The Big Board Version 1.0: Tiers

Draft talk is officially underway, we welcome back The Big Board.

Welcome to the Raptors-centric Big Board, today’s post focuses on the significance of tiers when drafting.

Less than 24 hours after receiving the news that he had dropped to 5th spot in the draft, GM Bryan Colangelo confirmed that there were 7 or 8 players that the Raptors had their eyes on. Below is a list of the tiers those players may fall into.

This year we’ve decided to shake it up a bit and we will be regularly updating the big board with commentary and additional information from several key industry insiders. But to start, here’s the list of who to keep an eye on, aka, The Big Board, and this year it is in tiers.

Here is how the tier system works. Just about every team in the NBA not named Minnesota, now widely recognizes that the best way to draft is to use the tier system. In doing so, you eliminate the age old debate of do I draft for need or do I take the best player available? According to the tier system, you rank players in terms of their skill sets into categories like, for example, those listed below. Once you have all the players in the draft slotted into tiers, when it’s your turn to draft you always draft from the highest tier remaining. So, even if the fans of the Raptors might shoot themselves in the head if the Raptors were to draft Kanter (what’s this, he’s rejected us?), if you have him in tier 3, and he is the only guy in tier 3 available when its your team’s turn to pick, you draft him.

In this light, you are always drafting the best player available. But where the tier system really helps teams to make a smart choice, and in a very large way saves GMs from what was once called “Knighting” or “Grunwlading” or even “McHaleing” but is now affectionately referred to as “ Kahning”- that is taking a guy who either fits a need or who plainly doesn’t, is that in the tier system when you have two or more players on the board in the same tier when it is your teams turn to pick, you pick the player who more clearly fits a need of the team. So, if we look back a couple of years to the last time the Raps picked in the top 5, the Bargnani draft – if the Raps had been using the tier system, then by all accounts there was no real separation between Bargnani, Aldridge, Roy, Gay, and Ty Thomas for the #1 pick. And since the Raps already had a power forward as part of their core, they would have selected from either Roy or Gay with the #1 pick.

Here are the tiers as we see them:

Tier 1: Franchise player/Can’t miss superstar: these are guys that are consensus #1’s like Lebron, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, and John Wall. Rarely, but on occasion you can have more than 1 of these guys in the same draft – think back to Lebron and Carmelo! However, more often than not, if you are the Raptors and have a high pick, you get a draft that doesn’t even have one of these – like this year’s draft for example.

Tier 2: Potential Superstar and perennial All-Star: these are the next group of players, say a Derek Rose, Kevin Durant, or Dwight Howard. Guys who have all the tools to be a superstar, and who will likely be an All-Star in the league but who come into the league with some question marks. One of the reason why this year’s draft is considered so weak is that there is no one who falls into this tier either. These are top 5 picks in a good draft.

Tier 3: NBA Starter and with all star potential: These guys will come in right away and help your team. They are mostly second option guys, who occasional turn out to be franchise players- but more often than not, when, in a good draft they go in the bottom half of the top ten, but in this years draft we are talking about them as if they are the cream of the crop. This year’s draft has three players that most scouts agree upon as belonging in this category: Irving, Williams, and Kanter- none of whom will be available when the Raptors pick at #5. However, I would also add another 2 names to this list: Brandon Knight, Jan Vesley. Both these players are likely to be available when the Raptors pick, and i would imagine they are at the top of Colangelo’s list of guys to watch film of.

Tier 4: NBA Starter with some upside: here we have guys who we know are going to be in the league and contribute on a team as the third scoring option, with strong leadership capabilities, or as a defensive specialist, etc. In a strong draft, you would start hitting this point, the fourth tier starts around pick 10 and would find a player in the bottom end of the lottery who could still come in and help you team immediately with some upside, but would not be considered a top five player at his position any time in the near future.

Tier 5: NBA Rotational Player with starter possibility: These are the guys who round out the 20s and close out the first round. James Johnson is a good example of this type of player and maybe this is why Colangelo didn’t mind giving up his pick from Miami in this draft for Johnson. I still think that was a bad trade and would rather have Honeycutt, Singler, or Nolan Smith, but hey, at this point you aren’t really expecting the guy you draft at 27 to actually do anything more than Jerome Moiso (what Sam Mitchell would call taking up air at the end of the bench ).

Tier ***: Potential Superstar but possible/likely bust – aka a long shot: This is the tier that doesn’t actually exist but should. You see, every year teams talk themselves into a project. A guy explodes in the tournament, or measures an 11 foot wingspan at the combine, or scores 118 points at the Nike Hoop Summit and all of a sudden he is somehow a better choice than a player scouts have watched develop since the age of 7. GMs often fall in love with guys like this and slot them to be higher than they should be on the off chance that their guy is actually Serge Ibaka and not Darko Milicic. If I was a GM, I would have a separate tier for these guys, just to remind me that they are not in fact as “real” as they appear. This doesn’t mean I would refuse to draft them. I mean, I would suggest that Bismack Biyombo belongs in this category this year. Now when the Raps pick at 5, if no one from tier 3 remains, I might consider drafting Biyombo since what you get from a tier 4 guy is really nothing special.

So for the Raptors, assuming they stay at #5, and assuming that Kanter, Williams, and Irving go in the top 4 picks, the 7 or 8 guys that Colangelo has his eyes on and the tiers that they are slotted into are…well, we’ll return with Big Board 2.0 for that story. Until then, I’m sure you’ll slot those guys into the tiers mentioned above, and maybe add some more of your own.

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