Welcome to the first-ever DIMER NBA 2K League preview!
These will usually be posted every Thursday before games, but with this week’s THE TIPOFF running from Tuesday until Saturday, the preview comes a little earlier than it will in the future. Previews will contain a look at the upcoming matchups, league storylines and anything else of interest heading into a new slate of NBA 2K League action. But again, for now, it’s going to be a little different with this being the first week of games.
A note before we start: you may or may not have noticed that there were no draft grades or power rankings here at DIMER. I’m opposed to quick-fire draft grades in general, and especially so in this case. The league game is going to be entirely different from the Pro-Am game, which means if you haven’t watched combine tape on every player in the league, you can’t make an informed enough decision about which teams are going to be good or not. I understand that draft grades will get you clicks and retweets and foster discussion within the community, but anyone outside of the league handing out draft grades and power rankings is mostly basing their opinions on what they’ve seen in the retail version of 2K18 and even previous versions of the game. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed every single person is wrong and nothing will go as the consensus expects, but I’ll be waiting for the games to be played before I make any statements on who did well in the draft and which teams are contenders. That means this week there will be less discussion about who will win and the quality of each team and more discussion on storylines of interest to the community based on what you all have been saying, and how things may go relative to those expectations.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss THE TIPOFF.
First off, I’d like to say that I love the idea of starting the season with a tournament like this. Of course every team is going to want to win these tournaments and take home bragging rights and the cash prizes, but the regular season is how you get into the playoffs—bar the eighth and final spot, which is awarded through winning the final tournament of the season—which means the regular season is priority number one. Giving teams a chance to play a few competitive games, get used to the league build and work out the kinks before the regular season starts is the perfect way to kick everything off.
The league will also need this opportunity to finetune its own game. There has been close to no news (save for the sweet studio that was revealed earlier today) about the production, casters or anything relating to that. If there are hitches during the broadcasts this week, that will be fine because it’s a brand new league and they need to figure these things out, and it’s likely there will be issues throughout the season on the production side of things. But getting the opportunity to correct anything that was overlooked in planning and eliminating major mistakes before league games start will be nothing but a benefit to everyone.
But I’d like to save most of my discussion for the teams. Like I said, no rankings or statements on who is good or bad, but we’ll get to talk about big storylines and community perceptions, group by group, team by team.
Three teams from the Midwest and one of the league’s few West Coast teams kick things off in the first set of games in the NBA 2K League’s history, and you can split this group up into two sections based on how they built their rosters. Bucks Gaming and Cavs Legion both went a more traditional route, selecting a point guard and center with their first two picks as most people expected teams to do, while Kings Guard and Pistons GT were a little more unconventional. Kings Guard loaded up on big men early before getting a steal in TimelyCook at point guard in the third round, while Pistons GT went power forward and small forward to start, waiting until the fourth and fifth rounds to pick up their point guard and center.
That isn’t necessarily to say that any team’s draft strategy was right or wrong, it’s just an interesting note. It’s likely there are multiple paths to success in this league, and this opening group will be the beginning of testing that theory.
Among the most intriguing matchups throughout the week will be Kings Guard’s Mootyy and Pistons GT’s Lets Get It Ramo, and not just because they were two top-five picks at the same position. Strategy and gameplay-wise, the role of power forwards in the NBA 2K League is going to be an interesting development. If the PAX East Draft Clash was any indication, it’s going to be a big man’s league. Does that mean we’ll see the power forwards down low battling in the post with the centers? Or will a team be able to find a use for the position’s lone stretch build, the Sharpshooting Rim Protector, that players shied away from during the combine in favor of the Rebounding Athletic Finisher? I suspect we’ll see a lot of different ways they’re used, and getting to watch the two teams who invested the most in the position will be fun.
The pressure will be on Mootyy and Kings Guard to win that matchup, though. There has been a lot of talk about their “big three”, and they haven’t been afraid to do some talking of their own. Based on everything we’ve seen, though, there seems to be great chemistry in this squad and they’re certainly enjoying the Sacramento lifestyle. TimelyCook is already a $250,000 winner, and him playing with a chip on his shoulder could be trouble for the league. Worthingcolt, the third part of that big three, is another leader on this team that could dominate on the inside if he wants to.
