Every year ESPN's Chad Ford gathers intel from front offices and scouts around the NBA, compiling a tier ranking for the incoming prospects. The premise is instead of creating a big board, the strategy groups players based on their overall talent, then rank them in each tier by roster need. Karl-Anthony Towns came in as ESPN's lone Tier 1 player once Ford sifted through his information.
Towns joins a group of "Tier 1" players in the past that includes Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Blake Griffin, Jabari Parker, John Wall and Andrew Wiggins. Karl-Anthony is expected to meet with the Timberwolves in Minnesota over the weekend, and Flip Saunders watched him work out in California recently.
Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell, Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay share the second tier of players which is reserved for draftees projected to have All-Star potential. The Lakers hosted two workouts with both Mudiay and Porzingis, while Russell and Okafor are set to audition for L.A. a second time over the weekend. Here's what Ford had to say about Tier 2 (via ESPN Insider):
This is a very strong Tier 2. Mudiay, Okafor, Porzinigs and Russell all have a claim to the No. 1 pick. In fact, Okafor was the favorite to be the No. 1 pick since July and several teams put Russell on par with Towns. Both received votes for Tier 1, but not enough to move them up.
Tier 2 is reserved for players with All-Star potential. However, each player on the list has a weakness that some teams feel will keep them from being a superstar. For Mudiay it's shooting. For Okafor and Russell, it's athleticism and defense. For Porzingis, it's a thin body and questionable position. Nevertheless, all four have strengths that should propel them to an All-Star game at some point in their careers.
One fun note: Last year we did the column before Porzingis had withdrawn from the draft. He was regarded as a Tier 4 prospect last year. So he's jumped up two tiers.
The Lakers are still widely projected to select Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick. The NBA Draft is June 25, where it seems the worst-case scenario is the Lakers landing a player that's at least an All-Star talent.