Rating Simmons, Ingram and draft prospects, from Tier 1 to Tier 6

— -- Is Ben Simmons a top-tier prospect? How about Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray?

To rank draft prospects the same way that NBA teams do, it's time for our annual draft tier rankings, with the players rating as higher as Tier 1 and as low as Tier 6.

 

In some years, an NBA prospect emerges who is so clearly better than anyone else in the draft --  Anthony Davis in 2012, Blake Griffin in 2009, LeBron James in 2003 -- that consensus builds easily. But in other years, if you put 10 GMs in a room and asked them who the best player is, you'd get three or four different answers.

To make sense of all this, I've established a tiered draft ranking system of the kind employed by NBA teams.

Teams group players based on overall talent and potential. Then, the teams rank the players in each tier based on need.

After talking to several GMs and scouts whose teams employ this system, here is how the tiers look this year.

A more detailed explanation of how the tier system works can be found here. Players in each tier are listed alphabetically.

Tier 1

Ben Simmons, F, LSU

Last draft, we had just one player in this category:  Karl-Anthony Towns. This tier is usually reserved for guys who are sure-fire All-Stars or franchise players. Only six other players have been ranked in this slot since we started doing this in 2009: Blake Griffin, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker.

You have to be more than good to get here. You have to be elite.

The only other player nominated for Tier 1 by various teams was Brandon Ingram. But while some teams see Ingram as a potential superstar, the majority had him in Tier 2.

Tier 2

Brandon Ingram, F, Duke

Tier 2 is reserved for players with All-Star potential. However, players in Tier 2 often have weaknesses that some teams feel will keep them from being superstars. In Ingram's case, his lack of strength is landing him here.

This is the smallest Tier 2 we've ever had. Marquese Chriss, Kris Dunn and Dragan Bender received votes for Tier 2, but not enough to make the cut.

Tier 3

Dragan Bender, PF, Croatia
Jaylen Brown, F, Cal
Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky

This tier is typically reserved for players who are projected as NBA starters.

This year we have a strong Tier 3. Three of the players received Tier 2 votes.

All five of these players are locks to go in the top 10. Chriss, especially, has star potential as well.

Having just seven players in the first three tiers makes for a pretty average draft. In terms of the top three tiers, the 2016 draft is not quite as strong as 2014 (12) or 2015 (8), but it is not quite as weak as 2013, which had six players in the top three tiers but none in the top two.

Of this group, Bender and Brown were the only players to receive Tier 4 votes.

Tier 4

Henry Ellenson, F/C, Marquette
Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma
Furkan Korkmaz, SG, Turkey
Skal Labissiere, F/C, Kentucky
Dejounte Murray, PG, Washington
Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Domantas Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga

Players in this tier project to be starters or high-level rotation players. In an average draft, Tier 4 typically makes up selections Nos. 10-20. This year, Tier 4 is roughly Nos. 7-13 on our board.

Here, even the consensus in tiers starts to break down. Guys are really all over the place. Hield got a lot of votes for Tier 3 (and none for Tier 5), but the majority of teams had him in Tier 4. Korkmaz, Labissiere, Murray and Sabonis had some Tier 5 votes, but the majority of their votes were for Tier 4.

Tier 5

Wade Baldwin IV, G, Vanderbilt
Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
DeAndre Bembry, G/F, St. Joseph's
Ben Bentil, F, Providence
Malcolm Brogdon, G/F, Virginia
Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State
Cheick Diallo, PF, Kansas
Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain
Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame
Brice Johnson, PF, North Carolina
Damian Jones, C, Vanderbilt
Timothe Luwawu, G/F, France
Thon Maker, F, Australia
Patrick McCaw, G/F, UNLV
Taurean Prince, F, Baylor
Malachi Richardson, SG, Syracuse
Diamond Stone, C, Maryland
Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky
Denzel Valentine, G/F, Michigan State
Ante Zizic, C, Croatia
Ivica Zubac, C, Bosnia

This area of the draft is typically reserved for rotation players, players who are unlikely to start for good teams but could be solid role players off the bench. In this draft, that's roughly picks Nos. 14-35.

This group is the largest Tier 5 we've had, and it shows two things: the drop-off in talent as we get out of the lottery, and the depth of this year's draft. We have a 21 players here -- a pretty amazing number for a single tier, but that's how it shapes up this year. 

A few players in this Tier received Tier 4 votes, including Baldwin, Bembry, Davis, Maker, McCaw, Richardson, Valentine, Zizic and Zubac.

Tier 6

Isaiah Cousins, G, Oklahoma
Caris LeVert, G/F, Michigan
Chinanu Onuaku, C, Louisville
Gary Payton II, PG, Oregon State
Zhou Qi, C, China
Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa
Guerschon Yabusele, PF, France
Stephen Zimmerman, C, UNLV

This tier has the players who at least one team told me ranked in their top 30. A few got Tier 5 votes, including LeVert, Onuaku, Uthoff and Yabusele. The rest are likely second-round picks. This list is typically quite a bit longer, but a large Tier 5 is stealing from it a bit.