Cavs Legion GC
Wanting to make a statement the most in this group will be Hood, who, at 16th overall, was seen as a point guard who fell too deep into the draft. Now he has been handed the keys to a talented Cavs Legion team and needs to prove that he did deserve to go higher. He has the tools to do just that with all four of the other Cavs Legion starters in the top-seven within their position in points per game among the league during the combine. This will be a high-powered offense in Cleveland, and it will be up to Hood to keep it running. If he does have struggles, he’s lucky enough to have guys like Sick x 973 and iBall x ToXsiK to keep this team afloat.
Just a state away from Cavs Legion are Pistons GT. That aforementioned unconventional draft might have worked wonders for Adam Rubin and everywhere you look on this roster they have guys who killed it in the combine, numbers-wise. Many have argued Lets Get It Ramo was the best power forward in the draft, while iiNsaniTTy was a vocal leader for the Pro-Am team Throwdown that was one game away from winning $250,000 last year. Shooting guard ixsplashkingxi lived up to his name in the combine, placing first in points per game, first in steals per game and eighth in jump shot timing among league shooting guards. There are scoring threats all over this team, and point guard Im So Far Ahead has no problem sharing the rock. I can see what Rubin envisioned with this roster, now it’s time to see if the vision comes together like it should.
The MPBA-drafted Bucks Gaming seems to be a quietly confident bunch. They have veteran Pro-Am leaders and an organization behind them that has invested heavily in this team (seriously, the Bucks Gaming staff is huge and might be the most committed in the NBA 2K League). Based on some of the combine numbers, this looks to be a balanced team. Game6Drake looked good going up against Yeah I Compete in the PAX East Draft Clash, and KinG PeroXide, playing out of position even, had his moments as well. Procis1on has the potential to be one of the league’s best sharpshooters. This team’s success will still lie in how well Game6Drake and oLARRY play together. If anything, I have confidence in the strength of the organization as a whole.
This entire group will be fun and perhaps more difficult than it’s being given credit for. Kings Guard, Cavs Legion and Pistons GT are all teams you’ll see often in league champion predictions. Meanwhile, Bucks Gaming has been predicted to be somewhere in the middle and will be eager to make a statement against a few of perceived favorites.
This group has potential to be the most unpredictable of THE TIPOFF.
As the third overall pick, Jazz Gaming point guard Yeah I Compete will be the face of this group going up against teams that picked 9th, 12th and 17th in the first round of the draft. That doesn’t mean the other first round picks on other teams in this group won’t be great players, but Compete has been active off the court in the lead-up to this season, having thrown the opening pitch at a minor league baseball game and doing voice-over work for the league’s first marketing spot, “It’s Our Time”. And there’s no doubt he has the talent to take over this group if he has to. Though he looked a little shaky to start during the PAX East Draft Clash action, he recovered and played well the rest of the way proving he can perform in this league.
This team is obviously his, and it will go as far as he goes. That’s not a comment on the quality of his teammates, but as a third overall pick, the burden will always be on you to be a leader both on and off the court. From what I’ve seen so far in both of those aspects, Jazz Gaming got a good one, and Compete has superstar potential.
Speaking of first-round picks in this group, GOOFY757 is going to have high expectations of his own. As one of three power forwards taken in the top-10 and with Knicks Gaming waiting until the fourth and fifth rounds to pick up their point guard and center, it may be on his shoulders to be the focal point of the offense. That’s not a role he’ll likely have trouble stepping into, though, as the top power forward in points per game among the league during the combine. With an eccentric personality and no lack of confidence, GOOFY757 has potential to be one of the league’s superstars and the face of Knicks Gaming for a long time.
Warriors Gaming Squad
Warriors Gaming Squad is one of those teams that has been consistently rated near the bottom. With the last pick in the first round and the pick following, they went with a small forward and shooting guard, something only one other team (Pacers Gaming) did with their first two selections. The M.O. for the Warriors Gaming front office seemed to be “buckets”, and more specifically players who get them. First-round pick Shawn Win ranked first in points per game and second in effective field goal percentage among all small forwards in the league during the combine. Simply put, the man can score and do it efficiently. Second round pick Bsmoove was third in jump shot timing among all shooting guards in the league during the combine, meaning he hit perfect releases with some proficiency. Meanwhile, power forward LeVert and center Type were both top-five at their position in points per game. Point guard Promeister will need to run the offense with efficiency to make everything work.
