Another year, another NBA draft! If you're unfamiliar with what these tiers are or where they come from you can look at the introduction here in Chad Ford's 2011 post and/or my 2013 tiers from a year ago today. My tiers are obviously a bit different than how Chad Ford does it; he polls GMs and scouts whereas I use that squishy thing between my ears. Obviously that makes my tiers inevitably flawed, but this is all a fun exercise after all! If you disagree, I invite you to rank the players using your own tiers. In the end, we're both trying to meet the same goal:seperate BPA from Need so that we can synthesize them later. Got it?
Moving on, I learned a lot during last season's exercise. In the end, there was no Tier 1 prospects only 1 Tier 2 prospect... Nerlens Noel, who was injured. I readusted my tiers accordingly before the draft, but in the end it was clear that last years draft was extremely weak. And, as you'll see, this year's draft is 100x times stronger than what we had to put up with last year. So, without further ado, here is your 2014 Draft Tiers.
Tier 1: Franchise Player
1) Andrew Wiggins 2) Joel Embid 3) Dante Exum 4) Jabari Parker
Notes: I nearly got too cute and put Jabari in the 2nd Tier but ultimately decided against it. The reason why, however, has everything to do with upside which is why he lands at the bottom of this tier. He should be this season's Rookie of the Year due to the fact he presents the most refined skill set in the draft and should be capable of filling up the box score on Day 1. That said, there are concerns about his abilities on defense (not a perfect fit at either the 3 or 4 but project to be able to better handle PFs) and he doesn't look to possess the same ridiculous upside Wiggins, Embid and Exum do. Dante Exum, for example, is a better prospect than 2011 #1 pick Kyrie Irving, trulya testament to the depth not only throughout the draft, but also here at the top of it.
Tier 2: All-Star Player
5) Noah Vonleh 6) Marcus Smart 7) Julius Randle 8) Aaron Gordon
Notes: The gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is infinitely smaller than the gap between Tier 2 and Tier 3. You're going from "Franchise-level" to "All-Star-level" here. It's hard to see any of these guys ever becoming a franchise player (Paul George asks, "So what?"), but they certainly have all the tools see multiple All-Star games. With concerns about Randle's length and how his bully-ball game will translate to the next level, I see Vonleh firmly jumping him as the best PF in the draft (especially thanks to Noah's versatility). It is Gordon's title of "tweener" that is the major cause of him being the last player of this group, but in my mind you're only a "tweener" if it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Aaron is such an astounding athlete with both strength and agility that it would make no difference what position he guards: he can handle it. Offensively, his lack of range would make it a bit tougher to play him at SF (I think he'd be fine though, much like MKG), but I also think he'll find his niche as a starting PF. Also, Smart could have become a Tier 1 player if his game had jumped another level during his sophomore year at OK State, but his relative stagnation keeps him on the same tier he would have been on last year. Even better, he had some character flareups that could lead him to drop a bit in this draft, however I doubt professional scouts are really concerned about incidents that occurred due to his "over competitive nature."
