Fan Thoughts on the NBA Season
The NBA season is gearing up to start, but basketball fans have been chomping at the bit since the last season ended. The summer of 2018 was loaded with chatter about offseason moves, new beginnings, and possible improved chances for fans' favorite teams to go to the 2019 NBA Finals – or even hoist the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
We decided to dive into Reddit threads to see how fans feel about their favorite teams' upcoming season. Is it all doom and gloom, or is there plenty of hope to be had within the depths of the platform? Let's take a look to see whose fans are climbing aboard the hype train, and which teams' faithful aren't too excited about the upcoming season.
New Year, New Chance at the Finals
We looked at the subreddits for all 30 NBA teams between July 1 and September 13, 2018, to see if we could get a feel for the fans and how they felt about the 2018-19 season.
According to our research, the hype is strong in Jazz land, as Utah fans scored tops in fan sentiment over this period. Fans on Reddit are dissecting title teams of the past, comparing them to the 2018 squad, and making bold predictions as to how this season will turn out. The Jazz have been to the finals more than once (most recently in 1998) but have yet to clinch a championship. Maybe this year? The fans certainly hope so.
On the flip side, we have fans of the Sacramento Kings who aren't particularly excited about their team's upcoming season. The Kings haven't given fans a ton to cheer about over the last decade or so, as their last winning season was 2005-06. The team has been to the finals one time – and that was back in 1951, the year they won their first and only championship. While there is a lot of excitement for newbie Harry Giles, who will be playing with the Kings for the first time after sitting out his first season, there are still plenty of threads underscoring the Kings and their underdog vibe.
Where the Teams Stack Up
We completely understand that these odds are way, way early. There are an unimaginable number of scenarios that can happen as the NBA season unfolds, but it's still fun to look over the upcoming season and make some predictions. To do so, we created a metascore using published odds from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, OddsShark, and BetDSI and ranked the teams from one to 30.
Then, we compared them to the sentiment rank we developed when mining subreddits. Is fan sentiment on par with a team's potential chances to nab a finals series?
It's no surprise that the Golden State Warriors ranked high in our calculated odds – after all, they have won it all three out of the last four years, so perhaps oddsmakers are expecting more of the same from Steph and co. Fan sentiment doesn't align with this data point, though – it's 11 points (going down) off the mark. Maybe they don't feel there's enough magic left for yet another finals run, even with the signing of Boogie Cousins back in July.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets fan bases were the most negative of the bunch, though, with both 25 points below how the oddsmakers rated the teams. On the upside, Orlando Magic fans are very positive and hopeful for their team's upcoming season, coming in at 24 points above the combined odds rank. Perhaps it's their new head coach, or they're hoping to give the team a positive push before the season gets underway.
It's All in the Names
Chatter on the internet is a good way to find out what people are thinking about. It's just a part of social media – professional sports players get mentioned often in posts on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. So, who got the most chatter this summer from each team?
In some cases, our findings made a lot of sense. Milwaukee Bucks fans, for example, mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo the most, which is entirely unsurprising. The sixth-year man is probably their most popular player and has a lot of star power behind his name.
Other teams' fans liked to discuss other players, such as the ongoing debate of who was better: LeBron or Kobe? Even though Kobe Bryant is retired, the posts make sense because LeBron was, of course, signed by the Lakers this past offseason, where Kobe played outstanding ball for a couple of decades.
General managers and coaches are not exempt from fan base ire, either, as was demonstrated here by the Grizzlies faithful. Chris Wallace is not exactly a beloved figure in Memphis, as a quick search on Reddit turns up numerous anti-Wallace rants due to a lack of roster movement (and improvement), which generally falls at the GM's feet. There are also beaucoup opinion pieces of a similar vein out there if you take a few moments to look – so it's no wonder his name pops up a lot, and not necessarily in a good way, on the Grizzlies subreddit.
Here's to the Future
Yes, these odds are way early, and they will likely change as the season gets underway and things start to happen – either good or bad. Still, it's interesting to compare fan sentiment to combined odds to see where the mindset of a team's fan base falls. Are they mailing it in already, or do they have high hopes to see if their team can earn a spot in this season's NBA Finals?
While the season is long, and things can and do change as the months go by, it's still fun to see if we can get a picture of how the 2018-19 season may play out.
Methodology and Limitations
We scraped all 30 NBA team-specific subreddits for comments posted between July 1 and September 13, 2018. Then, using TextBlob, a Python library that performs common natural language processing, we determined the sentiment of the text. Sentiment is an analysis of how positive, neutral, or negative something is. It is based on a score of -1 to 1, with -1 being extremely negative, 0 being neutral, and 1 being extremely positive. Because this is based on a pre-existing text analysis library, we couldn't customize the dictionary used to analyze this text; therefore, words that may be positive in the context of this topic may not be recognized as positive in this analysis.
We gathered existing published odds from espn.com, nesen.com, and forbes.com to create our metaranking of teams most likely to win the 2019 NBA Finals.
Fair Use Statement
The NBA is gearing up to start, which means that the NBA Finals will be here before you know it (OK, not really – the season is a grind, but we do enjoy every game). If you want to share our findings with your readers, please feel free to do so (as long as it's for noncommercial purposes only). Don't forget, though, to link back to this page so that our contributors get the credit they deserve.