority opinion is very often wrong.

  5. asimonetti88 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    Tier 1

    Tier 2

    Tier 3

    Tier 4

    Tier 5

    • brookwell2013 - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:23 PM


      • Unidentified_Flying_Stiviano - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        My only guess can be a Chappelle Show reference. The Making The Band skit. Could be way off though.

    • theblackrook - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:14 PM


  6. djp141 - Jun 26, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    No more tiers.

  7. saint1997 - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    These will all disappear … like tiers … in the rain

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