What Are Draft Tiers?

Expectations. Potential. Franchise-changers. Impact players. Prospects. 

These words are thrown around so often around draft time, and for good reason. The NBA Draft is a time filled with hope. It is the focus of every bad team all year long. Each NBA fan is looking for their messiah who will come and set their team free from the bottom of the league standings. The problem is that so many fans, scouts, and GMs, get drunk with hope and become delusional about some prospects. 

The Draft Tier system is used by most teams in the NBA. In that system, each team puts prospects into tiers. 

Many GMs then gather together their tiers and check them against what others have. When the draft comes, GMs always select a player from the highest tier possible. This system helps to safeguard against getting too high on one player and ensures that a team always picks the most talented player possible. 

PIcture stairs when trying to understand the draft tiers

My Draft Tier system goes a bit further. It categorizes players into the following five groups:

  1. What Are Franchise Tiers? 
  2. What Are Allstar Tiers?
  3. What Are Starter Tiers?
  4. What Are Glue Tiers? 
  5. What Are Bench Tiers? 

These groupings are based on their perceived potential, or ceiling, in the NBA. These groupings give us realistic expectations for players. Instead of comparing late first-round picks with Allstars and Superstars, we can give them more realistic comparisons as role players in the NBA. 

Each one of those groups are also broken down into three tiers. The first tier in each group is a ‘sure-thing.’ The third tier in each groups are high-risk players, meaning that they have high potential, but they have to overcome serious weaknesses to reach their group potential.  

Hindsight is 20/20, they say. It is so easy to look back on previous drafts and ‘know’ how things should have gone. For the purpose of trying to explain this draft tier system, I will try to give illustrations and explanations for each tier, but some of the explanations will inevitably have ‘hindsight syndrome’

Players are placed in their tier based on athleticism, feel for the game, and abilities. Players can drop a tier if they have a lack of production, personal issues, or injury problems. 

Admittedly, there are some players who just slip through the cracks and do not fit in this system at all. The fact that Manu Ginobli was taken in the second round and had Allstar success is a good example. This system doesn’t find every gem and protect against every bust, but it does organize prospects and prioritizes draft targets in an effective way. 

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