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The NBA Draft’s Social Media Big Board

Scouting the top prospects by their internet abilities

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

In the NBA, superstar talent is everything. And the best, least expensive way to acquire potentially superstar-level talent is through the draft. The world-champion Cavaliers drafted Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and LeBron James (special case, I know, but just roll with me on this). The Golden State Warriors drafted four out of five members of the Lineup of Death. The Spurs have been contending for the last 50 years because they drafted (or acquired via draft-day trade) Tim Duncan (1997), Manu Ginobili (1999), Tony Parker (2001), and Kawhi Leonard (2011).

But drafting young players is laden with risk. Busts — whether due to injuries, lack of talent, or lack of competitive drive — can set back a team’s rebuilding plan years. Missing out on a star to select a role player can be just as damaging.

In the age of social media, though, there are more insidious risks for teams to weigh when selecting players in the draft, beyond whether or not the prospect has NBA 3-point range — risks that exist in a cultural blind spot for the team executives who, unlike the players they’ll be analyzing, didn’t grow up with the internet.

Last year, D’Angelo Russell, the second pick in the 2015 draft, an elite shooter with silky passing skills in the pick-and-roll, poured hydrochloric acid onto the Lakers’ chemistry when he recorded a video on his cellphone of veteran teammate Nick Young bragging about cheating on his then-fiancée, rapper Iggy Azalea. That video was then accidentally posted — or leaked, the method is still unclear — to Snapchat. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding later reported that “[Russell] thought that he could post this and take it down right away and no one would ever see it, no one would ever save it.” Had Mitch Kupchak been facile with social media, he might’ve been able to avoid this situation in the scouting process by catching that D’Angelo doesn’t understand how DMs work.

With that in mind, here is my 2016 mock social media draft.

1. Dragan Bender, PF (Maccabi Tel Aviv)

Twitter: @DraganBender

Instagram: NA

Snapchat: NA

Strengths: He has an awesome name. Is only on Twitter and has tweeted only seven times (and not since 2013). The least likely player on this list to become embroiled in a social medial controversy.

Weaknesses: His tweets are very, very bad.

Worst social media post:

Is this what they teach kids in Croatia? In fairness, Dragan was 15 when he tweeted this.

2. Jakob Poeltl, C (Utah)

Twitter: @JakobPoeltl

Instagram: Jakob

Snapchat: NA

Strengths: Doesn’t have Snapchat and has tweeted only twice ever.

Weaknesses: A general air of Plumlee-ness.

Worst social media post: Tie between his only two tweets

And seven long days later:

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT, JAKE? The anticipation is killing me.

3. Skal Labissiere, PF/C (Kentucky)

Twitter: @OneBigHaitian

Instagram: Skal_lab

Snapchat: Skal_Lab

Strengths: Light social footprint (only 58 Instagram posts since October 2014), didn’t check social media from June to August in 2015 to in order to study and train for his season with Kentucky.

Weaknesses: Has Snapchat.

Worst social media post:

If this shooting percentage carries over to the pros, he’ll be OK.

4. Ben Simmons, SF/PF (LSU)

Twitter: @BenSimmons25

Instagram: bensimmons

Snapchat: Unknown, but thought to exist.

Strengths: As a client of Rich Paul’s LeBron James-affiliated Klutch Sports, Simmons already has a top social media team crafting his brand and making sure he doesn’t do anything like this.

Weaknesses: Said “You can catch me on the Lakers” on Snapchat last fall. He will most likely be selected by the Sixers.

Worst social media post:

Sam Hinkie didn’t die for this. Actually, he probably did.

5. Kris Dunn, PG (Providence)

Twitter: @KrisDunn3

Instagram: krisdunn3

Snapchat: NA

Strengths: Is my favorite player in the draft. Scrubbed his old Twitter account (@ShowTime_Dunn) and started his current one in April 2016. Has only tweeted 24 times. Like Kanye West, Dunn only follows one person. His favorite video game of all time is Madden NFL 07. “Michael Vick was no joke on there.” Did you only rush with him, or did you pass? “When did Vick pass?”

Weaknesses: Erasing his Twitter account ahead of the draft is smart, but slightly suspect. WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO HIDE?

Worst social media post:

None. They are all equally normcore.

6. Buddy Hield, SG (Oklahoma)

Twitter: @buddyhield

Instagram: buddylove242

Snapchat: NA

Strengths: Instagrammed himself having a tea party with his coach’s daughter, which is as adorable as it sounds. Seems like a legit nice person. Predicted that Kobe would drop 50 in his final game. (Kobe dropped 60.)

Weaknesses: Uses the 100, prayer-hands, and bicep-flex emoji in 50 percent of his posts.

Worst social media post:

The arrows are important because otherwise you might think Hield was the golden retriever.

7. Jamal Murray, PG/SG (Kentucky)

Twitter: @BeMore27

Instagram: jmglitxh27

Snapchat: Unknown

Strengths: Didn’t join Twitter until 2015. Has only tweeted 53 times. Is a fan of Arrow.

Weaknesses: Works a barbecue grill like a weirdo.

His online persona is like Drake’s, if Drake never rapped.

Worst social media post:

Bad decision.

8. Brandon Ingram, SF (Duke)

Twitter: @B_Ingram13

Instagram: b_ingram13

Snapchat: Not public

Strengths: Told me his favorite emoji was “the monkey with the eyes” when I interviewed him at an event for Speed Stick, but couldn’t explain why. (In his defense, he was extremely tired.)

Weaknesses: Semi-leaked his decision to go to Duke on his nonpublic Snapchat by taking a selfie of his newly shaped fade, a cut commonly referred to as “The Duke starting-five cut.

Worst social media post:

9. Jaylen Brown, SF (California)

Twitter: @FCHWPO

Instagram: fchwpo

Snapchat: Jaylenb24

Strengths: Has a cool, socially conscious, and progressive social media presence. Has retweeted Banksy numerous times.

Weaknesses: Once tweeted out his Snapchat username. Is prone to tweeting fortune cookie-esque aphorisms, such as “The greatest technique is no technique : be like water.” Troublingly for any team looking to draft him, Brown risked the wrath of the Based God by challenging Lil B on Twitter to a game of one-on-one.

Worst social media post:

Tie between

and

10. Marquese Chriss, PF (Washington)

Twitter: @Quese_22

Instagram: quese_22

Snapchat: NA

Strengths: Has a strong appreciation of memes and Vine skits. Funniest social media presence in the draft.

Weaknesses: He tweets too much; his 21,000+ tweets (and counting) is far and away the most on this list, almost 16,000 more tweets than the next highest player. By sheer volume, Chriss is the most likely to get enmeshed in a social media controversy. He follows 735 people on Twitter, the third most on this list. (Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield both follow over 1,200 accounts.) Posts can veer into meanness. Once Instagrammed a box of Krispy Kremes, raising fitness concerns. Once retweeted a meme from @LearnMarijuana, but it was funny, so whatever.

Worst social media post:

OK, it’s either the worst or the best.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that the Spurs drafted Kawhi Leonard. They acquired him in a draft-day trade with the Pacers.