A lot has happened in 2018. We’ve had the first NBA 2K League draft, the first NBA 2K League expansion draft, the first NBA 2K League champions, and two (2!) NBA 2K League combines. The state of the league is pretty far advanced from what it was around this time in 2017. Teams, too, are infinitely further along than they were last year. The 17 inaugural teams revealed their logos in mid-December; this year, they’re already scouting season two prospects to complement (or supplement) their season one stars. But every team—even the first champions—need more, and being in the holiday spirit, we’re going to hand every NBA 2K League team a gift for 2019.
Hawks Talon GC
A Super Star (a la Mario Kart) for DatBoyShotz. Atlanta is counting on the first pick in the expansion draft to become a No. 1 star after a season as No. 3 for Blazer5 Gaming. New manager Wes Acuff has little reason to doubt that Shotz will do it, but he’ll have to maximize Shotz’s opportunities to ensure he assumes his new role in stellar fashion.
Celtics Crossover Gaming
A team gym. Extended head coach Ricco Phinisee has turned star point guard oFab into a gym rat, part of a remarkably close bond between the two that augurs well for season two. The Celtics missed the playoffs and notched two second-place tournament finishes in season one, so they’re looking for anything that can take them to the next level. Bonding over workouts has worked for coach and player—why shouldn’t it work for the whole team?
A score-first guard in the first round. The Nets snagged Finals MVP NateKahl and former Pacers Gaming big man Shockey in the expansion draft, and offense wasn’t the reason. While Shockey put up nearly 15 points per game in season one, and Nate shot the lights out in the Knicks’ title run, the Nets primarily need backcourt scoring, especially if the league resembles the combine. Curt & Co. will want an elite one to fall to them at 11th overall.
Cavs Legion GC
A healthy Larry. If you haven’t heard his story by now, watch the NBATV special on the former Bucks GG player and then come back. But there’s more to Larry than his story—he’s a damn good player. The Cavs, who acquired him in exchange for one of the league’s best scorers in Hood, will need a healthy Larry to take his versatile game to the next level and potentially play as a focal point for the Land’s offense.
A HalleLuka rejuvenation. With rookie Luka Doncic breathing life in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, the NBA 2K League team will hope some of the organization’s new magic carries over. The team brought in a new group of esports personnel and protected only former first overall pick Dimez. With a new coach and five new players to integrate, the win-now franchise wouldn’t mind an upward tick in fortune akin to that of their NBA franchise.
A little less insanity, a little more Iinsanitty. The Pistons went from tough-luck, hard-nosed third seed to volatile rebuilders in the span of a few weeks, trading MVP candidate LetsGetItRamo to Pacers Gaming in exchange for the fourth overall pick. They’ll want to calm things down a little and start to prioritize former second-round pick Iinsanitty.
Warriors Gaming Squad
A full offseason process. The Warriors pretty clearly didn’t have much time to scout before last season, focusing solely on combine performance in the draft. That didn’t work out so well, but things are much better this time around, when the Warriors have had time to assemble scouting personnel and just watch a lot of 2K. The full offseason will also enable coach Tommy Abdenour to install his sets to full effect.
A defense-first meta. Wolf revitalized the Pacers season at point guard in season one, but that just veiled the fact that he’s a monster on defense at a lock. Add in newly acquired MVP candidate LetsGetItRamo, and the Pacers will boast one of the fiercest defensive lineups in the league. While they’ll be capable offensively as well, the Pacers may be the team best poised to capitalize on a defense-first meta.
Starlight, star bright. The Lakers, one forgets, have two former first-round picks on their roster in Mootyy and KontuL, as well as Vert, one of the better scorers in season one. Coach/GM Mathew Makovec has to put all three guys in a situation where they can shine (please clear the paint for Mootyy—imagine Kontul/Mootyy turning into an elite PnR combo with Vert as a dangerous secondary wing scorer?). They’ll need their guys to step into the light, rather than blink at the glare.