Wizards District Gaming
Wizards District are another team hanging around somewhere in the middle of all of these draft and power rankings. DemonJT was a guy I saw called a reach despite his success leading the Pro-Am team Space Jam both on and off the court. I’m a firm believer in that your first round pick should be someone who can do both. DemonJT looks to be as dedicated to the game as they come and isn’t afraid to wax philosophical on the Twitter timeline. I certainly wouldn’t mind having him as my team’s leader. Elsewhere on the team, it’s going to come down to how well their frontcourt of second-round pick BooPainter and center xGREATxGILLY13 play together and with their point guard.
This is a group that features two bottom-dwellers and a contender among the community consensus, meaning this group may give us a chance to start separating who will be near the top or bottom of this league
Among those bottom-dwellers are 76ers GC. This is the quietest team in the league, with less than 100 tweets on Twitter and a front office that wasn’t even announced until just before the draft earlier in April. They recently hired the NBA 2K vet and former college basketball point guard Jeff Terrell, who received an offer from Knicks Gaming as well, and their front office has an analytics background, so there’s potential here along with some players who may be flying under the radar. The backcourt of Radiant and Newdini, their first two selections, might be a problem for other teams on defense as both had a healthy amount of steals during the combine, and center TFresh could also turn heads with his play in the paint. The Germany native ranked first in defensive rebounds, fourth in blocks and eighth in points per game among all centers in the league during the combine. That could end up being an incredible value pick in the fifth round.
Also in that bottom-dweller conversation is Magic Gaming. Heat Check Gaming coach FamousEnough had a lot of praise for this team after the two engaged in some scrimmages last week in Orlando (and made some of the same points I make at the beginning of this article. I may not be crazy). I like what the backcourt of KontruL and NachoTraynor can potentially do and if this team finds success it will be because of them. Marley213s looks to be a more defensive center, and this team is going to need it in this group with some talented big men.
One of those big men is OneWildWalnut. Blazer5 Gaming made him the first center taken in the draft, a well-deserved honor for a guy who put up monster stats in the combine. Some people have questions about the rest of the roster, including Mama Im Dat Man, who made the switch from power forward to point guard for the combine, but his numbers looked great and he grades out among the best based on pure statistics. Numbers aren’t everything of course, and he’ll still have to know how to run an offense and garner some chemistry with OneWildWalnut. But if he can do both of those things then this could be one of the more devastating one-two punches in the league.
Raptors Uprising GC
The team getting the most praise of this group has been Raptors Uprising. That’s not particularly surprising considering they took two $250,000 winners, point guard Kenny and power forward Detoxys, with their first two picks. A sound strategy on paper. It also helps that those two won that money together on Still Trill a year ago in New Orleans. I liked what I saw from Kenny during the combine both in how he played and how he communicated. Even with, uh, not great teammates shall we say, he had a smile on his face and was still constantly chatting with his team and helping them play better. That’s what you want from your point guard and first round pick, and if things get off course for a team with high expectations, Kenny can be there to right the ship. I like the overall makeup of this team, personality-wise, and they seem to have adopted the “us vs. them” mentality the Toronto Raptors have taken on in the NBA. The chemistry is there and this could be a special team. They’ll be the favorites for this group but I don’t expect them to take any opponent lightly with the leadership and big game experience that they have.
The “Group of Death” if there ever was one. THE TIPOFF saves perhaps the best for last with a group that includes the first and second overall picks in the draft and a couple of community darlings for title favorites.
