First of all it is important to note that this is a highly subjective process. What one person looks for and values can vary from another. Much like NBA and NFL general managers all have different approaches, we in the scouting and ranking business all value different things. From myself, to Evan Daniels, to Josh Gershon, we are going to have a very different feel at times of a certain player.
A lot of that disagreement can come from just seeing kids on different days and in different atmospheres, but also once again who values what in a prospect does come into play. Because of that it is important to understand what all we take into consideration.
The biggest key in putting together rankings is actually going to games. Quite simply there is no substitute for seeing kids live and in person. So far this high school season Scout.com has been to over 200 individual high school games, and has seen prospects from every area of the country compete and show their stuff.
High school competition combined with the summer AAU circuit is very important. While neither high school nor AAU competition is a great simulation for college basketball, both combine to have characteristics that are important. In AAU you are playing against and with more players who are talented, just like in college. In high school there is no next game later in the day, winning and losing on that day in that game is everything. It is important for a prospect to shine in both environments.
Easily the most unreliable place to evaluate prospects would be all-star camps. At these camps personality and position are just as important as ability and talent. Big guys almost never get the ball at camps, and guards who have a scoring mentality tend to shine. Also prospects with outgoing personalities fit better in a camp setting than the more introverted players who like fitting in within the team culture.
While camps are nice to see with some incredible one-on-one matchups, over the grand scope of a camp, it is important to keep everything in perspective, as over the course of time more mistakes have been made during camp settings than anywhere else within the evaluating spectrum.
That is the process that goes into ranking players and how they are seen, now the question becomes ‘what are we ranking'. Honestly that is such a simple question with a really difficult and complex answer.
Here at Scout.com we feel we are ranking basketball players, pure and simple. We are ranking how good we think each individual basketball player will be.
There is a common belief, and in our opinion misconception, that somehow you can be a better NBA player than a college player, or in other words do we rank on being an NBA prospect or being a college prospect.
The answer to that we feel is that if you are a great college player, or project to be a great college player, that in turn gives you the chance to be a great NBA player. However it is nearly impossible and extremely rare to be a good college player who then magically turns into a great NBA player.
Jordan went through a fairly nondescript year at Texas A&M as a freshman where he averaged only 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. By comparison Singler averaged 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a freshman and went on to have an excellent four year career at Duke averaging 16.2 points and 6.9 points per game overall.
It is clear Singler was a better freshman than Jordan, and many are of the thinking that Singler was the better college prospect while Jordan profiled best as an NBA prospect.
We feel that line of thinking is simply incorrect. Jordan was raw coming out, but you saw where he was going to be great. Whereas Singler was a far more refined and college ready player, and that is the reason his numbers for his career were great.
Because of that Jordan was bound to have his struggles at an earlier age than Singler, but because of his size, athleticism, and strength he was set up better for the future. Now because Jordan left after one year and Singler stayed for four, it is tough to compare their college careers, but one could only imagine what Jordan would have been as a senior in college as opposed to being a third year NBA pro.
With that in mind we don't feel that Jordan, who signed a 4 year and 43 million dollar deal this off season, was a better pro prospect than a college prospect, we just feel that he was someone who was destined to be better a little bit later on in time than Singler.
Likewise we don't feel that Singler, who is having an excellent go of things in Spain right now, is somehow a better college prospect but not an NBA prospect.
Basketball players are basketball players. We rate on how good we think each individual prospect will be. Not how good they could be or how good they are today, but how good they will be. There is a big difference between how good a prospect could be if everything goes right and how good he is likely to be given the normal maturity and growth curve.
Different people factor in different things, but obviously size and athleticism are important. Quite simply there aren't too many below average athletes making huge impacts in the game of basketball unless they have great size for their position. In some cases you can be someone who isn't a great athlete or have superior size and be successful, but the pool of those candidates is very short as opposed to the elite athletes with great size.
Also love of the game is very important. It is nearly impossible to be a great player going forward unless you love the game. Because of the time and effort needed to be a great basketball player, kids who skate by on raw ability are almost always passed by those who have a desire to be great. Without the internal love of the game, it is almost impossible to succeed.
Unfortunately it is very hard to figure out how much one loves the game unless you are around them on a daily basis, so that is where a lot of mistakes are made, but still it is an important factor.
Also do you have a defined skill that separates a prospect from peers. Elite shot blocking, being a big time rebounder, an elite shooter, things of that nature are extremely important. Nothing translates better from high school to college and college to the NBA than rebounding. If you don't rebound well in high school, you won't rebound well in college, no matter how you profile given your size, strength, and athleticism.
Many times people see a 6-foot-9 and 250 pound power forward with great athleticism, and assume he will be a great rebounder, but unless that player shows signs of being a great rebounder in high school, he almost never will be in college. Likewise a 6-foot-5 and 215 pound power forward who rebounds very well in high school is very likely to rebound very well in college, because the skill translates.
Beyond that, basketball IQ is so important. So often coaches will ask, "can he think the game" or "does he have feel". A player describing this greatly is Kendall Marshall. Not an elite athlete or super quick, Marshall has been a success because he thinks the game and just has that innate ability to know what to do with the ball at all times. While this is most important with a point guard, it is also key for the other positions.
Wings and big guys need to be able to use screens, set screens, make passes into and out of the post, etc. All of that is stuff indicated by feel for the game and having a keen basketball IQ.
It is also important realize that a 4.0 GPA doesn't mean you have a great basketball IQ. Many smart kids don't have great feel on the basketball floor, and many kids who struggle in the classroom can have a great basketball IQ. I don't know why that is, but the reality is it is very different and not a linear transition from classroom to the court in terms of thinking.
Finally to varying degrees you have to take into account how a player acts on the floor. While bad body language is not equal to being a bad teammate, a bad leader, or a bad kid, it is something that is seen. If a player shows no leadership ability and constantly is berating teammates and is tough to play alongside, odds of their success going forward in a team setting do go down.
Now that can be tricky to completely diagnose because you never know the full story of what kind of day/week/year a kid is having or the team dynamics, but it is something that does in some way get taken into account.
Overall the question of what are we ranking and how do the rankings happen is a tough one to answer, but this should give you a great idea of what goes into making the rankings and what exactly we are ranking and what we value in determining who is No. 1 and who is No. 100.