Has the Pandemic Impacted Influence for NBA Draft Prospects?

The 2020-’21 NBA season is bearing down following a successful finish to the 2019-’20 playoffs in the Orlando bubble. Ready or not, the league’s official return begins tonight with the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Originally scheduled for June, the draft was delayed due to Covid-19. Additionally, NBA prospects lost their chance to showcase their talents in the NCAA Tournament, while only being permitted to participate in abbreviated combine workouts.

Missing March Madness means more for these players than a chance to cut down the nets. When it comes to marketability, the NCAA tournament represents the largest opportunity for national exposure in their young careers. The canceled tournament and resulting lack of hype appears to have led many in the media to remark on the draft class’s perceived lack of star power. 

To understand how these prospects’ influence has been impacted, we turned to social media data.  We compared the lottery picks from the two previous NBA Drafts with the projected lottery for this year’s class, pulling statistics from the four months leading up to each draft.

How the 2020 Draft Class Compares on Social Media

Although the audience size (Twitter and Instagram following) of this year’s projected lottery picks are similar to that of previous classes, the 2020 class saw considerably fewer Twitter engagements and lower overall follower growth.

The numbers are even more staggering when you consider the percentage of these metrics produced only by LaMelo Ball.

Ball accounts for over 75% of the projected lottery’s total engagements, total following, and Twitter follower growth, as well as almost 50% of the class’ Instagram follower growth.

Here’s where Ball ranks in comparison to the lottery prospects from the last two classes on the day prior to the draft:

  • Twitter engagements: 2 (trailing Ja Morant)
  • Instagram engagements: 1
  • Twitter Following: 1
  • Instagram Following: 1
  • Twitter follower growth: 4 (trailing Morant, Trae Young, Zion Williamson)
  • Instagram growth: 5th (trailing Williamson, Morant, RJ Barrett, Young)

Although many prospects didn’t get a final chance to elevate their brands with postseason play, the 2020 Draft class can still claim a strong social presence in this class.

Below are the top 5 most-followed 2020 NBA Draft prospects:

1. LaMelo Ball

Twitter Followers: 691,708

Instagram Followers: 5,639,642

2. Cole Anthony

Twitter Followers: 52,336

Instagram Followers: 629,278

3. R.J. Hampton

Twitter Followers: 44,725

Instagram Followers: 519,416

4. Cassius Stanley

Twitter Followers: 42,880

Instagram Followers: 519,499

5. Nico Mannion

Twitter Followers: 19,000

Instagram Followers: 419,548



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