The season may be over, but for rebuilding teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, things are just starting to heat up. With the NBA Draft less than a week away, they are working to finalize their draft boards and determine what to do with their two first-round picks.
While Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka may get most of the publicity, director of scouting Jesse Buss also has a big role in finding prospects for the Lakers to consider.
It isn’t easy figuring out which player to select. Every team creates their own draft board but ranking picks 1-30 for the first round doesn’t consider the quality of each player compared to the rest, meaning that there could be a huge gap in talent level between say the first and second pick or there could be no gap at all.
Evaluating and understanding this helps to create opinions on total value, which naturally helps inform trade discussions. To rectify this, many teams use a tier system, where players are grouped by talent level rather than placed in a straight list. Buss explained the Lakers’ process to Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell:
MT: I understand you use a tier system as a part of your big board, which people who play fantasy sports intensely might understand. How do you utilize it and when did you put it into practice for the staff?
Buss: We have our board with guys ranked one through 60. We separate them in groups like a tier system, which is something I developed about three years ago with our staff. We group guys based on their talent level. And then, we have a discussion if we have a couple guys in the same tier. The 2015 Draft was the first time we used the tier system.
MT: What made you want to put that in?
Buss: Because in the prior draft year, I noticed it would have been even more helpful for us to have had it. I thought it was too basic to say that a player who is ranked 25th on our board is better than the player who is ranked 26th. The tier system separates guys by talent and allows for debate. Saying a player is ranked 25th doesn’t specify how talented he is, but grouping him amongst his talent level does.
With the second and 28th pick in the first round of this year’s draft, Buss and the Lakers front office will have to wait patiently after some initial excitement near the beginning of the draft. Regardless of who they select with the second pick, there will be trade offers to navigate and prospects to cross off the board as they slowly make their way to the 28th pick.
Thursday’s NBA Draft should be a big step in the team’s rebuilding effort, and if they make the right picks, they could find themselves back on the right path sooner rather than later.