Mark Wahlen is a co-founder and contributor to The Five By 5.
General Breakdown of Tiers & Other Notes
The tiers have been slightly reworked in this rendition of the 2018 NBA draft big board to better reflect evaluated talent levels, perceived appropriate draft ranges for each tiers' group of players, and to better reflect overall draft philosophy. Explanations of each tier is provided in the notes below. However, it should be noted that the players within a given tier should be, for all functional discussion purposes, considered tied with one another in terms of draft value. The players rankings within each tier represent slight differences in evaluated draft value that isn't significant enough to place them within another tier, and is often more reflective of personal preference according to personal draft philosophy than actual perceived value.
Tier 1: These players (Ayton and Doncic) are the only clear cut options for the #1 pick in this draft class, and are one or two steps above the tier 2 prospects in terms of value.
Tier 2: Just a step or two below the tier 1 prospects, these players (Jackson Jr and Bagley) are clearly top 5 in value.
Tier 3: This group of prospects (Porter Jr, Bamba and Young) have top 5 value, but each of them have one or more major concerns or question marks that separate themselves from being considered within the same tier as the tier 2 prospects. They also have much higher upside than the tier 4 prospects.
Tier 4: This group (Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton) has top 10 value, but they don't have the upside of the tier 3 prospects. Not to say that their upside isn't extremely high, but it's just not as high as the tier 3 prospects.
Tier 5: Similarly to the tier 3 prospects, these players (Carter Jr, Walker and Knox) have top 10 value, but have one or more major concerns or question marks. Their upside is arguably higher than the tier 4 prospects, but the concerns knock them down a tier.
Tier 6: These players (Gafford, Smith, Simons, Gilgeous-Alexander and Metu) are clear 1st round talents that have more perceived upside than the tier 7 prospects, but less than the tier 5 prospects. They also have one or more major concerns or question marks related to their value, but their higher upside warrants the higher draft range (14 to 18) than the other lower tiers.
Tier 7: These are players that have clear 1st round value, but lesser perceived upside than the tier 6 players. Each players reasons for being deserving of a 1st round draft pick varies, but at the end of the day, when it comes between committing the time and money differences between 1st round and 2nd round draft picks, these players separate themselves from the tier 8 players. This tier remains very fluid with tier 8.
Tier 8: These are players that have 1st round value, but for one reason or another, aren't evaluated as being worthy of the additional time and money commitment that 1st round picks receive in comparison to 2nd round picks. Many of these players have higher upside than the tier 7 players, but have more major concerns or question marks.
Tier 9: These players are clearly draftable talents, but have lesser evaluated value than potential 1st round prospects of tiers 7 and 8. Reasons for being included in this tier varies greatly. Some of the players (such as Wagner and Konate, etc) have separated themselves as a step above the tier 10 players, but are still a step or two behind the tier 8 players in terms of draft value. But for many of the other players in this tier (such as Bruce Brown Jr, Allonzo Trier, etc) there's usually one or more major concerns or question marks related to fundamental aspects of their draft value (health, size, length, athleticism, personality, etc) that are preventing them from being considered as a legitimate 1st round prospect despite their higher skill or upside value. This tier remains very fluid with tiers 10, 11, 12 and 13.
Tier 10: This group of players are clear 2nd round talents with slightly less perceived value or upside than the tier 9 prospects. Tier 9 is closer to being a "higher risk, higher reward" tier, whereas this tiers' players are more "lower risk, lower reward" types. This tier remains very fluid with tiers 9, 11 and 12.
Tier 11: This tier is the "they probably shouldn't get drafted, but their upside is too tantalizing to not draft" tier. They (Hamidou Diallo and Jarred Vanderbilt) have extremely high upside, especially for this stage in the draft, but they also have massive concerns and/or question marks related to their overall draft value that make them borderline undraftable.
Tier 12: These players have separated themselves from the tier 13 players as viable 2nd round draft picks in a very similar way that tier 7 players separated themselves from tier 8 players as viable 1st round picks. At the end of the day, when it comes down to committing the time and money to a player that comes with drafting them in the 2nd round as opposed to trying to sign them as undrafted free agents, the tier 12 players have ever so slightly edged out the players in tier 13. As such, this tier remains very fluid with tier 10, 11 and 13.
Tier 13: This tier of players are all in consideration to be drafted in the 2nd round or signed to training camp rosters and/or G-league rosters and 2-way contracts. This tier remains very fluid with tiers 12, 14 and the unranked prospect list.
Tier 14: These players are at least a step or two below the tiers above them in terms of overall draft value. This tier remains fluid with tier 13 and with the unranked prospect list.
The biggest drop-off's between tiers remains between tiers 5 and 6 and between tiers 8 and 9, with a growing gap between tiers 4 and 5.
Minimal differences in overall draft value occur between tiers 12, 13, 14 and the unranked prospect list.
Lonnie Walker IV has been moved down from tier 4 to tier 5 mostly due to the improved play of the tier 4 prospects of Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton. Both the Bridges and Sexton have recently separated themselves from Lonnie Walker IV and the other tier 5 prospects with their improved play.
Michael Porter Jr. returned to action for the last couple games of Missouri's season, but he looked extremely rusty, and was playing at a self-reported 60% to 68%. Being able to play a couple games, even at not full strength, is a promising sign in regards to his health. But with how badly he looked in those two games, especially with how poorly he moved, he's been moved down from tier 2 to tier 3. He'll need to work hard to get himself back to 100% before the pre-draft process begins as many teams will want to see how he's able to move on the court when at full strength before considering him with a top 5 (or even top 10) pick.
All rankings should be considered to be fluid, especially as we near the pre-draft process, but the top 6 tiers have all but solidified themselves with the remaining top 12 tiers looking more and more solidified with each passing day, especially tiers 8, 9 and 10.
Please let us know if you feel like we're missing any players that should be included. We try to cast our nets wide, but we often miss players due to the shear volume of players to watch and evaluate each year. This is especially true of overseas players, which we're working on improving.
Unranked Players Outside the Top 100
Victor Bailey Jr.
Zach Norvell Jr.
Terrell Miller Jr.
Silvio De Sousa