Does the prospect have a smooth jump shot? How are his handles? Can he play above the rim? How’s his defense? All of these are reasonable criteria.
But with the popularity of social media these days, there’s another question NBA general managers (GM) are asking that has nothing to do with on-court performance, but nevertheless is crucial to understanding the type of player they’re drafting: What is the potential impact of the prospect’s brand?
When it comes to setting up their draft boards, NBA teams prioritize the prospects based upon how they believe they’ll be able to help them win games moving forward. But now it’s about more than just a player’s game. Viewing the players in the draft as individual brands, many of which have strong social media followings of their own, NBA teams also want a rookie that has a brand that is popular with fans and can help drive ticket and jersey sales.
In a recent interview with the R2-C2 podcast, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban elaborated on how the advent of social media has given basketball players more avenues for building their own brand and how vetting that brand has become part of the pre-draft process.
“They’re brands,” Cuban said. “Everybody’s trying to get paid off the court somehow, through a shoe deal, through endorsements, just through building up their Instagram, and Snapchat, and Twitter followings. So, they come in, like we’re interviewing kids in the draft now, or in the combine a couple of days ago, and almost every guy came in and talked about their brand, 18 and 19-year-old kids. It’s crazy. But remember in basketball, there are kids that are in high school now that they’ve got videos that have millions of views because they dunk, or they have these mixed tapes. You know? They’ve been ranked. They were the top point guard for 9-year-olds.”
Social media profiles provide more data for GMs to evaluate the talent and character of NBA prospects. But how much can tweets from a player’s past affect their draft stock? That question could be answered this year depending on where Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo is selected.
In April, DiVincenzo’s Twitter was taken down shortly after his 31 points propelled Villanova to its second national championship in the last three years. He did so because of derogatory tweets from the account that were written when DiVicenzo was in high school but re-surfaced and went viral during the title game.
After a strong redshirt sophomore season and subsequent NBA combine, DiVincenzo has shot up draft boards because of his on-court talent. But will his past tweets come back to haunt him on draft night? Should they? Social media marketing expert and owner of the digital marketing agency WebiMax, Ken Wisnefski, weighs in on the matter.
“My hope is that DiVincenzo isn’t hurt by this, as he seems by all accounts to be a good person and someone with high potential,” Wisnefski said. “If I were a GM, I would draft him. While I don’t agree with his views at all, he deserves a chance as an adult to make changes and be successful.”
Wisnefski continued, “I would be less willing to take others based on their social media accounts if they have shown more recent lapses in judgment or have posted anything so disparaging that their reputation is beyond repair.”
According to Wisnefski:
- Twitter and other forms of social media can be a powerful tool for basketball players to use for building their own brand and generating revenue off the court. However, it’s not without risks and certainly requires responsibility.
- Pro prospects must realize that they are virtually under 24/7 surveillance because of social media. With everyone being equipped with photo and video capabilities at basically all times these days, it is easier for NBA general managers to keep tabs on prospects’ lives through their social media profiles.
- At the end of the day, a prospect’s talent on the court is what will determine where they are picked in the draft. But the influence and impact of a player’s brand and social media following are factors that are becoming increasingly relevant.
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