Tier 3: Starting Player
9) Dario Saric 10) Nic Stauskas 11) Jusuf Nurkic 12) Rodney Hood 13) James Young 14) Zach Lavine
Notes: Remember how I said the gap between Tier 2 and Tier 3 was big? Well, it really is. It's huge. These are all guys that are oozing with potential but all have one big flaw that makes it difficult to truly project them as a future All-Star. That said, when you remember that any of these guys could have gone in the Top 3 last year, it just goes to show how deep this draft is. Saric? He's not quite as good as Gordon defensively to truly shrug off the "tweener" label while lacking the shooting to make him a true triple threat from the SF position. Stauskas? Average-ish athleticism, length, and lateral quickness raises enough flags to worry about his ability to effectively guard 1s and 2s at the NBA level, despite having the type of height, ball-handling, and shooting skills that could make him an All-Star SG offensively ("James Harden doesn't need defense, why should I?!"). Hood? His tendencies for defensive lapses and the red flags regarding his motor make it difficult to love his upside despite having all the tools and athleticism you'd want from a wing player. His year with Coach K did wonders to show that he has more in his repertoire than just being a jump shooter, but he has a long way to go to prove that he can continue his development and improve against NBA competition. Young? He is very much in the mold of Rodney Hood, except that he doesn't have the same concerns about his defense, projecting to be a very good wing defender in the NBA. Why is he a spot below him then? His overall skill set still leaves a lot to be desired; in fact, he looks very much like Hood during his freshman season as Mississippi State. He doesn't do much in the half-court besides serving as a spot shooter because he lacks the off-hand dribbling and general ball handling skills to beat his opponents off the dribble. He can attack the rim when getting people to jump on his pumpfake but his results aren't quite what you'd expect both from inside and outside. I'd say his upside trumps Hood's, due to his impressive measurable and defensive potential, but he has a long way to go to improve his offense like Hood did. Lavine? He isn't as ready to be a contributor as his peers on this tier, but that isn't why he's here. Lavine has the upside and measurables that could have him in the Tier 2 group easily, but his results during his freshman year at UCLA don't quite match those expectations, which is why his stock remains a bit of an enigma. If you're willing to wait and develop him, you could have an All-Star on your hands... but you're going to have to wait. And no, I haven't forgotten Nurkic, this guy has all the tools to be something special. A legitimate argument could be had to include Jusuf in Tier 2, both from an immediate and upside perspective, mainly based on the impressive strength of his offensive skills. Why isn't he? The biggest reason is, quite simply, the sheer difficulty involved in scouting big men against International competition, so no one is sure just how well his offensive repertoire will translate to the NBA level. In the end, the talent at the C position drops off a cliff after Jusuf (as you'll see), so he's a legitimate threat to go in the Top 8.
Tier 4: Possible Starting Player ("Sixth Man")
15) Doug McDermott 16) Gary Harris 17) Adreian Payne 18) Tyler Ennis 19) T.J. Warren 20) Clint Capella 21) Bogdan Bogdanovic 22) Kristaps Porzingis 23) K.J. McDaniels 24) Jerami Grant 25) Walter Tavares 26) P.J. Hairston 27) Elfrid Payton 28) Kyle Anderson
Notes: These are players whose flaws glare a great deal brighter than their peers on Tier 3, holding larger reg flags that make it especially difficult to project them as a viable starter in the league but instead look to become major cogs in their team's engine off the bench. The fact that there are 27 players in this draft that can be included on this tier is a true testament to how incredibly deep this draft is. This list stopped at 16 last year and 10 of them were on this tier. Last year was truly a stinker for generations to come... which only makes this gem shine brighter. Quick hitters: McDermott is too slow to guard threes and too weak to guard 4s ... Harris has very limited upside due to poor measurables ... Payne's age limits his upside after rookie contract expires ... Ennis comes from the notorious Syracuse system and really struggled in ACC play ... Warren lacks a consistent jumper and has defensive issues (link to scouting report in comment section) ... Capella has no outside game and Intl competition ... Bogdan probably isn't coming over this year ... Prozingis has limited inside game (stretch 4) and Intl competition ... McDaniels has shaky jumper and overall offensive game ... Grant has no jumper and comes from notorious Syracuse system ... Tavares has limited experience and might not come over for awhile ... Hairston has character and concerns (right or wrong) and does not make his teammates better ... Payton played against very poor competition ... Anderson has ball dominant style of play without the prerequisite scoring abilities and plays very poor defense
Tier 5: Role Player
I am going to list this final tier without further comment, as the have a litany of issues that keeps them from projecting to ever become a starting caliber player (not to say they won't be able to). Normally I wouldn't bother with this, but there are still some very good players on this list that could be picked in the late teens and early twenties of weak and/or lesser drafts, so there are gems to be found. This only makes Sam Presti's hoard of 2nd round picks look even more brilliant, for what it is worth.
29) Jordan Adams 30) Darnell Stokes 31) Cleanthony Early 32) Spencer Dinwiddie 33) Shabazz Napier 34) Vasilije Micic 33) Demien Inglis 34) Glenn Robinson 35) Patric Young 38) Artem Klimenko 39) Isiah Austin 40) Thanasis Antetokounmpo