NBA 2k League Prospect Profile

NBA 2k League Prospect Profile: ThurberSr.

One could argue that the most important position in the NBA 2k League Combine is Point Guard. The Point Guard brings the ball up the court, initiates offense and talks through offensive/defensive sets. This adds responsibility to everyone playing this position. Now, let’s evaluate the subject of my next NBA 2k League prospect profile, ThurberSr.

ThurberSr.’s Profile

As I alluded to in the introduction, ThurberSr. (TS) is playing the Point Guard position during the NBA 2k League combine. Specifically, he’s chosen to be a slashing play-maker. As far as his archetypal choice, I’m fine with it. There’s more than one way to play Point Guard successfully and from what I’ve seen, TS has the ability to that.

Defense Evaluation

As much as I enjoyed him, TS left a lot to be desired on the defensive end. In all fairness, my possession by possession analysis is just on one game. I have also made an effort to watch some of his other tape to really see how he plays defense.

From what I’ve seen, TS can, but is not always, a defensive liability. I think this is also due to his archetypal choice and not having any natural defensive abilities, but, he made the choice. For example, his opponent would routinely drive and pull up for a mid-range jump shot. Instead of playing off, and anticipating the pull up, he would play tight to the ball and get beat to the basket. He would also not adjust his position.

Instead of opening up and allowing him to drive to an area he had defensive help, TS would play him straight up and give him a two-way go. In the game I watched in detail, TS did make adjustments as the game continued, but it wasn’t enough to impact his opponent.

There are a few things that can help TS play better defense consistently. First, he can eliminate unnecessary movements like steals and blocks. This will allow him to stay in good defensive position more consistently instead of getting beat due to a poorly timed animation.

Second, he should use his opponents archetype against them. If an opponent has chosen to be a slasher, play off from the start and force him to prove he can shoot. Conversely, don’t give a sharp a lot of space to get up a shot. It seems obvious, but I continually see players not take advantage of knowing that information from the start.

Third and finally, TS needs to communicate on defense when he needs help. I totally understand that getting helped on defense is not his job. However, if he doesn’t ask for help when it’s clearly needed, that’s on him. Overall, TS has the potential to be a good defender, he just needs to do the basics more consistently.

Offense Evaluation

Offensively, ThurberSr. is tremendously gifted as a Point Guard. His understanding of timing and spacing in pick and roll is great. If it weren’t for some of the frustrating 2k animations and scenarios, TS would have had five or six more assists. His biggest asset is his patience. He won’t force a pass into the paint off a roll unless it was there. Below are some examples that demonstrate his all around offensive game.

His passing ability was complimented nicely by knowing when to attack the basket aggressively and pull up for a mid-range jump shot. If anything, he could have been even more aggressive attacking the basket. He would often beat the opponent to the basket and pass back out to the top of the key for an open three pointer. There were times when I thought that strategy became predictable, but isn’t anything he should be concerned about.

Communication and Attitude

TS had excellent communication on the offensive end. He would do most of his talking before crossing half court. It was natural for him to direct traffic and delegate which players should cut, screen, roll and wrap. Sadly, this didn’t translate on the defensive side of the ball. TS would rarely call out switches, screens, and box outs. It’s not out of the ordinary, but as the Point Guard, you have more responsibility and should be expected to communicate more and better than most players.

When it comes to attitude, TS is never too high or low. I appreciate that kind of steady, reserved mindset. He was never demeaning towards his teammates, or let his frustrations get the best of him. There was one thing I did not appreciate during the game. Instead of playing the final possession of his game, he simply dribbled out the clock. There isn’t anything wrong or malicious with his decision, but, the last impression he left for anyone watching was not positive. Always play hard, and let the other team decide if they are going to stop playing.

Overall Grade

ThurberSr. is a promising player at Point Guard. I love his offensive game. He can do almost anything with the ball in his hands. But, his defense and attitude in the game I evaluated earns him a “C+”. This is not an indication of his potential or an attack on his character. This is just an honest evaluation from the game I watched in-depth and the few others I skimmed. ThurberSr. can easily make adjustments to elevate his defense and I look forward to his progress in the combine.

