Outside of the NBA 2K League playoffs, it’s hard to make a case for a more important point in the season than right now. The Ticket tournament can turn a never-will-be into a potential champion—as we saw just last year in season one.
With such high stakes, don’t expect any less drama or any less parity. The best of the best were knocked off in season one. With there being no shortage of upsets currently to date, the unexpected taking place doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary.
To summarize what exactly makes The Ticket so important, basically—on top of a $180,000 prize pool—the winner of this tournament automatically qualifies for the NBA 2K League playoffs. As we saw with Knicks Gaming in season one, all it takes is a bid. Once you’re in, anything can happen.
To take into consideration what exactly we can expect from this tournament, let’s take a look at what every team needs to succeed.
Blazer5 Gaming: An unexpected hero
Blazer5 Gaming is, without question, the best regular season team in the history of the NBA 2K League. Finishing season one as the top seed and currently holding the top spot in this year’s standings, Blazer5 has proven time and time again how elite they are.
The unfortunate part in being the best team during the regular season is that doesn’t provide accolades. Since Blazer5 won the Turn tournament in season one, they have consistently come up short in every tournament since, including the season one playoffs.
Mama and Walnut’s presence is well known. Just as recently as their last tournament loss against T-Wolves Gaming in the Turn, Mama and Walnut both had great games (Mama with 20 points and 13 assists and Walnut with 10 points and 9 rebounds).
The difference seemed to be someone else not stepping up to the plate and taking off some of the burden. Should LavishPhenom show he could consistently take other point guards out of the game or KinG PeroXide consistently provide 15-20 points for the offense, this Blazer5 team could finally get beyond the tournament shortcomings we’ve become accustomed to seeing as of late.
Mavs Gaming: Dimez plays like an MVP throughout the tournament
Mavs Gaming has made everyone forget about the good, the bad and the ugly of its inaugural season. A lot of that should be credited to how well-rounded this team is. When you look at this roster, it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness.
However, a case could be made that we still haven’t seen the best version of 2018 first overall selection Dimez. Coming into the season one draft, the speculation was that the best player was, far and away, Dimez. And although he’s showed a lot more poise and promise this season, we’ve yet to see him take over a long stretch of games.
Mavs Gaming has three rookies who have made a statement that they belong in Mo, PeteBeBallin and Sherm. But if Dimez can take off and solidify himself as the best player in the world —as we saw in 2K17 at the Road To All-Star Game tournament—the Mavs could definitely become the first team to qualify for a playoff berth this year.
NetsGC: Lav continues to show he’s an elite point guard
Many have speculated how elite the NetsGC supporting cast would be after the season two draft. Yet with the early-season hiccups, it was easy to point out how average the backcourt production was. With a great coach like Curt, you expected adjustments and that’s exactly what we got.
The Nets decided to move Lav to point guard in place of Wazy.Zay, and ever since they’ve have been on a roll. In the season two draft, Lav was a point guard who ended up falling to third round. With such a low draft selection, Lav was forced to prove his worth at other ancillary positions. However with the Nets struggling, Lav was finally provided a chance to show his skills at point guard and he hasn’t looked back—setting aside the 10-turnover disaster against the 76ers, in part due to switching archetypes.
If Lav can continue to build on his elite production at point guard, and provide much-needed offense for one of the better defensive teams, don’t be shocked if the Nets take home a trophy (and playoff berth) this week.
Celtics Crossover Gaming: Don’t overthink what’s working
The tournament Celtics are back. At least this season, however, this is the first time they’ve come into a tournament with an identity (or at least an identity that they finally understand). Celtics Crossover struggled early on this season, and with those struggles came overthinking who should play where. We even saw the best scorer on the team, ProFusion, try his hands at CENTER. That alone should tell you how much this team was overthinking its strengths and weaknesses.
Yet, with all the struggles, the Celtics are currently riding a 3-game winning streak into the tournament. Celtics Crossover’s strongest lineup is, without a doubt, oFab at point guard, Mel East at lock, ProFusion at sharp, Bully at power forward and NOxAUTOGRAPHS at center. If the Celtics can right that ship, they can go toe-to-toe with anybody.
The “tournament Celtics” have been a great tournament team but they’ve never sealed the deal. If Celtics Crossover understands its identity and doesn’t waiver in the face of adversity, it could finally win one of these.
Warriors Gaming Squad: CB13 starts scoring
There’s yet to be a team that has won consecutive tournaments in the NBA 2K League. Warriors Gaming Squad has already beat most odds by becoming a contender this year after a putrid inaugural season. And although it’s a safe bet to think the reigning Turn champions could follow that up with another tournament win, it won’t be done unless CB13 figures out how to put the ball in the basket.
