After seven regular-season weeks and two tournaments it’s time to declare it officially mid-season. And what is “mid-season” if we don’t review which things have pleasantly surprised and utterly disappointed us.
At the current mid-season mark, the league currently dons a completely different “top-tier” set of teams. Of the top five teams in the current standings, four of those picked in the top five in this year’s draft, meaning each team was at the bottom of the league last year. If that doesn’t quite show the drastic change in the league’s elite in just one season’s difference, also look at the teams currently at the bottom of the standings. Of the eight playoff teams from the 2018 season, five of those teams currently sit outside the top-10 and out of a playoff berth, most notably both season one finalists, Knicks Gaming and Heat Check Gaming.
Again, this is just mid-season so the playoffs could very well still be a reality for a majority of the league. Even as soon as next week, as the winner of the Ticket tournament automatically qualifies for this year’s playoffs. This is just to say how the parity of the NBA 2K League seems to be a staple of its existence.
Without further ado, let’s delve into some surprises and disappointments of season two.
1. The elite play of BSmoove and Type
BSmoove and Type had respectable season one production, with Type even getting some DPOY talk. But last year’s Warrior’s system wasn’t able to maximize their, or any of the roster’s, talents. The amount of close games the 4-10 team lost was proof of that.
Though both of the team’s top-10 selections in this year’s draft—Gradient and CB13—have proven vital to the Warrior’s turnaround this season, nothing has been more important than BSmoove and Type joining the elite conversation at their respective positions.
BSmoove is currently a top-five scorer in the league, averaging 19 points per game while shooting 58% from beyond the arc (the highest of any secondary ball-handler in the league). You could look to a few factors for his development this year—his chemistry with point guard CB13, as well as the innovative offensive schemes from Coach Tommy Abdenour—but without BSmoove playing at this level, WGS isn’t where it is today.
This also goes for Type, who recently won Tournament MVP of the Turn in Las Vegas, in which Warriors Gaming Squad were crowned champions. Type was known for his defensive prowess last season but he has built on that defensive skill-set even more this season. He currently leads the league in blocks, averaging 1.9 per game, and is currently in the top-10 for steals among centers.
2. The relevance of Bucks Gaming
Bucks Gaming was immediately deemed the laughing stock of the league after the decisions it made at the 2019 NBA 2K League Draft. Many people, including this publication, were left confused when the Bucks used the 6th overall pick on Plondo, a player at whom we can all look at now and wholeheartedly say he deserved to be drafted there.
Plondo has solidified himself as a top center in the league. He currently averages 11.5 points per game, 11.7 rebounds per game and 5.2 assists per game. His most notable games have also come against the other top-tier centers in the league. One, in which he was two assists shy of a triple-double, came against Heat Check Gaming and 2018 MVP finalist Hotshot.
The Bucks surprising turnaround doesn’t stop there, though. The biggest factor in the Bucks’ promising season (in similar fashion to Warriors Gaming Squad) is the development of season one protected player Arooks.
Coming off a season that was filled with frustration and lackluster play as a point guard, the Bucks moved Arooks to shooting guard so he could truly focus on his specialty: putting the ball in the basket. Arooks has turned into one of the premier scorers in the league, currently averaging the third most points at 22 points per game.
3. Magic Gaming’s POINT Guard
When a player faces questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t believe said player is talented. It might also mean people questioned if a player was put in the proper situation to succeed. For myself, that was always the basis on which I questioned Reizey of Magic Gaming. Yet as we can expect with certain questions, elite talent can most definitely have an answer.
To get a little more in depth as to why some—including myself—doubted Reizey’s transition to the point guard position, it stems from scenarios in which he was utilized prior to the league. No question, Reizey was one of the better sharpshooters coming into the 2019 draft. And although he had high-level experience playing point guard in previous 2Ks, the gameplay of 2K19 didn’t favor a lot of players who played point guard in previous years.
To be completely fair in the evaluation, Reizey did struggle early on in the season to find his jumper and a lot of Magic Gaming’s success stemmed from the supporting cast. But in recent weeks Reizey transitioned to a sharpshooting secondary playmaker primary build—the build most point guards are accustomed to playing—and he’s looked as good as ever. He’s been able to create more space for himself and more opportunities for his teammates. After averaging a putrid 7 points per game and 7 assists per game in the Tipoff Tournament to begin the year, Reizey now averages 16 points per game and 9 assists per game in the regular season.
4. Mavs Gaming’s 10-game win-streak
The Mavs pretty much cleaned out the entire house from season one and started from scratch. Mavs Gaming, outside of season one first overall pick Dimez, brought an entirely new regime to contend for season two. The Mavs started it off by bringing in a new coach, LT Fairley, whom many players in this league respect. They then built an entire roster to cater to Dimez’s skillset.
You don’t win 10 straight games due to one specific thing. Every player on this Mavs’ roster has played exceptional to date. PeteBeBallin is among many pundits’ Rookie Of The Year conversations, while Mo is everything the Mavs hoped for as an offensive pair for Dimez. Sherm has been one of the best defenders in the league (and could very well win Defensive Player Of The Year) while Rux is showing everyone, Pistons GT included, that he shouldn’t have left Detroit to begin with.
Not many, if any, doubted the talent throughout the Mavs’ roster. The questions seemed to be more chemistry-based. Yet, the Mavs brought a close to all of those arguments by showcasing one of the more cohesive units throughout the league. The surprise here isn’t that the Mavs are competing, it’s the record-breaking rate at which they have done so.
5. Cavs Legion GC still a playoff team?
Had we told you the Cavs would follow-up a season in which they went to the 2K League semis by trading away both its stars, by being forced to play one-third of the season without their starting point guard, and would still sit at 6th in the overall standings halfway into the season, would you believe us?
