The first major event of the 2020 NBA 2K League season, the Tipoff, is behind us, and we finally have a schedule for the remainder of season three.
There are still six weeks to go of regular season play, but by this point every team in the league but one has played at least six series which, depending on how long those series went, is close to or even with the number of regular-season games teams had to play in the past two seasons. That gives a pretty good baseline to start discussing some season awards.
Which is exactly what this roundtable intends to do. Writers Kris Cuaresma and Aaron Fox sat down to discuss who the front runners for the league’s major end-of-season awards are were the season to, well, end today. Here’s what they said.
Note: These selections were made before last week’s Tipoff tournament.
Most Valuable Player
Kris Cuaresma: Kenny Got Work, Raptors Uprising GC
This has to be Kenny right? Sure, there are other candidates with legitimate arguments, but it’s difficult to ignore the point guard for the only remaining undefeated team. On top of all the responsibilities that come with playing the most important position on the floor, Kenny has also terrorized opposing offenses. He has been just as important of a perimeter defender as Timelycook, while also being relied on to hit big shots. Whenever Raptors Uprising GC has dropped games in a best-of-three this season, Kenny has consistently stepped up in the following game, providing Toronto with ridiculous scoring outbursts on command. Up to this point in the season, he has embodied as close as anyone could possibly get to being the perfect player.
Aaron Fox: Kenny Got Work, Raptors Uprising GC
There’s just no way you don’t give Kenny the nod here. Kenny has reached another level this year, putting together possibly the best statistical season this league has ever seen. Just a [couple weeks] ago, Toronto set the record for the most points ever recorded (109) as Kenny dropped a triple-double with points (34), assists (13) and steals (10!). The Toronto point guard has regularly been rewriting the record book this season. His most impressive stat may come from the defensive end of the court, as the lead guard is grabbing three steals per game on a non-defensive build, ranking inside the top five. Combine the crazy statistics with your basic eye test and team success (a perfect 9-0), and you have a rock-solid MVP candidate. Easy choice.
Rookie of the Year
Cuaresma: JBM, Wizards District Gaming
The season three draft class has been nothing short of phenomenal and could go down as one of the league’s most impressive groups ever. But as talented as his peers may be, JBM has to be at the forefront of any rookie of the year discussions. Yes, there are other dynamic players to be considered, but they are all currently chasing him in the standings. What more can anyone ask of a number one pick when he’s led his team to six straight wins and a record of 6-1? He was struggling with his shot early on, but in his last two regular-season matchups, JBM is averaging 27.2 points on 61% shooting, including a blistering 75% from outside. The New York native has done everything his teammates and coaching staff have asked him to do, and don’t be surprised if he hits another gear as the season progresses. In a parallel universe, Wizards District Gaming sinks just one more basket in game two against the Raptors, and JBM is the point guard of the only undefeated team in the league.
Fox: ShiftyKaii, Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai
Much like my DIMER teammate Kris, a couple of weeks ago I was ready to crown JBM top rookie and defend that take to the grave. The statistics don’t back it up but the eye test and team success give JBM a real chance here, so I’m not at all mad at Kris’ pick. However, I’m going to go with Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai point guard ShiftyKaii. ShiftyKaii has had his share of scoring outbreaks, registering the third-most points in the league overall. But it was the fifth overall pick reinventing himself in week six that sold me on the Tigers point guard. Switching to the offensive threat build, my Rookie of the Year pick transformed into a playmaker who not only got buckets but created opportunities for his teammates. I’d imagine if you asked his spot-up shooters Gen and Turnupdefense, they’d heavily endorse the reasoning behind my pick.
Defensive Player of the Year
Cuaresma: Timelycook, Raptors Uprising GC
Cook isn’t taking any prisoners in his return to the league and has been feasting on opposing offenses. Whether the Raptors are in their signature press or set up in the half-court, it all starts with Timelycook. Selected No. 11 overall in this year’s draft, Cook has made it his personal mission to prove doubters that he has always belonged in the league. His reputation as one of the more suffocating locks has successfully translated over to 2020, and he’s a big reason why Toronto remains undefeated at 9-0. But what puts Cook over the top is what he contributes on the offensive end. In the Raptors’ last regular-season game against Celtics Crossover Gaming, Timely dropped 39 points while draining all six of his 3-point attempts. Currently, there isn’t a better two-way lock in the entire league.
Fox: Timelycook, Raptors Uprising GC
In similar fashion to his backcourt counterpart, Timelycook has been redefining the position he plays. After serving his year-long suspension, the lockdown defender fell into a perfect situation with Raptors Uprising GC. Opposing backcourts know it’s going to be a long night when they see Toronto on the schedule. The Raptors execute one of the best full-court presses in the league and it all starts with Timelycook. On the offensive end, Timely uses his lockdown archetype as if it were teammate ReeceMode’s three-level scorer build, pulling—and often greening—from distance. The shooting guard most recently set a record for most points scored by a lock with 39 points (along with 9 assists and 7 steals in the same game). I don’t think there’s another primary defender player in the league that’s even close to scoring at the clip Timelycook has been. The combination of elite defense and offense sets up Timely to be the perfect DPOY candidate.
Coach of the Year
Cuaresma: Lawrence West, Hornets Venom GT
Coach West—and the entire Hornets Venom GT organization—has done a brilliant job of navigating through the team’s inaugural season in the NBA 2K League. With a record of 5-2, Charlotte is off to an impressive start and sits firmly entrenched among the elite. One reason for that is West and NachoTraynor making bold moves to put them in a position to nab the guys they wanted in the draft. With a solid team on paper, give credit to West for putting his inexperienced roster in a system designed to highlight everyone’s strengths. Not many teams go against the meta, let alone an expansion franchise, but the culture West instilled within the organization has led to Zae showing everyone what the power forward position is truly capable of.
Fox: Jordan “Len” Ross, Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai
Gen.G has turned heads early. The team has had an up-and-down start and been through multiple lineup changes, but after a tough schedule to start the year, the Tigers knocked off Blazer5 Gaming in week six to give it perhaps the momentum it needs to make a run at the playoffs. It’s a young squad, and the growing pains have been apparent for the new franchise, but the talent and cohesion of the unit are starting to shine through. Halfway through their first season in the league, the Tigers have made rumblings, and coach Len may just have more in store for us. [Editor’s note: You can watch an interview with Len on the Win by Two Podcast hosted by Kris Cuaresma and powered by DIMER here.]