Dimez vs. oFAB will be the most intriguing matchup of all THE TIPOFF group play. The merits of each as a point guard have been debated for months, with opinions split on who is better. Though Mavs GG selected Dimez with the first overall pick, it wouldn’t have been surprising if they had taken oFAB. And no matter who you think is better, the recent Dimez media tour—he appeared on Conan O’Brien’s YouTube livestream and ESPN’s The Jump—puts that much pressure on him to show out in his NBA 2K League debut as the current face of the league. Surprisingly though, even with Dimez, the community isn’t that high on this Mavs GG team. The success of this squad is going to depend a lot on Dimez and at the moment he’s an unknown quantity on the league build. I trust that Mavs GG Head Coach Jonah Edwards knows what he’s doing and I don’t doubt this pick for one second, but who knows if the gap has closed between Dimez and the rest of the field. He’s the de facto face of the league off the court, but will he dominate this league? It’s a big question mark to me. But even if he isn’t the “LeBron of 2K” that other media outlets have been calling him, he seems to have the personal drive and one of the best infrastructures in the league in Mavs GG behind him.
Dimez’s rival, oFAB, may have less pressure on him but he’s still the second overall pick. Lucky for him, he’s surrounded by teammates that he already has chemistry with (including MelEast, who looked good in the PAX East Draft Clash) and some solid support from the CLTX Gaming organization. Mavs GG and CLTX Gaming are more similar than some may realize and I expect this to be one of the league’s first true rivalries. CLTX Gaming are seen as contenders, and I know that Ricco was more than happy with his draft, but these matchups may be close with Dimez wanting to prove he deserved first overall over oFAB. If the CLTX Gaming front office is as hungry for rings as the Boston Celtics front office, though, expect this franchise to be perennial contenders now that they have a cornerstone point guard running things.
Heat Check Gaming
Elsewhere, Heat Check Gaming has been another popular pick to win it all. FamousEnough has done his fair share of talking both before and after the draft, and it’s obvious he’s pleased with his selections. And if you watched the PAX East Draft Clash you might have reason to believe he deserves to do all that talking. Seventh overall pick Hotshot looked monstrous in the paint, confirming suspicions from the combine that the league might, in fact, be a big man’s league. Combined with what many thought was a steal in the second round in point guard MaJes7ic, expectations are high and this will be the perfect chance to back up anything that was said before the season.
I’d like to go on the record as kind of loving the concept behind what Cody Parrent and company did with the Pacers Gaming draft. Taking WoLF 74 and Swizurk—a top lockdown defender and a dead-eye sharpshooter, respectively—with their first two picks then selecting the offensive powerhouse point guard vGooner- in the fourth round makes for a unique way of constructing a roster. There are questions about how the UK native vGooner- will adjust to North American competition (and, for what it’s worth, he ranked last in assists per game and second-to-last in steals per game while having the top usage rate among all NBA 2K League point guards in the combine), but the investment was minimal on him and he’s now surrounded by players with elite skill sets that complement his own playstyle. If those skill sets translate to the league, this is the best-case scenario for him, and I think the success of Pacers Gaming this season lies in how well he plays. As an analytics guy who has worked with the NBA 2K Lab crew, I expect Parrent to come up with creative ways to make this roster work.
As for Grizz Gaming, it seems not many people expect them to make it out of this group alive. Not only is this supposed to be the toughest group to win, you’ll often see the Grizz somewhere near the bottom of draft and power rankings. If they don’t make it out it would be a shame, because point guard Winner_Stayz_On is perhaps the most likable player in the entire league and it’s easy to root for him to succeed. General Manager Lang Whitaker has placed a lot of expectations on Winner_Stayz_On as a leader both on and off the court and cited his maturity as a reason he was selected 15th overall (he topped all other points guards in the league in assists per game during the combine, so I’m guessing he can hold his own on the sticks, too). If Grizz Gaming doesn’t secure a quarterfinals spot, I doubt he will make any excuses for himself or the team. If there’s any squad that performs above expectations I suspect it will be this one because of that kind of mentality from the top.
Now for all the talking I did about draft grades, everything I just said is just as speculative. Pure statistics from the combine can be useful to cite, but context matters to them as well and there are an incredible amount of variables as to who will succeed and who won’t in this league. One of the most exciting things about the NBA 2K League right now is that so much is unknown, and we’ll soon see the league take shape starting with THE TIPOFF. I look forward to covering it and the rest of the season for you all and can’t wait to watch everything unfold.
Enjoy this tournament, because this may be the most exciting part of the season until the finals in August.