The third edition of the NBA 2K League Finals will tip off on Friday night with Wizards District Gaming taking on Warriors Gaming Squad as both teams search for their first-ever championship.
The two sides have shown their strength all season long with strong squads one through six. In fact, both teams were rated highly heading into the season once rosters settled following the draft and trade deadline. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that they find themselves with a chance at a title this week.
But one move doesn’t define either of these rosters. How each team came to its Finals-caliber group of players has roots all the way back to the very first draft in 2018. As part of a fun exercise to demonstrate the complex, subtle, and sometimes downright fortuitous art of asset management, let’s take a look back at how Wizards District Gaming and Warriors Gaming Squad came to be.
Warriors Gaming Squad
We’ll start both alphabetically and with the higher seed in Warriors Gaming Squad. After seeing its success in the past two seasons, it’s hard to believe this team was once a bottom-dweller, but as this piece should begin to tell you, fortunes can turn quickly in this league.
For this, we’ll go by position, from point guard down to the sixth player, and show the acquisition line that led to the player joining the team
Point guard: CB13
Acquisition line: WGS drafted Vert in third round (51st overall) of 2018 entry draft > traded Vert to Lakers Gaming for Lakers Gaming’s first-round pick (10th overall) of 2019 entry draft > drafted CB13 in first round (10th overall) of 2019 entry draft
CB13 took over starting point guard duties for Warriors Gaming Squad in his rookie campaign last year. Though his debut season saw him as a facilitator for a versatile Warriors offense, he broke through this year to average 31.4 points per game and 8.7 assists per game, good enough to land on the MVP finalist ballot.
If you’ll remember, the Warriors didn’t do too hot in season one, finishing at the bottom of the standings (4-10) and getting the second overall pick in the 2019 entry draft via lottery. But the team made a bold move by trading one of its top players in season one, Vert, to expansion side Lakers Gaming for its first-round pick. That pick would net Golden State its franchise point guard in the end.
Acquisition line: Drafted BSmoove in second round (18th overall) of 2018 entry draft
A simple one. BSmoove was the latter of the back-to-back duo Warriors Gaming Squad picked with the 17th and 18th picks in the first entry draft, the front end of that pair being Shawn Win. BSmoove wasn’t able to light up the league in his first year because of a meandering Warriors offense, but paid the team back in kind when it protected him for season two with a strong sophomore campaign that more than earned him a spot on the season three roster. His versatile offensive capabilities have been a staple of the Warriors’ attack for the past two years.
Lockdown defender: Gradient
Acquisition line: Assigned 2nd overall pick in 2019 entry draft via lottery > drafted Gradient in first round (2nd overall) of 2019 entry draft
Another easy one. Warriors Gaming Squad did not squander its high pick after a rough first season. The team took Gradient at second overall, the highest-selected lockdown defender in league history, and never regretted it. Gradient has been one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA 2K League since his very first game and a big reason why the Warriors’ defense is as stalwart as it is.
Power forward: Jin
Acquisition line: Drafted Jin in third round (38th overall) of 2019 entry draft
Though Matty started the team’s last seven series at PF, Jin played in the playoffs last week so we’ll project him as the starter here. Jin has had himself a fine career in the league so far as a role player. He was drafted in the fourth round of the inaugural entry draft and started on a playoff Wizards District Gaming team in 2018 before entering the draft the next year and being picked up by the Warriors.
Jin has long been known as one of the better role players in the league, even playing multiple positions with Washington before finding a home with Warriors Gaming Squad. He’s the only player in this series who will play against a former team.
Acquisition line: Drafted Slaughter in first round (20th overall) of 2020 entry draft
Even on draft night in February earlier this year, it was clear that this was a steal for Warriors Gaming Squad. The center first debuted in the league’s inaugural season but was a puzzling exclusion from every roster the following year. A strong 2019-2020 offseason proved he deserved to make it back, and he was happily snatched up by the Warriors in the first round.
Slaughter has shown up in big situations and been a steady presence down low for Golden State with his strong rebounding (14.3 rebounds per game, second in the league only behind OneWildWalnut’s 14.8).