The Warriors have been one of the best defensive teams in the league. But as we’ve seen with some of the recent losses during the regular season, a lot of the issues start with CB13 not being able to hit his shots. He’s finding the necessary space, there just seems to be a hold up with his shot timing. If he can figure it out, there’s no question this Warriors team can make history and win consecutive tournaments for the first time ever.
76ers GC: Others, outside of Radiant, continue to step up
The 76ers have become an up-and-down regular season team, as odd as that is to say. However, the Sixers really know how to turn it on at the right times. In recent weeks, 76ers GC has been faced with a lot of “must-win” scenarios. A big reason they were able to capitalize on those situations was due, in large part, to the supporting cast stepping up.
ZDS has looked like the best sharpshooter the last couple weeks and that’s really taken a lot of the offensive burden off of star point guard Radiant. If ZDS can continue to build on his unbelievable offensive performances while Steez and Breadwinner continue to be amazing defensive stalwarts, the Sixers could win a second banner in a single season.
Cavs Legion GC: The backcourt turns it up a notch
One of the more impressive rookies this season has been Strainer. While a lot of the team’s recent success can be credited to his offensive production, veterans GODDDOF2K and oLARRY have been just as vital. Not to forget about the great addition of All Hail Trey, the Cavs still need a point guard who could take over a stretch of games if they have any hopes of winning this tournament.
With LYKaPRO still on the bench after coming off suspension, it will be interesting to see what the Cavs decide to do at point guard. Although Savage has been a great stop-gap at the position, he’s yet to show the star power needed to win a tournament like this. He’ll need to continue to step up in order for this team to stretch its four-game win streak further if they have any intentions of holding up that banner at the end of it all.
Magic Gaming: The supporting cast takes it back to The Tipoff
Magic Gaming shocked a lot of pundits by making the semifinals at the Tipoff tournament at the beginning of the season. Yet a lot of that success came from how well the supporting cast played throughout. We’re now at a point where Reizey has finally figured things out at point guard (his issues were a big reason they came up short in the Tipoff), and if the Magic can get that type of production from the supporting cast, watch out.
Reizey has been one of the better point guards since the Turn tournament and the Magic have been one of the better teams in the league as a result of that. If the others can turn it up as we’ve seen already this year, don’t be shocked if they’re hoisting up a banner of their own come the end of the week.
Grizz Gaming: Vandi keeps it up
The Grizz have been on a roll lately, and a lot of that can be credited to Vandi coming into his own. With some of the better support players, led by MVP-caliber center AuthenticAfrican, all the Grizz have needed is a solid counterpart at point guard.
The Grizz believe they got that with 7th overall selection in the 2019 draft, Vandi. And with his struggles early-on in the season, we saw the Grizz follow suit. Yet lately, Vandi has seemed to really turn around his offensive woes and provide the Grizz with much-needed offense to contend this year.
If Vandi and co. can ride the momentum into the weekend, the Grizz could contend for the free playoff berth.
Wizards DG: Demon JT is exactly that, a demon
In my mid-season disappointments last week, I was very disappointed in JT’s production dating to the time of the article’s release. JT then followed-up that week with two admirable performances (allowing the Wiz to go 2-0 on the week).
If Demon JT can continue to provide on both ends for this team, as they depend on him to do so, the Wizards could turn around its misfortunes and contend for a playoff spot this weekend.
Kings Guard Gaming: The defense is elite
Kings Guard Gaming undoubtedly has the best rookie point guard in the league. WorthingColt and BallLikeSeem have also provided much necessary points to keep the offense afloat throughout the season. The X-factor for the Kings’ success, however, has always seemed to be its defensive success.
If Zakyy and Yusuf_Scarbz can both get back to DPOY-esque type performances throughout this week, the Kings definitely have a chance to contend for a banner and berth this weekend.
T-Wolves Gaming: Closing out games
The Wolves have been on the worst possible end of comeback victories in season two. As we saw just recently against Cavs Legion GC, the Wolves blew a 19-point lead with 3 minutes left in the game. The talent throughout this T-Wolves team has rarely been questioned. But the mental ability to close out wins has held them back from leaping into contention for a playoff spot.
If the Wolves can consistently close out games, and not allow teams to go on big runs throughout the tournament, the Wolves have a shot to write their own Cinderella story.
