Buzz Came From Unexpected Places in 2018 NBA Draft

Data from Canvs and Tubular Labs reveal which teams and players guided social media conversation and video views
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The hype and hoopla around the 2018 NBA Draft on ESPN centered around the earliest picks. Yet, those initial selections weren’t necessarily what was influencing social media conversation around the broadcast.

So while DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns) and Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) may have been the first two picks, it was the thrill of the unexpected later that viewers truly loved.

Emotion measurement company Canvs compiled Emotional Reactions (ERs) from Twitter for the entire event, revealing the surprising results. Kevin Knox, drafted ninth overall by the New York Knicks, was the leading team/player topic, generating over 6,000 ERs. He was followed closely by Lonnie Walker IV, who went 18th to the San Antonio Spurs and had nearly 5,900 ERs during the event.

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Canvs measured a spike in ERs coinciding with Knox's selection (all times above in PT).

Canvs measured a spike in ERs coinciding with Knox's selection (all times above in PT).

Knox’s selection caused one of the evening’s largest ER spikes, with a mix of “enjoy” and “dislike” reactions according to Canvs. While portions of New York’s large fan base (obviously a factor here) was happy to see the safer pick, others had preferred selecting Michael Porter Jr. prior to the draft—Porter would end up going 14th and generating the eighth-most ERs of any player selected (2,551).

Walker, who’s known for a very tall and unconventional haircut, elicited ERs by way of his hat sitting well above his head for the on-stage photos taken with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The team that selected him, the Spurs, generated more ERs than any other team (4,726) and the fourth-most of any player or team on the night. Grayson Allen (Utah Jazz) and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks by way of a trade) were the other two names among the top five ERs in the draft.

Luka Doncic, who many scouts thought was the draft’s top prospect in the months leading up, wound up being drafted third by the Hawks (and before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks). He was the sixth-most popular player by ERs, and the only one of the top five picks to generate more than 2,000 ERs.

Online video was a completely different story, however. According to online video intelligence company Tubular Labs, fourth overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies) was a guiding force.

Tubular NBA Draft leaderboard, sorted by total views, June 18-22

Tubular NBA Draft leaderboard, sorted by total views, June 18-22

Tubular measured views around new NBA Draft-related video content from Monday through Friday of draft week, ranking each by V3 (total views from the first three days). Jackson was the subject of two of the top 15 overall. Bleacher Report’s “Jaren Jackson Jr. Prepares for NBA Draft” was No. 3 on the list with 1.2 million views and another Bleacher Report video, “Jaren Jackson Jr. Envisions a Different Way Players Get Selected in the NBA Draft,” was 12th with 548,000 views. 

Bagley, the second pick, also brought home video views, with 956,000 views around single, “Thoughts in the A” off of his new mixtape, which he released on Wednesday. The video about the single was also posted by Bleacher Report (a content partner of the NBA’s through being owned by Turner).

Video content would supply some surprises as well, though, as Bleacher Report’s profile on Aaron Holiday’s rise was the 10th-most popular NBA Draft video, with 624,000 views. Holiday wasn’t selected until the 23rd pick by the Indiana Pacers. 

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