Every year, around draft time, ESPN's Chad Ford is liable to remind us about the tiered system most teams use to try to figure out how to rank a group of prospects according to their needs. Here's a refresher from one of his old columns.
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 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 in each tier based on team need.
While this system is draft-specific, a similar method can be used to determine the value of a group of people in many different contexts. This is why I want to apply it to the Wizards' current young players.
One of the things Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis like to note is that the Wizards currently have eight players on rookie contracts. Thus far, they have been reluctant to subtract from that pool to improve the team, choosing a trade that allowed them to take on two veterans without having to give up any young players. The reason, I think, is because they're still in the process of figuring out which young players are truly essential to the rebuild. (Another possible reason: they think this is like hockey, where you can developed many young guys at once. I contest this way of thinking, personally, because, by definition, not every young player can develop into a starter or top-line player. Even the Thunder eventually traded Jeff Green because they realized James Harden was the more important guy to showcase).
For now, it may not be clear which young players are the core of the team and which are not. But sometime in the near future, it can't be. (I'd argue that sometime is now, but that's another discussion). Young talent is always used to secure a team's future, but it doesn't have to be directly. Sometimes, young players get traded for much-needed immediate help, as was the case with the Celtics in 2007. Truthfully, to get to where you need to get, you have to be able to develop youngsters yourself and have the courage to deal them to plug holes with more established players in an attempt to get better right away.
The trick, though, is figuring out which youngsters should stay and which you'd be willing to part with to improve the ballclub in the immediate future. That's where you guys come in.
Here's an exercise I'd like to try. Let's break down these eight players on rookie contracts into three tiers. Group 1 is for throw-ins, the kind of young players you'd offer up first in any potential trade. Push comes to shove, they aren't worth all that much to the franchise long term. Group 2 is for players that you'd like to keep, but you wouldn't hesitate to give up if it meant improving the ball-club right now. Group 3 is for the untouchable players, the ones that you'd only deal if the opportunity to pick up a true star player comes across.
Obviously, these tiers will change based on what happens next season, and they're always worth revisiting in the coming year and years. But for now, how would you rank the eight Wizards youngsters in terms of value in a trade?
This is how I would break things down right now.
1. John Wall
2. Bradley Beal
Wall is obvious. Beal is here because he's a top-five pick and he's expected to eventually be the second-best player on the club, or at least the second-best homegrown piece. I put Seraphin in this group because, while there's only a small sample size of him being productive, he is improving, younger than Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely and he's a big man, which always carry more value in a trade.
4. Trevor Booker
5. Jan Vesely
I personally think that, if the Wizards want to get top-level talent, they will eventually have to make a choice between these two players. Booker is more productive now; Vesely has the higher ceiling. I have Booker higher on my list as of this moment, but I'm curious to see if Vesely surges higher in his first year with a real training camp.
8. Shelvin Mack
Crawford's upside is as an efficient sixth man, a less-crazy J.R. Smith of sorts. However, he's a) far from reaching that ideal, and b) not an essential piece even if he puts it all together. His place in the team's hierarchy also drops because of the importance of Beal as an asset. Singleton has some potential to rise from this spot, but his rookie year was not very encouraging. Mack was useful in his role, but it's not hard to find a decent backup point guard.
So, there you have it. Which players would you put in each section (you don't have to put 3, 2 and 3 like I did, you could theoretically put all 8 in group 3 if you wanted), and from there, what are some players that you're hearing pop up in rumors (or who have just signed new deals) that are theoretically worth a Group 1, 2 or 3 prospect?