Today is the last day of the season three combine.
This signals the end of some of the more stressful times for league hopefuls, but also keeps them on the edge of their seats in hopes of receiving an email informing them of draft pool qualification (the email for the top 175 players, which will eventually be narrowed down to the top 150, will come December 16).
In the process of all this, however, we can find some valuable information necessary to forecast some of the trends that may carry over into official league gameplay in the 2020 season.
Last year, we were able to see just how impactful sharpshooters were as secondary ballhandlers, in comparison to season one, in which very few secondary ballhandlers were factored into common offenses. It was also a year in which we were able to see that centers weren’t going to average 40 points and 20 rebounds, like we saw so often in the inaugural season.
This year brings even more change, and in my opinion, even more dynamic possibilities. Let’s take a look at some of the trends we could expect with this year’s gameplay.
Point Guards, Shooting Guards, And Small Forwards
If the combine builds don’t change much—at least when it comes to ballhandling positions—we could be geared up for a season of point guards being shooting guards and lockdowns being point guards.
The thought of that is something I’m not much of a fan of, I think that point guards should be point guards, just from a consumer perspective. Also, for potential audiences tuning in, it’s easier to transition real-life basketball knowledge to the virtual hardwood when the positions are sequenced similarly.
Regardless, I say this because immediately after the combine archetypes were announced, many point guard prospects noticed the differences between the point guard and shooting guard offensive threats. The shooting guard offensive threat is equipped with more favorable shooting badges, while it doesn’t lose too much in the playmaking category. It also is a bigger point guard which allows the guards to finish a little better in the paint.
Also, in order to counter this build, it appears the most suitable lockdown build is at the point guard position.
The “two-way” builds at the small forward position aren’t equipped with pick dodger and the speed appears to be a weakness for this build on the defensive end, as well. We could potentially see teams try to use the small forward defensively, as it is a bigger build and you can still find some advantages with that in mind, but it appears the small forward could very much be the sharpshooter for each team, similar to season two.
If there isn’t much changed when it comes to these three positions, look for teams to deploy lineups of a lockdown, a point guard, and a sharpshooter, in that particular order, at positions 1, 2, and 3.
More Dynamic Offensive Center Options
Season one was considered the season to mash, a term used in 2K to describe low-post scoring. In season two, we saw that aspect taken out and centers found roles catered more to corner defending and rebounding.
The archetypes permitted the option to play on an outside big, and we saw that taken advantage of by 2018 champions T-Wolves Gaming. However, a majority of the centers were on glass cleaners that secured all of the misses and got the ball back into the hands of the team’s scorers.
This year, it appears that could be the case again. Yet one major change from last year to this year appears to be the center’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll again. The center builds appeared to be too slow for a majority of the centers last year, and the implementation of the rim-sharp at the power forward position allowed teams to find better success in those defensive scenarios. This year, however, it appears that there are builds at center that can both defend and rebound. Yes, I understand Warriors Gaming basically ran this lineup last year, but majority of the teams utilized the rim sharp, glass cleaner meta.
It also helps that one of the more popular positions at power forward, in the combine, looks to be a build that can really help with rebounding out of the corner.
Look for teams to try their centers in pick-and-roll defensive situations early on to test out these center builds.
Also, look for teams to push for more centers to play on the perimeter, as the most successful team last year utilized it to perfection—and to a championship.
Offensive Creation, The Behind-The-Back
In season two, we were able to see the premier point guards really show off their ability to create for the offense behind a screen. It is a work of art, and it really allows the audience to appreciate the greatness of these ball handlers.
This year, it appears the point guards will still be able to do so, but the moves may become a little more redundant after a week or two. Last year’s dribbling mechanics allowed a little more uniqueness amongst ballhandlers, and although majority used similar rhythm dribbles and size-ups, it doesn’t appear as “copy and paste” as this year’s engine does.
In the retail release, 2K decided to implement a new engine in which they felt offered ballhandlers sginificantly more freedom to create their own dribbling style. Yet, it’s proven to be the complete opposite as a lot of the premier professionals and prospects have adopted using the behind-the-back.
It is a new move created for this year’s game that throws your players to the opposite side of the player’s ball hand and creates a great amount of space.
One thing that makes it even more favorable to the point guard is its ability to stun the defender. It turns out that is due to the tight handles badge that ballhandlers equip. If the league is to leave out the badge, or at least nerf the badge on the league version’s archetypes, the move can be used for space but point guards won’t be rewarded by the game, which I believe to be more favorable, again, to the consumer.
The Hop-Step Is Here To Stay
We’ve seen the hop-step play a factor in each of the last two seasons.
Last year, 2K created a way to turn a hop step into a dunk, and it became one of the go-to moves for players finishing in the paint. This year, that same trend seems to have heightened. However, this year the move favors point guards tremendously as it now allows them the ability to shed defenders from the hip, pretty much at-will.
There are specific things players defending the hop-step must time perfectly to stop this move (like letting go of L2 as soon as they predict the hop-step is coming, then shifting their body in front of the scorer to get a contest) but, with it needing to be such a quick decision, often times the ballhandler succeeds with the move.
The league is constantly looking for feedback and, as we saw last year, is willing to make adjustments from the data received during the combine. There are no guarantees as to what builds and archetypes will remain when the season is underway, but these are some of the trends I’ve noticed as the combine comes to a close.