On Saturday Reddit user sharpinator posted some evidence that ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford's prospect rankings have frequently changed after the fact. Using archive.org, the evidence shows that each of Ford's "final" top 100 rankings from 2008 through 2013 were altered once rookies began their NBA careers. More damning is that in each case, players who performed well in the NBA were moved up in the rankings, while players who didn't live up to the hype were dropped.
Ford's top-100 rankings are not the same as his mock draft. In the mocks, Ford tries to predict where players will be picked. In the top-100, Ford is laying out who he feels are the best prospects available, in order.
Here's an example of the changes made to Ford's rankings: a cached version of Ford's 2013 rankings from July 2013 shows Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked No. 17 in the class. As of Saturday, the living version of Ford's 2013 rankings had Antetokounmpo at No. 9. It appears that Ford is revising his own rankings after the fact to make them look better.
Other players to move up in the six years sharpinator looked at: Rudy Gobert, Gorgui Dieng, Michael Carter-Williams, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Paul George, Greg Monroe, Eric Bledsoe, James Harden and others. Some of the players who moved down in Ford's revised rankings: Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Babbitt, Xavier Henry, Jimmer Fredette, Austin Rivers (moved down 12 spots), Sergey Karasev and Shane Larkin.
The neat organization of those names -- the good ones moved up, the bad ones moved down -- means we can rule out that this was a random glitch, like some sort of reversion to a prior version of the rankings (which are updated frequently during the draft season). So we're left with two explanations: some other glitch altered Ford's rankings unbeknownst to anyone at ESPN, or someone at ESPN -- possibly Ford himself -- systematically tweaked his rankings after the fact to make them look better.
The only technical glitch that could explain what happened is if some rookie rankings Ford or ESPN.com published fed data into these draft rankings. That seems like a stretch considering Ford doesn't do rookie rankings. Occam's razor suggests ESPN actively edited the rankings to make them look better.
If that's the case, the question becomes one of intent. Ford is very high profile. He's the most well-known NBA draft expert in the world. Did he (or whoever did this) really think no one would notice Giannis moving up from No. 17 to No. 9 after the fact? And does it really help Ford's status anyway if it did become common knowledge that Ford rated Giannis at No. 9, well ahead of where most placed him? It's just a ridiculous, needless thing to do given the circumstances. Ford doesn't need to doctor the results to bolster his notoriety.
And, in fact, all this will do is give him a different sort of notoriety.
It appears that Ford's rankings have now all reverted to their original draft day forms. We've reached out to Ford for an explanation. This post will be updated when, and if, we get one. In the meantime, ESPN released a statement and said it has been unable to determine who made the changes, but Ford denies doing so.
After reviewing the post on Reddit today, we have found that changes were made manually to Chad Ford's NBA Draft prospects rankings. We have not been able to determine who made the changes, or when. We have talked to Chad Ford, who strongly denies any involvement, and based on his past work and professionalism, we believe him. Our review will continue but it is unclear at this time if we will be able to ascertain who was responsible.