It is NBA draft week and while the Internet floods feeds with mock drafts from experts, we wondered what do fans think? Which players do they want their favorite teams to select?
To gauge this, Sports Illustrated paired with the Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute and the Social Media Listening Center at Clemson University. The SMLC monitors social media conversations from across the web, utilizing its software to convey, measure and analyze trends, sentiment, geo-location data and more to provide an acute understanding of social chatter.
As part of this project, students and faculty at the university’s SMLC tracked NBA draft conversations across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for six weeks, monitoring fans’ usage of team hashtags, mentions and social media handles to attempt to get an appropriate representation of each fan base’s top targets leading into the draft.
The result? SI’s 2019 Social Media Mock Draft, powered by Clemson’s Social Media Listening Center.
The draft below works like a traditional mock draft—a team can't take a player already off the board. If the majority of the conversation about the Knicks, for example, centered on players already selected, the next player on the list was tabbed. The methodology allowed some prospects who were popular among many teams—but never the most talked-about—to slide more than they otherwise might on draft day.
1. New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
Touted as the best prospect since LeBron—with a first name to fit the mold—the no-doubter Pelicans fan choice sets the team up to score if they can get the ball basically anywhere near the basket.
As Mike Conley trade rumors swirl, Memphis fans are intrigued with the idea of adding the high-flying point guard to a new era of basketball in the Bluff City.
3. New York Knicks: R.J. Barrett, G/F, Duke
It’s a toss-up between Morant and Barrett among experts, but if Memphis makes the decision easy by taking Morant No. 2, Knicks fans can’t go wrong with the facilitator Barrett, who played alongside Williamson.
4. New Orleans Pelicans: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
A trade with the Lakers results in the Pelicans getting more depth on the wing as they enter the post-Anthony Davis era.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke
The third Duke star projected to go in the top five, the polarizing but undeniably athletic Reddish could be a huge help to the defense-starved Cavs.
6. Phoenix Suns: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
Suns fans clamored for a point guard all last season to help Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Fans would get their wish with Garland.
7. Chicago Bulls: Coby White, G, North Carolina
Known for his unselfish ball-handling and shooting ability from deep, White could also pick up the Bulls’ offensive pace-of-play with his elite speed.
Hayes would be the first center off the board and the third consecutive Texas big man to be drafted in the first round, joining Mohamed Bamba and Jarrett Allen.
9. Washington Wizards: Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
With his 7-foot-plus wingspan, Little figures to make an impact defensively early on his professional career, and Wizards fans like what they see.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via DAL): Sekou Doumbouya, F, International
A 6’9” athlete who plays both small and power forward, Doumbouya brings position versatility to an exciting young core.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga
A versatile scorer who’s considered to have some room to grow, Hachimura is the Timberwolves fan pick, as the team has a number of personnel question marks heading into the offseason.
12. Charlotte Hornets: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland
Buzz City is looking to hold on to Kemba Walker, and fans like Fernando to be a nice complementary piece.
13. Miami Heat: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
Despite an off-court conduct suspension last season, Heat fans honed in on the high-upside Porter, who could bring an ability to shoot off the dribble and create shots for himself.
14. Boston Celtics (via SAC via PHI): Goga Bitadze, C, International
Bitadze once flew under the radar, but he’s now caught the attention of Celtics fans. As the Celtics look to bring Horford back on a new contract, Bitadze would add much-needed frontcourt depth.
15. Detroit Pistons: Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky
Though he’s at times been projected to fall below the middle of the first round, Pistons fans appear to be focusing on Johnson’s potential to be a great two-way player.
16. Orlando Magic: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
Magic fans are hoping the smooth-shooting Canadian steps in and makes the rookie impact that his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, made with the Clippers.
17. Brooklyn Nets: Luka Samanic, F, International
The tall and slender Samanic fits the team’s recent predilection for European picks.
18. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky
The Pacers’ shooting guard depth was tested after Victor Oladipo’s injury, so fans opt for Herro, who has one of the prettiest shooting strokes in the draft.
19. San Antonio Spurs: Cameron Johnson, SF, North Carolina
Despite his age (23), Spurs fans recognize the 45.7% three-point shooter fits well with the current system.
20. Boston Celtics (via LAC via MEM): Nic Claxton, F/C, Georgia
One big man isn’t enough. Aron Baynes is the only center currently on the Celtics roster who made much of an impact last season. Uncertainty leads to a double dosage with Claxton, who is also capable of playing power forward.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
Okpala and the word “versatility” have gone hand-in-hand throughout the pre-draft process, and OKC fans see his potential as an effective two-way wing.
22. Boston Celtics: Talen Horton-Tucker, G/F, Iowa State
After grabbing two big men, fans opt for Horton-Tucker. Big Free Agency decisions loom at the guard spot, but Horton-Tucker is capable of fitting in at guard or forward.
23. Utah Jazz: Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
Touted as one of the smartest players in the available class, Jazz fans have been drawn to Jerome, a childhood friend and teammate of Utah star Donovan Mitchell.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: Luguentz Dort, G, Arizona State
Dort made a name for himself as an uber-athletic defensive pest in college, which makes him a seamless fit for Brett Brown and the 76ers.
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Bol Bol, C, Oregon
Another high-risk, high-reward option, Blazers fans were intrigued by the 7-foot-2 Bol’s upside as an unusually elite shooter for his size.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via HOU): De'Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
An NCAA Champion, fans have the bulky forward going from one Cavs team to another. Hunter pairs with Reddish to give Cleveland two versatile wings to aid point guard Collin Sexton.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via DEN): Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
Nets fans have interest in the increasingly-efficient Clarke—who impressively logged as many blocks as missed shots during the last regular season—for the team’s second pick of the first round.
28. Golden State Warriors: Aubrey Dawkins, G/F, Central Florida
Dawkins almost captured America’s heart with his dazzling performance in the NCAA round of 32 against Duke. Now he’ll suit up for one of the most disliked teams in the NBA.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via TOR): Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State
With Rudy Gay’s free agency this offseason, the Spurs are in the market for a young big man. The fans have spoken, and they want Kabengele.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: Amir Hinton, G, Shaw
Malcolm Brogdon’s upcoming free agency leads to Buck fans having their eyes on this year's biggest surprise, who’s looking to be the first NCAA Division II player drafted since 2005.
37. Dallas Mavericks: Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn
Mavs fans are apparently enticed by Okeke’s natural, effortless mechanics, and are cognizant of his high basketball IQ.
40. Sacramento Kings: Jontay Porter, F/C, Missouri
A torn ACL ended Porter’s sophomore season before it started, but his potential has Kings fans excited about their next piece.
48. Los Angeles Clippers: Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA
Los Angeles fans don’t want to lose Wilkes. Wilkes goes 14 miles across L.A. to play for the Clippers and adds a much-needed small forward to a position lacking depth.
59. Toronto Raptors: Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan
Fans up north have an understandable inclination to pick their countryman, and the Lithuanian-Canadian Brazdeikis is an effective finisher who plays hard on defense.