In years past, basketball fans with a vested interest in the NBA Draft made their way to DraftExpress, the website that had for years been the go-to resource on prospects. If your favorite team had come away from draft night with a guy named Jevon Carter (as mine did!), DraftExpress would have all of the answers on who exactly Jevon Carter is.
Last July, the guys from DraftExpress announced their move to ESPN — Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz featured prominently in the network’s draft coverage this spring. It’s great, obviously, that hard work gets recognized with a greater platform and presumably buckets of Disney money, but because of paywalling and a seeming (though understandable) shift away from gritty deep-dives on second round prospects, it has also left a lot of basketball fans in a weird place, particularly those who once relied on DraftExpress for insights on second rounders like Carter.
“Before, the DraftExpress guys were so good at making those eight-minute videos,” says Scott Rafferty, who managed the early-2010s Upside & Motor blog covering the NBA Draft and D-League. “You didn’t have to watch a college game all year long, but you could sit down, watch that video and feel like you know a prospect. That was the beauty of what they were doing, and with the fact that that’s gone now, it’s harder for the casual fan to get an understanding of who these players are.”
Without that readily accessible hub, it could’ve been easy for anyone who wanted to learn about incoming draft prospects to lose their way. Instead, something resurgent surfaced. Thanks to Twitter, a loose collective of draft-inclined bloggers, podcasters and others with opinions gathered into a community, known affectionately as “Draft Twitter.”
“It puts more pressure on people who do follow the college game [throughout the year] and write about the NBA Draft to carry that conversation,” says Rafferty, singling out a draft blog called The Stepien. “Those guys have done a fantastic job, they’ve found an opportunity there and really took a bite and went for it.”
Passion formed a platform; through having and exchanging ideas, a grassroots following of the NBA Draft cultivated its voice.
Twitter sub-communities are a familiar and probably exhausted concept, but Draft Twitter found an identity in pinpointing certain patterns in the game of basketball and pushing the conversation forward. The NBA Draft is so very far from science, and nobody will ever find a perfect approach, but the reason is journey, not destination.