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Ford: insider

JoeWolf1
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Ford: insider

This is a pretty good read, Chad Ford wrote it

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 rankings.

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 fight with my scouts constantly," one prominent GM told me. "Everyone has their own ideas, their own preferences, their own methodology. There really is no consensus, and, I hate to say it, I'm not sure there's even any real right or wrong."

Obviously, both pieces 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 these things influence 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 Jazz draft players who can fit into coach Jerry Sloan'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 1 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 need.

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John Wall is on a level all his own.
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 the following groupings. (Because the teams do not want to divulge their draft rankings publicly, the teams will remain anonymous.)

Players are listed alphabetically in each tier.

Tier 1
John Wall

Note: Wall is the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, but unlike last year with Blake Griffin, he's not miles ahead of Evan Turner or Derrick Favors. Still, when all 30 GMs agree you are No. 1, you get your own category.

Tier 2

DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, Evan Turner

Note: Turner is the consensus No. 2 pick in the draft. All but two teams listed him as the No. 2 player on their boards, regardless of need. However, one team listed Favors and another went with Cousins at No. 2, while Johnson got a handful of votes at No. 3. The thing they all have in common is that every team I've spoken with believes these players could be NBA All-Stars down the road.

Tier 3

Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Greg Monroe

Note: This is a pretty small third tier and says something about how NBA GMs see this draft. They believe the three players above have All-Star potential, but all have significant weaknesses that could keep them from living up to it. All three players were consensus top-eight picks. Aminu and Monroe made every list. Teams were a little shakier on Davis, but in all but one case, he made the cut.

Tier 4

Cole Aldrich, Luke Babbitt, Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, Xavier Henry, Paul George, Daniel Orton, Patrick Patterson, Ekpe Udoh

Note: This is a huge tier and shows the parity in the draft. Theoretically, teams are saying you can get the same quality of player at No. 9 that you will get at No. 19. This is where the real depth of the draft is. Of this group, Udoh, Hayward and Henry each got a vote for Tier 3, and all three were unanimous selections from the other teams in Tier 4. Orton and Bledsoe were borderline between here and Tier 5.

Tier 5

Solomon Alabi, James Anderson, Craig Brackins, Jordan Crawford, Devin Ebanks, Keith Gallon, Darington Hobson, Damion James, Armon Johnson, Dominique Jones, Gani Lawal, Dexter Pittman, Tibor Pleiss, Quincy Pondexter, Stanley Robinson, Larry Sanders, Kevin Seraphin, Lance Stephenson, Jarvis Varnado, Hassan Whiteside, Elliot Williams

Note: This is what I would call the first-round bubble group and where the consensus really started to break down. A few teams had Alabi, James and Whiteside in Tier 4, but not quite enough for them to make the cut. Whiteside was an interesting case because he got one Tier 2 and one Tier 3 vote as well. In other words, teams are all over the place on him. Johnson, Lawal, Pittman, Pleiss and Varnado were borderline picks here. Every one of these players dropped out of the top 30 on at least one team's draft board.

So how does the tier system work?

A team ranks players in each tier according to need. So, in Tier 4, if a team needs a swingman, a guy like Hayward or Henry is ranked No. 1. If power forward is the biggest need, Udoh or Patterson is ranked No. 1.

The rules are pretty simple. You always draft the highest-ranked player in a given tier. Also, you never take a player from a lower tier if one from a higher tier is available. So, for example, if the Hornets are drafting No. 11 (Tier 4 territory) and Aminu (a Tier 3 player) is on the board, they take him regardless of position. If they have Aldrich ranked No. 1 in Tier 4, they still take Aminu, even though center is a more pressing need.

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Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire
Deron Williams could have been wearing a Hawks uni if they'd used the tier system.
This system protects teams from overreaching based on team need. The Hornets won't pass on a clearly superior player like Aminu to fill a need with Aldrich. 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.

Let me give you one of my all-time favorite historical examples from one of the the worst-drafting teams in the past decade, the Atlanta Hawks. Former Hawks GM Billy Knight said every year that he would take the best player on the board, regardless of team need. Then he 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.

A source formerly with Atlanta's front office told me that the Hawks had Marvin Williams ranked No. 1, Andrew Bogut ranked No. 2, Deron Williams ranked No. 3 and Paul ranked No. 4 in 2005. So on draft night, Knight took Marvin Williams with the No. 2 pick after the Bucks selected Bogut No. 1 overall.

In a tier system, however, the source conceded that all four players, in his mind at least, would have been Tier 1 players -- in other words, the Hawks thought all four had equal long-term impact potential. If the Hawks 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 to 30.

In that case, the Hawks likely would have ranked either Bogut (they needed a center) or Deron Williams (they still need a point guard) No. 1. Marvin Williams actually would have been ranked No. 4 under that scenario, given their depth at forward.

Like every draft system, the tier system isn't perfect. But the teams that run it have found success. It has allowed them to get help through the draft without reaching for players. 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.


darkisrising19
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Marvin Williams and Shelden

Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams were unanimously considered better than Deron and Rondo when the draft came around.

BothTeamsPlayedHard
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I have the hardest time

I have the hardest time seeing an all-star small forward coming from this class. Aminu can't shoot or dribble, and I am missing the starting small forwards who fit that profile. Johnson, obviously, can shoot, but I don't think he is going to be a creator with the ball. The star 3s in the league are more than defensive forces who hit a jumper and occasionally post up. It isn't a shot at Johnson, but I would not argue that his ceiling is as an All-Star. I worry Aminu will be more sizzle than production. He fits into the category of Darius Miles, Anthony Randolph, and Tyrus Thomas who have the physical makeup of a star and the head and polish of a journeyman.

I do find it interesting that Ford found there to be teams that would consider Pittman as a first round pick. He is the other kind of intriguing. He is one of those "if only he had a decent body guys," and if you look at the pictures from his workout in Minnesota it is hard not to want to picture him succeeding. The guy appears to keep losing weight and in short spurts he flashed promise on the court, but it is hard to look at a four-year college player with so little achievement as being a first rounder.

sheltwon3
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I think people see Pittman as

I think people see Pittman as a taller and longer Perkins who can guard most big men one on one from a physical standpoint. Also Glen Davis who is a big body can play spot minutes and really dominate inside so Pittman would not be a terrible reach for team wanting front court depth.

BothTeamsPlayedHard
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Baby had no problems getting

Baby had no problems getting on the floor and playing big minutes in college, which Pittman never was able to do.

fastdan
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Unless Pittman can lose

Unless Pittman can lose significantly more weight his ceiling seems to be about 15-18 minutes a game and be a big body in the paint. But if you've already got a C playing around 35 a game, all you really need is a guy like Pittman. And getting a solid backup in the 2nd round is more then ideal.

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I agree

I agree with fastdan. If you are one of the few teams with a 35+ MPG center, then taking Pittman in the second round isn't such a bad idea considering it is said that his work ethic is very strong despite his current (and apparently dropping) weight.

BothTeamsPlayedHard
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Except for the fact that

Except for the fact that keeping weight off during the season when only playing sparingly has been a difficult task for other players with histories of conditioning problems.

fastdan
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But in the mid second round

But in the mid second round EVERY player has issues. If you need a backup C taking a guy like Pittman in the 2nd is very low risk.

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