Tier-ing up about the NBA draft

Tier-ing up about the NBA draft
June 20, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Wizards in good position to land impact talent

Whether it comes to fantasy football, I'm always a tier over rankings kind of guy. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A. J. Green might be the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver entering drafts later this summer, but the gulf between him and the leader of the pass-catching pack -- Detroit Lions stud Calvin Johnson -- is rather significant. Also, Green might not even be ranked second seeing as Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones are also in such a discussion. The point is just because a player is No. 2 or 12 or 22, that's not the same as saying they were almost 1, 11 or 21. At the same time, 2 and 6 could be rather similar from a value standpoint, a key distinction for trading down purposes.

We now bring the tier talk around to the NBA Draft, which tips off one week from today. On Thursday, ESPN's Chad Ford released his annual tiers list, which he says is shaped in part by discussions with NBA general managers. Since Ford's article is behind a paywall, I'll won't spoil all the mystery, but are some takeaways.

*In his first two tiers, which are geared for franchise players (John Wall in 2010) or projected All-Stars (Bradley Beal in 2012), there are exactly zero players. None, nada, zilch. This jibes with the "weak" label given to this draft by virtually every draft pundit. Only UNLV's Anthony Bennett, Kansas' Ben McLemore and Kentucky center Nerlens Noel received any support for the second tier.

*Those three were joined in tier three by Maryland's Alex Len, Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. and Indiana's Victor Oladipo. Again, not a stunner. In the context of the Wizards selection at three, only these names have been discussed with any sincerity. Earlier in the evaluation process, Michigan point guard Trey Burke, UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad and Indiana center Cody Zeller were mentioned in this range, but it's been a while even for other teams with different needs than the Wizards.

*At this stage it appears that not only are those the top six prospects, but the likely first six players selected. That also shows how significant it was that the Wizards jumped up in the lottery from 8-9. Obviously in 2-3 years we'll probably look back on this draft and wonder how player X could be thought of so highly while players and y and z were overlooked. But for now, based on the tiers, the Wizards are in a stronger position for sure.

*None of the players in Ford's tier 4 grouping have worked out for the Wizards, at least not yet. That doesn't mean Washington wouldn't have interest in say Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum or Zeller should the Wizards trade down to say No. 9 in a deal with the Minnesota Timberolves, but for now these players are not terribly relevant to the situation.

*Ford's largest block of players (25) comes in tier 5. It's not just the largest this year, but the largest tier 5, according to Ford, since he's tracked such breakdowns.

*Overall we're talking players 13-37. The first of the Wizards' two second-round picks is No. 38. Factor in a plus/minus difference of 3.8 players (Ben math) that others would include or remove from this list, and it shows how valuable this selection likely will be for Washington. The team has stated it's doubtful it will end up keeping all three of their draft picks. So whether as a standalone trade commodity, combined with other assets (third pick or players) in a deal or used to add a player for the 2013-14 roster, the Wizards have the opportunity to tack on a notable roster piece.

*Among those in this sizable tier that could be of interest to the Wizards and realistically available include:

- point guards Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Erick Green (Virginia Tech), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State), Pierre Jackson (Baylor). 

- wing scorers Glen Rice Jr. (D-League/Georgia Tech), Allen Crabbe (California)

- C.J. Leslie (NC State) is the only true frontcourt option in this section likely around at 38.

*The Wizards also have the No. 54 selection. Ford's sixth and final tier (13 players) includes Long Beach State forward James Ennis. DraftExpress's mock draft projects the 6-foot-7 athletic small forward to Washington at 54.

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