The NBA says it uses internal screening and third-party vendors to screen out fraudulent votes. The league added a tweak this year that sources say was born of Pachulia’s suspiciously high finish a year ago: Fans hold only 50 percent of the vote to determine All-Star starters. The vote of current players counts for 25 percent, and a media panel has the final 25 percent of the say. Those mediating factors knocked Pachulia out of the All-Star Game. But they didn’t answer the most basic question: Is the NBA All-Star fan vote a sham?
TO THE CASUAL observer, the Pachulia vote was the most alarming. But to John Kelly, the startling outlier was the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. Kelly is the CEO and founder of the New York-based social media intelligence firm Graphika, which monitors, categorizes and maps social media traffic for public and private clients. Graphika sifted through more than 5 million tweets on behalf of ESPN and found all sorts of interesting things about NBA All-Star voting, including 10 hyperactive bot accounts voting for Leonard about 1,000 times per day, a figure that Kelly called “outrageously high.”
And of all the ways you could vote, Twitter, in particular, seemed to be hot for Leonard. For players such as Pachulia, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, a typical account that voted for them on Twitter did so about three times. For Leonard, the number was, per Graphika, 6.46, the highest in the league. More starkly, about 39 percent of the tweets attempting to cast for Leonard came from accounts created since Dec 1, 2016. And those votes were coming from new accounts with names like @kawhibot.
How much do injuries and guys going in and out of the lineup contribute to that? JJ: “A lot. Look, we’ve had a large part of the season playing without two of our best players. So, it’s been hard.” This is the time of year when trade talk increases. How do you ignore the noise about movement? JJ: “If you’re not able to deal with noise, you shouldn’t be on HoopsHype and Twitter.”