Team USA, A Consensus Big Board, And NBA Reddit Stats

A few charts to start your day

Last night (or, depending on your time zone, early this morning), Team USA followed up their loss to France in the Summer Olympics by beating Iran by more than 50 points.

Here’s a chart showing the point differential in every game Team USA has played in since 1992, the first year they started using NBA players on the national team. Their loss to France was just the 10th loss for Team USA in its last 151 games and its third in its last five games.

The good news is that Team USA has traditionally followed up a string of three loses with a win streak. The bad news is that probably isn’t predictive at all.

I’m going to create a big board that is so big…

Don’t know anything about the upcoming NBA draft? I put together this graphic, which compiles 14 different big boards from various NBA draft analysts, including Chad Ford, John Hollinger, Kevin O’Connor, and Sam Vecenie. Draft prospects are sorted by their average ranking across the different big boards I looked at.

Two things stand out to me when I look at this chart:

  • There’s a lot of group think at the top of this draft. Across the 14 different big boards I included, all but two had Cade Cunningham as the top prospect. Similarly, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs are ranked in the top four in some order in the vast majority of big boards. I kind of expected there to be more diversity for the simple reason that there’s not really any penalty on the media side for being wrong about draft prospects — draft heads are still going to click and read draft content.

  • I’m all in on Alperen Sengun, the 19 year-old Turkish big man. Even though he’s ranked on average as the 12th best prospect in the draft, I think there’s something to the idea that it’s better for a prospect to be polarizing when the alternative is a consensus lukewarm opinion. In other words, it’s to Sengun’s advantage that some draft analysts have him as high as the fourth best prospect while others have him as low as the 22nd. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s drafted higher and has a better career than someone like Josh Giddey, who basically everyone agrees is roughly the 10th best prospect in the draft.

Here’s a slightly different version as the chart above, but includes the top 30 prospects by average ranking.

Alternative Stats

I’ve been thinking a lot about television viewership trends and the NBA finals. Mainly, because I’ve been unsatisfied with the way this data is typically reported. It’s often some variation of “NBA Finals viewership [up/down] from previous year,” which isn’t all that informative unless you’re aware of the overall trend.

Anyway, needless to say, the viewership numbers for this year’s Finals were unimpressive relative to previous Finals. However, viewership numbers for most sporting events these days are unimpressive due to cord cutting and the increase use of streaming services. For example, the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics was the least watched opening ceremony in 33 years.

So I decided to take a look at my favorite alternative metric for measuring interest in the NBA — Reddit comment activity.

The NBA subbredit is arguably the most popular destination for the dedicated discussion of all things basketball. And based on the daily comment activity on r/nba in 2021, this year’s postseason wasn’t all that discussion-worthy.

The chart below shows the number of comments made on r/nba each day since 2016.

While the average number of comments made per day in 2021 was the highest on record, the peaks (which almost always occur during the postseason) were actually the lowest since 2016. That’s surprising because r/nba has more than quadrupled its subscriber base since then.

What I like about this approach is that it’s capturing NBA interest (or lack thereof) from a younger, more technologically-savvy fanbase. I think the criticism most people have with using television ratings to measure fan interest is that younger fans aren’t watching games on TV — they’re streaming it or just following it closely on social media. This analysis shows that even among the fans least likely to be captured by traditional television ratings, interest in the biggest NBA games appears to be down.