NBA draft strategy session: Ranking draft prospects by tiers

Every time I put up a new mock draft (Mock Draft 5.0 came out Tuesday), 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 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 their internal rankings of players.

"I fight with my scouts constantly," one prominent GM told me last year. "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 lists are imperfect because the draft is a bit of an inexact science. NBA teams do more than just watch prospects play games. 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 Jazz draft players who can fit into Jerry Sloan's system) when making their decisions.

To make sense of disparate rankings and debates over team needs, last year I 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 one 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 inside each tier based on team need.

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 these tiers. (Because the teams do not want to divulge their draft rankings publicly, the teams will remain anonymous.)

Players are listed alphabetically in each tier.