Raptors Uprising GC: Finding its offense
The Raptors moved All Hail Trey, one of its better offensive weapons, a few weeks ago. With that move, they were able to solidify its defense by getting one of the better defensive centers in Sick. But with that move, the Raptors have yet to find consistent offense since.
The bright spot on offense has been Kenny. But outside of him, the Raptors truly need someone to step up and score the ball when it’s needed. If the team can find someone to keep pace with the elite scorers this tournament, Raptors Uprising can stake its claim for glory.
Bucks Gaming: A point guard
I think we have apologized enough for thinking the Bucks were going to be bottom dwellers throughout the year. That aside, the Bucks have struggled to find consistency in recent week. A lot of those struggles seem to stem from its point guard play.
The Bucks decided to draft Chaddynick in the second round of the season two draft and he hasn’t lived up to the billing for the pick quite yet. Upon his struggles, the Bucks decided to try SlayIsland at the position as well. Neither has quite provided the necessary offensive production to succeed. Although the Bucks were able to make the semis of the Turn tournament in Las Vegas, they still came up short for a banner. If they’re going to want to finally capitalize and win some hardware, the point guard is going to have to show more production.
Jazz Gaming: Offense by any means
Jazz Gaming has been at its best when it’s scoring this year. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the offensive production, as we’ve seen all of Gliz, MOAM, KevDontMiss and Compete have great offensive games. But the end result in those games still remains: the Jazz win.
If the Jazz can get some of those scoring outbursts, as we saw in the Turn tournament in Las Vegas, the Jazz could well be considered as contenders for a playoff spot this weekend.
Pacers Gaming: Half-court offense
This Pacers Gaming team is very different from the 4-0 version we saw early on in the season. Without question, the Pacers are considered one of the best defensive teams in the league, and though they have a few defensive holes, if the offense could produce better on a weekly basis, this team would still be considered elite today.
Yet here they are, 2-4 since losing in their first game at the Turn. The Pacers have showed a willingness for adjustments and implemented Man_In_A_Car into the lineup, and he was able to score 20 points in the team’s recent win. If he is able to provide more of that type of offensive spark, look for Pacers Gaming to smell blood.
Hawks Talon GC: A sufficient backcourt
The Hawks have arguably received the most production out of its front-court to date this season, yet they’re still struggling to find consistency throughout this season. A big part of that is due to backcourt woes, which have followed the Hawks for the majority of the season.
The potential fix to this was trading for point guard MrStylez during the in-season trade window, but he hasn’t yet lived up to the billing that they expected. The Hawks need the backcourt to produce badly if they intend on contending throughout the weekend.
Knicks Gaming: Season one luck
The Knicks are in a similar position to where they were in season one. And although pretty much everybody wrote them off coming into this same tournament back then, the Knicks still found a way to win it all—and carried that momentum into the playoffs to eventually become season one champs. Yet this year feels a bit different.
iamadamthe1st has still yet to find his niche in this year’s gameplay. And everyone on the roster, potentially besides Goofy, has yet to live up to the expectations put on them heading into this season. Needless to say, we’ve seen this team overcome doubts before, and we’d need to see a miracle similar to that this year as well.
Heat Check Gaming: Season one Hood
Heat Check Gaming has struggled to find point guard play dating all the way back to the beginning of season one. And although the Heat were the main benefactors of a mid-season patch, which allowed center Hotshot to move to small forward and take over ball-handling duties, the Heat have yet to find that luck this year.
Enter Hood, one of the best scorers in the league from season one. The Heat traded for him in the in-season trade window, but he’s yet to actualize any sort of promise at the point guard position. Some speculated that he would struggle on this year’s gameplay and those same people look to be right.
If Hood can figure out a way to put up historic tournament scoring numbers, as we saw him do quite a few times in season one, the Heat could dig itself out of this hole and win this tournament.
Lakers Gaming: The 2K Gods show up
This Lakers team winning a tournament seems unfathomable. This entire season, even through all of its parity, one thing has remained: the Lakers have struggled mightily. A big part of that is the lack of point guard scoring on its roster, but it’s pretty evident none of that will change until season three.
If the Lakers have any intentions of contending this weekend, it’s time to start praying to the 2K Gods.
Pistons GT: The 2K Gods show up, again
Similar to Lakers Gaming, Pistons GT winning a tournament seems like a longshot. As I live in Vegas, it would be awesome if I could actually see the esports odds and put them on the table for us all to reference. But in the interim, let’s just consider it 200/1, Leicester City-esque.
If the Pistons win this tournament, I will shave my head and wear a “Adam Rubin for President” T-shirt for seven days straight.