Placing 2014 NBA draft prospects into tiers

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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