A sidekick for AuthenticAfrican. The Grizz fell short of the playoffs despite finding a top-5 player in the second round. AA moved from his preferred center position all over the court, to great effect, but the help wasn’t quite there. UniversalPhenom is a nice player to bring back, but finding a second star with the seventh overall pick—say, a veteran, savvy point guard to work with AA—will give Grizz Gaming their own version of the Conley/Gasol tandem.
Heat Check Gaming
A set of Miami Vice uniforms. The Heat made out like bandits in the offseason and will head into season two with little changed and few flaws. Let’s get them their own video game Miami Vice uniforms, then. Heat Check in pink, blue and black? Why not? Good branding is good branding all around.
A real reason to fear the deer. Milwaukee scuffled through season one, and, while BigMeek is one of the most entertaining guys in the league, his presence hasn’t yet terrorized teams. I’m of the opinion that Drake can be a key piece. But the Bucks need to figure out their identity and capitalize on their two first-round picks. Give people a real reason to fear the deer.
A full season of Hood. The team swung a deal for the talented scorer during the expansion draft and expect nothing less than 100 percent of their franchise player. Hood didn’t play the entirety of the Cavs Legion season, for one reason or another, but with college coach Shawn Vilvens in charge, the T-Wolves expect things to change. Plus, a full season of Hood is only good for the final scoreline.
A season to hold onto the trophy. The league hasn’t yet seen fit to relieve the champions of their prize. The Knicks return four players from their title-winning roster, and the second season promises a fraught campaign for a team that got hot at all the right times. Some consistency instilled by the presence of the championship trophy would be nice.
More jewelry for KingCamRoyalty. KingCam affected the tradition of sporting a new necklace for every Magic victory, and we’re hoping the tradition continues in season two. The Magic, who fell short of the playoffs despite an 8-6 record, will have had a good season if KingCam is burdened at the end of the season by a treasure trove of gold and silver.
A new defensive stopper. The 76ers lost defensive stopper iFeast to T-Wolves Gaming in the expansion draft and were rebuffed in their effort to reclaim him for a first-round pick. The dynamic offense, led by Radiant, is sure to be there, but the 76ers have their sights set on more than a semifinals exit. To achieve that, they’ll need someone to play shutdown defense.
Kind animations and/or permeable backboards. Yeah, the Blazers are in a pretty good spot. They’ll get two MVP candidates back in team captain MamaImDatMan and MVP/DPOY OneWildWalnut. They also acquired King_Peroxide from Bucks Gaming to try and replace DatBoyShotz. None of these annoying backboards, please…
Comp Bayless on Twitter
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Kings Guard Gaming
A full season’s worth of internet. The Kings struggled early in the season, with sources telling DIMER that the team was unable to practice effectively at home due to a lack of consistent internet. I suppose even multi-million dollar mansions have their drawbacks. A little more practice and a fresh outlook on the season are the first steps to righting the Kings’ ship.
Raptors Uprising GC
Another dose of balance. The Raptors featured the league’s best offense during their sizzling stretch run to the playoffs, keyed by Kenny’s shot-creating slasher and a legitimate second threat in the TsJosh/AllHailTrey pick-and-roll. Two of those guys will be back, and the Raptors should look to recreate their unparalleled offensive balance. They’d benefit from having coach Ogi Micic back, too, rather than seeing him as a player on the other side of the stage.
The right No. 1 pick. That’s all the Jazz, who won the NBA 2K League entry draft lottery, need to turn things around in Utah. They’ve already got Yeah I Compete, last year’s No. 3 overall pick, but now they’ve got a chance to add a second star. Without a coach or much of a scouting infrastructure, however, the Jazz need to do everything in their power to nail their first overall pick.
Wizards District Gaming
A lethal DemonJT/Dayfri pick-and-roll combo. The Wizards figure to be one of the better teams in the league next season and will have spent all offseason working on the chemistry between DemonJT and Dayfri. The former will have a chance to be more of a first-option threat in season two and the latter should immediately slot into the lineup as one of the best centers in the league. Considering the prevalence of the pick-and-roll, maximizing their talent should have Washington in capital form.