Sixth Player: Matty
Acquisition line: Drafted Matty in fourth round (65th overall) of 2020 entry draft
Matty has filled in nicely both as a power forward and sixth man for this deep Warriors roster. His stint as a starting point guard with Pacers Gaming last season didn’t go quite as planned, but this year’s fourth-round pick has rebounded well with a change of scenery. Though Jin started in his place in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Matty could possibly see playing time in the Finals depending on how the Warriors coaching staff views the matchups.
Wizards District Gaming
The Wizards, like the Warriors, have used shrewd trades and a stellar draft record to build a roster worthy of the NBA 2K League Finals. Season two was an off year for the team, but it has come back as strong as ever in its hunt for a championship.
Point guard: JBM
Acquisition line: Won 1st overall pick in 2020 entry draft via lottery > drafted JBM in first round (1st overall) of 2020 entry draft
Simple as that, eh? Wizards District Gaming had just a seven percent chance to win the 2020 entry draft lottery and did just that, jumping over six teams to do so. There were plenty of options for Washington at the top of the draft, with a particularly strong crop of point guards to choose from, and the team selected JBM.
The New York native has been afforded the luxury of not having to be the star in a well-balanced Wizards attack, and that lack of pressure has only helped his game. The rookie has seamlessly run one of the best offenses in the league and has been a perfect fit in Washington. A series win on Friday would make him the third-straight rookie point guard to capture the title.
Acquisition line: Drafted ReeseDaGod in third round (46th overall) of 2018 entry draft > awarded compensatory third-round pick in 2019 draft due to Boo Painter’s suspension > drafted ReeseDaGod in third round (54th overall) of 2019 entry draft
ReeseDaGod is just one of two players in this series that has stayed on his current team all three seasons (along with BSmoove). The sharpshooter took a backseat in the shotcreating slasher-dominated offense of season one but broke out with a stellar season two that saw him finish top five in the league in scoring. He has once again this season provided the Wizards with a deadly outside scoring threat.
Lockdown defender: Just_Awkward
Acquisition line: Drafted Just_Awkward in second round (30th overall) of 2020 entry draft
Just_Awkward was the first of two second-round picks the Wizards made this year, and it’s safe to say they hit on both (more on that other pick in a minute). Just_Awkward has mostly flown under the radar as a lockdown defender in his debut season, but anyone unaware of his defensive prowess was likely made aware in Wizards District Gaming’s semifinals win over Raptors Uprising GC last week. The rookie did a masterful job of keeping presumptive MVP Kenny Got Work in check and will be tasked with doing the same to CB13 on Friday.
Power forward: Newdini
Acquisition line: Drafted Demon JT in first round (12th overall) of 2018 entry draft > traded Demon JT to Pistons GT for Pacers Gaming’s second-round pick (37th overall) of the 2020 entry draft > drafted Newdini in second round (37th overall) of 2020 entry draft
We’ve talked plenty about role players already in this piece, and Newdini may just be the ultimate role player. The sharpshooter-turned-lockdown-defender-turned-power-forward has made the playoffs semifinals all three years during his time in the league, the first two seasons with 76ers GC (including a Finals appearance in 2019), and now with the Wizards.
Acquiring the crucial piece to its roster came from trading Wizards District Gaming’s first-ever draft pick, Demon JT, this past offseason to Pistons GT for a second-round pick. The move has paid dividends, to say the least.
Acquisition line: Traded Wizards District Gaming’s first-round pick (14th overall) in 2019 entry draft to Mavs Gaming for Dayfri
The selection of Dayfri at the end of the second round of the inaugural NBA 2K League draft looked to be a slam dunk for Mavs Gaming. The Texas kid was paired with first overall pick Dimez and the team started 5-2 in its first season. But, both the team’s chemistry and its record fell apart, and Wizards District Gaming took the opportunity to make a splash for its star center.
Season two was a disappointing one, and some surely questioned the initial move to trade a first-round pick for Dayfri, but it has now undoubtedly proven itself to be a shrewd maneuver as he has taken over the league with both his skill and personality. The franchise cornerstone has been a big part of the Wizards’ run, and hasn’t disappointed in his first-ever playoffs appearance.
Sixth player: BRICH
Acquisition line: Drafted in third round (51st overall) of 2020 entry draft
BRICH hasn’t had his number called often, but the rookie has still seen some minutes on the court. To his credit, Wizards District Gaming didn’t look like it even lost a step with him in the starting five. It’s unlikely you’ll see him suit up on Friday, but at the very least he provides a safety net for Washington in the event he’s needed.