Discussion

Ranking prospects by tier

System provides hints on where -- and by whom -- players will be drafted

Updated: June 25, 2012, 10:45 AM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

Every time I put up a new mock draft (Mock Draft 8.2 was updated on Thursday), 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. 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. As hard as it is for NBA draftniks to believe, there is very little consensus within teams on draft night.

Obviously, the draft is an inexact science. NBA teams watch prospects play thousands of hours of games. They go to practice. They go to camps. 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 Spurs draft players who can fit into coach Gregg Popovich'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. I call it a tier system. Instead of developing an exact order from No. 1 to No. 60 of the best players in the draft, these teams group players into tiers based on overall talent. 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, more importantly, 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.)

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