This mock draft will inevitably offend someone.
Guess what? That doesn’t have to be you. I’m not drafting for any of the NBA 2K League’s four expansion teams, and their opinions are the ones that truly count.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that this draft is NOT a list of the best 8 players left unprotected. Frankly, some players left unprotected are better than some players who were protected. This mock draft is trying to take into account what teams will do, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with the list of the best eight players available. I could truly, happily make a case for each and every player to be taken in this draft, but the reality is that there are only 8 slots for 67 players.
Remember, there’s a trade window right after this draft. A team might well take a player with their second pick that they expect to trade, either to the player’s former team or to a new team. Expansion GMs might well want to build their own team, which is most conventionally done through the entry draft rather than the expansion draft.
With that in mind, let’s go offend someone.
- Hawks Talon GC: Dat Boy Shotz (2018: Blazer5 Gaming)
Notable stats: 19.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 60% shooting
There might not be a player in the expansion draft like Shotz. Forced into expansion by the dual MVP candidates OneWildWalunt and MamaImDatMan, Shotz ranks second among available players in points per game despite being the clear third option for the majority of the season. Hawks Talon have an analytics-minded guy in charge, and Shotz checks those boxes while also, as far as we know, satisfying intangible requirements. The protection system left expansion teams without much of a chance to draft someone who has done much to earn himself the title of franchise player. Shotz is the best candidate to live up to that title.
- Brooklyn Nets: NateKahl (2018: Knicks Gaming)
Notable stats: 9.3 PPG, 62.2% EFG
It’s not really about the numbers for Nate. It’s about the opponent’s numbers, and the NBA 2K League Finals MVP certainly proved himself capable of holding those in check. There’s an element of uncertainty here should Brooklyn’s front office base their opinions on other criteria, but it’s hard to see the franchise avoiding the league’s only Finals MVP and a proven defender. While yes, it puts the team directly in competition with their Manhattan rivals, that’s a) good for the league and b) not something the Nets should care about. That’s something their front office is certainly capable of. Really, it boils down to drafting a defender of the caliber that will be very hard to find in the entry draft.
- Minnesota Timberwolves: ARS0NAL x (2018: Celtics Crossover Gaming)
Notable stats: 18.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 35.5% Dreb
Here’s where it gets even murkier. A potentially unexpected departure from Boston had several people questioning Arsonal’s effect on team chemistry, but in my mind that’s easily disregarded. The Timberwolves, though, could well count on a location reset to elevate Arsonal’s game. He finished the season averaging a double-double on a well-run Boston team that shared the ball well with oFab at the helm. Arsonal is a good and proven lynchpin in the pick-and-roll and in a defense that finished above league average in most defensive categories. There are guys with other strengths, though, and Minnesota—who have been quiet about their plans—could well decide to prioritize one of those and pass Arsonal by.
- Los Angeles Lakers: Vert (2018: Warriors Gaming Squad)
Notable stats: 20.1 PPG, 61.7 EFG%
There are several rumors that Vert wanted to play in Boston, which may have gotten to expansion teams, which is why I have Minnesota passing on him, but I personally don’t think that will make him much less attractive in expansion. The Lakers make this pick, then, for several reasons. Vert was the highest-scoring player left unprotected despite playing for a team that had plenty of offensive struggles all year. If the league returns to a more paint-mashy style for year two, he should be able to return to dominance. The Lakers should count on their Laker-ness to dispel any notion of departure—Los Angeles has a way of eradicating disgruntlement. Vert’s a skilled enough offensive commodity to take one way or another.
- Los Angeles Lakers: Mootyy (2018: Kings Guard Gaming)
Notable stats: 15.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG
What’s not to like about a little showtime? Mootyy brings more to the table than his flashy shades, though. Very few players put up such impressive numbers in the last few weeks of the regular season as Kings Guard’s former first-rounder. Mootyy became a double-double machine once the Kings switched to a Colt/Mootyy PnR. The team’s decision to release him, the highest pick not protected, may have as much to do with the team’s desire to move on as much as possible from a wasted first season as anything else. The Lakers get a talented big man whom they know can work in the pick-and-roll and who has arguably the most experience in dealing with high expectations. And if Vert decides to stay and wants to play in the paint? Finding a trade partner for Mootyy might in fact be easier and cheaper, since the trade market for him has been less explored (the Kings made their protection decisions very late).
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 24K Dropoff (2018: Heat Check Gaming)
Notable stats: 12.7 PPG, 3.5% BLK
The Timberwolves go with an all-around good player here, I think. Dropoff was never the lead dog in Miami, but let’s not forget that he averaged nearly 13 points per game and showed that he can play nearly every position in the league. A high-IQ and high-chemistry guy, the Timberwolves take the proven intangibles as well as a degree of versatility that won’t necessarily be easy to find in the entry draft. Dropoff helped the Heat go on a deep playoff run; having a proven winner as well as a guy whom a team knows can cede the role of lead dog to another player isn’t particularly common. Remember, Dropoff was the only guy to average a triple-double in the 2018 combine, and expansion teams should have that data available to them as well.
- Brooklyn Nets: oLarry (2018: Bucks Gaming)
Notable stats: 14.8 PPG, 68.0% EFG
I think Larry will be good to go for 2019. He seems good to go already, even more fired-up than before. Let’s not forget that Brooklyn consultant OGKINGCURT was one of the Bucks’ draft analysts last year and thus likely played a part in drafting Larry. Sure, it helps the storyline that Larry’s from Brooklyn originally. But the Nate/Larry duo works very well from an on-court perspective. Larry played best last season in a scoring big-man role, a position that Nate as a defensive stretch big wouldn’t impugn. The storyline may just be too compelling to pass up on.
- Hawks Talon GC: iFeast (2018: 76ers GC)
Notable stats: 6.3 RPG, 72% EFG, 25.4% Dreb
The last pick goes to a defender who has managed to generate impressive buzz despite some opposing stat lines that aren’t particularly complimentary. The ability to preserve that buzz is the sort of thing that gets you drafted with the last pick in the expansion draft. I could argue for Godddof2k, similarly, but Feast’s primacy as a wing defender who can stretch the floor complements the role I think Shotz is looking to assume next season better. Having two wing players of such caliber could provide a remarkable level up that will be extremely hard to find in the expansion draft. Combining two players with good intangible backgrounds is only a positive.
Hawks Talon GC: Dat Boy Shotz, iFeast
Brooklyn Nets: NateKahl, oLarry
Minnesota Timberwolves: ARS0NAL x, 24K Dropoff
Los Angeles Lakers: Vert, Mootyy
A few other notes
TsJosh is from Georgia and was a capable secondary scoring option for the Raptors, two points which could fit well with Atlanta at the eighth pick; KingQuai614 is from Minnesota and is a proven PnR roll man, should the Timberwolves not go with a pick-and-roll big with their top pick; MrSlaughter put up impressive offensive stats in the PnR with Utah; the Pacers’ core of big men is so remarkably balanced that I couldn’t really make a strong enough case for an individual. Shockey might have the highest ceiling, but teams could be scared off by his relatively limited sample size; TuckerLocksUp is one of the best defensive bigs on offer, and so on and so forth. Obviously, the selection of Nate is what most precludes Idris’ selection. Expansion teams will have to walk a fine line to decide whether original teams want their pure sharps enough to trade for them or believe they’re sufficiently replaceable/redraftable.