Two years ago three-time NBA All-Star and three-time gold medalist Deron Williams was traded from the Utah Jazz to the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) mid-season. Since that time, the Jazz have fallen into mediocrity, and like last year the Jazz risk not making the play-offs. Whether it was the trade of Deron Williams, or retirement of head coach Jerry Sloan (which occurred almost simultaneously), that has caused the Jazz to fall from one of the better teams in the NBA to a very mediocre team is debatable. Regardless, the fact that Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the NBA is undisputable.
So when after three consecutive years as an All-Star, Deron Williams was left out of the 2013 party, I was disappointed. Yes, he did make a public statement saying that he didn’t think he deserved to be an All-Star this year. However, I disagree. His numbers may be down a little, but he’s still a high-quality player and is doing much better recently under new head coach P.J. Carlesimo’s style of offense.
Although he no longer plays for my home team, the Utah Jazz, I’m a Deron Williams fan. I have a reason for this. About three weeks before Deron was traded to the Nets, Deron, his wife Amy, and their three children (they now have four) stopped by my house for an evening.
My wife is a gifted photographer with her own photography business, and after finding my wife’s website, Amy Williams booked an appointment online. When Deron Williams and his family showed up, my wife, unfamiliar with who he was, simply ushered them to her basement studio and started their photography session. After about 10 minutes she began to connect the dots and excused herself for a minute to come upstairs and tell me that D-Will was literally “in the house” (she almost casually asked him what he does for a living before realizing who he was). As a Jazz fan I eagerly went downstairs to “help” her.
Deron, his wife, and three children were nice, fun, friendly, and personable. They didn’t seem put-off by the fact that they were in a small basement studio of a middle-class family’s home with our five noisy children clomping around upstairs, instead of a high-end dedicated photography studio run by some artsy guy with a funny accent named Sergio. I was impressed with the fact that in spite of his fame and multi-millions that he and his family were very down to earth people.
Anyway, back to my point of why D-Will should be an All-Star. The way All-Star voting works is that fans vote for the starting line-up for each All-Star game with head coaches choosing the reserves. But what if the system were different? What if each All-Star was selected based off positive versus negative online sentiment? By this I mean positive and negative tweets, blog posts, comments on Facebook, etc. For example, if a fan tweets how “awesome” they think Kevin Durant is then that would be counted as a positive comment. If a fan comments on Facebook that they think Kevin Durant “stinks” then that would be counted as a negative comment. Take the relative percentage of positive comments, subtract the relative percentage of negative comments, and rank the players. Very simplistic, but also a pretty accurate way of gaging what fans really think about each players current performance, or at least how much their performance is “liked” by the NBA fan base.
Analyzing online conversations and big data is something we do all the time for our clients. Whether it’s a product, brand, company, or NBA All-Star, we have the ability to measure, quantify, and analyze millions of online conversations and data. Typically we go much more in-depth then simply measuring positive and negative sentiment, but in this case a simple position analysis was all that was needed to determine how Deron Williams compares to this years All-Stars.
Below is a chart showing the All-Star line-up for both the Eastern and Western Conferences and the total positive or negative online sentiment associated with each player:
*Data based on Twitter and Facebook content: February 7th, 8th, 9th 2013.
Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, and Blake Griffin top the list with the most positive online sentiment, while Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, and Zach Randolph have the most negative online sentiment associated with their names. For Deron Williams, negative sentiment outweighs positive sentiment, but he does finish ahead of two other players in the East, including Rajon Rondo, another point guard.
Looking exclusively at Deron Williams, we see that fan opinions are fairly polarized, with most online sentiment associated with him being either “excellent” or “poor” in nature.
Conclusion, take away the votes and run the selection based purely off of unsolicited, unfiltered tweets and Facebook comments and Deron Williams deserves to be an All-Star for the fourth year in a row. Yes I’m not taking into account all NBA players in this analysis, which would have been the way to do it if this really was a selection method. And yes, how could Kobe Bryant not be an All-Star, in spite of the fact that the Lakers are having a poor season (which is likely the reason for most of the negative sentiment associated with Kobe). But to my earlier point, D-Will is an All-Star caliber player who probably should have been counted among this year’s reserves, at least if you go off of my method of analyzing the number of times someone tweeted how “awesome”, “outstanding”, “great”, “amazing”, etc. he is in relation to some of the other players who made the cut.
Kevan Oswald; Market Research Account Executive