Well, if you look at the standings, that’s exactly what’s happening. Now I know I picked Cavs Legion GC to make the playoffs in our Season Preview, but even I couldn’t claim I expected this to happen, especially after they shipped away superstar center Sick a few weeks ago.
But currently riding a 4-game winning streak, and coming off a historic comeback, the Cavs are here to let everyone know that “Believeland” is still alive.
The Cavs knew they needed offense and believed enough in oLarry to take over the center position, so the addition of All Hail Trey makes a lot of sense now. Add to that the high-level play of Strainer, and the DPOY-esque season by GODDDOF2K, and we suddenly can make sense that this isn’t necessarily a fluke.
1. Tournament Celtics?
Celtics Crossover Gaming is undoubtedly the last team anyone wants to match up against come tournament time. But is this truly a moniker a team that desires to win a championship appreciates? As we saw with the Celtics last season, although they made two out of three tournament finals, they were still left empty-handed and without a playoff berth at the end of the season.
In similar fashion, season two hasn’t provided any sort of change to that so far. The Celtics made the finals of the Tipoff tournament and provided a crazy upset over top-seeded Pacers Gaming at the Turn, yet they currently sit at 4-5 and currently out of a playoff berth (again).
Sure, these “Tournament Celtics” could very well win the Ticket and automatically qualify for this year’s playoffs, but why put yourself in that predicament when it isn’t necessary?
The Celtics have the talent to qualify via the regular season. And as I’ve mentioned quite a bit in past articles, it seems the Celtics’ biggest issue is overthinking of who should play what. In recent weeks, Celtics Crossover has looked more and more established in regular season play; should they grow on that, a playoff berth is in no way, shape, or form out of the equation.
2. Non-Tournament Blazer5?
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, we have the greatest regular-season team who has now came up extremely short in three consecutive tournaments. Dating all the way back to season one, in which we saw Blazer5 get upset by eventual champions, Knicks Gaming, and lost in the first round of the Ticket to play-in squad Kings Guard Gaming, tournament Blazer5 hasn’t been the powerhouse we’re accustomed to seeing throughout the regular season.
To open the season, Blazer5 failed to qualify for the knockout rounds, losing its group to Bucks Gaming. The tournament to follow, one in which many predicted Blazer5 to win, Blazer5 was then upset by T-Wolves Gaming, a team that was at its lowest point, dealing with trade requests and in-house issues of its own.
With all that said, it’s time to question Blazer5’s struggles when tournament time comes around. In similar fashion to last year, Blazer5 is the best team in the league right now. But to reach that championship feat, Blazer5 is going to need to figure out how to win the must-win tournament games.
3. The struggles of Demon JT
Demon JT has been a staple of point guard play for years throughout Pro-Am, consistently mentioned among the elite. Yet it’s hard to argue against the fact that, to date, he hasn’t lived up to the billing of being the 2018 first-round selection of Wizards DG. Last year, a case could be made that the success of Wizards DG was due in large part to the MVP-type season from Boo Painter. This year, just as recently as last week, JT can’t even attack the mismatch in must-score situations, as he was guarded by sharpshooter ProFusion.
As we all know by now, Boo Painter is no longer with the team, and the void that was left was expected to be filled by Demon JT. Needless to say, that hasn’t been the case at all. And that could be considered a huge reason the Wizards are struggling this season.
Demon JT is currently averaging an abysmal 7 points per game and 4 assists per game, the lowest of any point guard for each respective stat-line. Add to that the Wizards’ overall record of 2-6, and the blame has to start with him. The Wizards invested a lot into JT the last two years—selecting him first in the 2018 draft, protecting him for season two—and he isn’t holding up his end of the bargain.
4. Heat Check’s point guard play
Many argued that last year Heat Check Gaming was the main benefactor of the mid-season patch. The patch spawned the existence of 5-out in the league and helped the Heat, who didn’t have a true point guard, mask the major void in their lineup. Hotshot was able to take on ball-handling responsibilities and run away with an MVP-type season, becoming one of five finalists at the end of the year.
But with that decision, and the success that came with it, put the Heat in a tough position for the 2019 draft. With a late pick, due to going to the 2018 Finals, the Heat weren’t left with many point guard options from which to choose. Then, with how the draft ended up falling, the Heat decided to go with a more versatile player in Lotty, hoping someone else would fall to them at their next pick in the third round.
A player ended up falling to them, one many expected to go in the first round, in JMoneyRep817. Yet he still wasn’t able to fill Heat Check’s point guard needs. So the Heat decided to trade him for one of the stars from season one, Hood. Both were high risk, but also both were very high reward. The unfortunate part is we’ve yet to see a high reward from either player.
There is always room to be optimistic, as we saw last year when Heat Check didn’t have an answer at point guard. But blessings only fall from the sky so often, and it doesn’t seem as if a patch is in the cards for this season.
5. Teams that still don’t consider the competitive Pro-Am scene for their respective organizations
I think there is no question with the growth of the league, more and more teams are becoming aware of what needs to be done to compete at a high-level.
We saw a team like Magic Gaming really turn around its viewpoint of the league and bring in someone like Jonah Edwards to bring in the perspective of someone who truly understands how to find high-level talent in this game. We saw teams like Grizz Gaming who, although they still haven’t gone to the competitive scene to its full extent, have moved beyond the mishap of selecting someone like Winner Stayz On in the inaugural draft and brought in someone like Purp to help scout for the 2019 draft.
But there’s no question, when you look at teams who have turned around the disappointments from season one, or competed from jump as an expansion team, the more successful teams embrace the competitive community.