 

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Prospect Profile

NBA 2k League Prospect Profile – TheWealthySon

It feels like the NBA 2k League Combine just started yesterday. Now that we’ve passed the halfway point, players have a better understanding of the combine and how to play within it. One player who understood how to play from the start, is the subject of this prospect profile, Adam Burns.

TheWealthySon’s Profile

TheWealthySon (TWS) is playing as a sharpshooting, slashing Small Forward. This is first small forward I’ve thoroughly evaluated, so I didn’t know what to expect. As always, I determine my grade on the first combine game a prospect plays in. Watching TWS’s first game, was truly eye opening. If you’re reading this evaluation, I encourage you watch his first game because it’s a great example of how to carry yourself for the rest of this combine, which you can find here.

Defense Evaluation

The small forward position is hard to play and hard to evaluate because they can choose to play more like a guard or a forward at this end of the floor. So, I had to wait for TWS to cement his choice and evaluate from there. From what I gathered, TWS wanted to primarily play help defense and initiate fast breaks.

His on ball defense is good. When his man gets the ball, TWS doesn’t panic or overreact to movement. He often forces a pass to another player and can return to playing help defense. Very rarely did TWS get beat off the dribble. On the few occasions he did, TWS managed to recover and not put his team in a bad position.

His off the ball defense was good as well. Once he got a feel for the opposition, he had no trouble sifting through the defense to stay with his man. He was also able to take calculated risks as a result of understanding how his opposition and make plays for his team. You can see two examples of his play below.

My biggest critique of TWS on defense would be aggression and indecisiveness. Too many times he would stay disengaged because his man is choosing to stay put away from the ball. I understand he doesn’t want to abandon his assignment, but his team was getting crushed in the paint early. TWS could have stopped the opposition’s success by making a conscious effort to trap. There were also instances that he would crash the boards when it wasn’t necessary, and try to run on the fast break when he should be trying to rebound. Overall, TWS is a solid defender who would benefit greatly by taking more calculated risks on defense.

Offense Evaluation

TWS struggled early, specifically, with his jump shot. This isn’t uncommon for the first game of the combine, the only problem is he failed to properly adjust quickly. For example, he had tremendous success driving to the basket and at the free throw line. Despite that fact, he took multiple baseline jump shots which did not go in. Preferably, TWS should have utilized a pump fake or some kind of move to get into the paint, as opposed to settling for jump shots.

However, he displayed great awareness as the game developed. In the second half TWS had a much better understanding of his strengths and role in the offense. He started to have great success cutting, specifically, the backdoor cut. Once he figured out his role and the proper timing on cuts, his game really flourished. This only accentuated his already good feel for spacing. Ultimately, I believe TWS passed on too many scoring opportunities. I understand he didn’t want to upset his teammates and share the ball, but there were a few instances that he really should have driven to the basket. If TWS could have made these adjustments in the second quarter, I firmly believe his team’s deficit would not have been so large.

 

Communication and Attitude Evaluation

If you watched this game on mute, you’d probably overlook TWS as just an average player. But, his communication and overall attitude are among the best I’ve seen. He would routinely call out double teams on offense, when to time box outs, and cuts to the basket. There were some cases where I think he over communicated during defensive sets, but that’s not a huge issue.

In case you couldn’t tell from the footage, TheWealthySon’s team was down by 20 points for most of the first half. In his team’s first combine game, they faced a seemingly insurmountable deficit. The whole time TWS remained upbeat, encouraged teammates, and continued to play and communicate as if it was a one possession game. This paid off huge. His attitude was clearly infectious and allowed his teammates to battle back. In the fourth quarter, his team was actually up by two points despite being so far down. It was truly incredible to see TWS and his team respond so well in their first combine experience.

Overall Grade

Deciding on a final grade was tough. Thank goodness I was able to hear the audio as well as watch the footage. If not, I probably would have given TheWealthySon a “C” or “C+” grade given his early struggles and lack of adapting quickly. But, I decided that TWS was deserving of a “B-” given his attitude and that this was his first game. Without him, this team would have absolutely lost by double digits, or quit before the game was over.

 

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NBA 2k League Combine

NBA 2k League prospect profile: Petty_Andretti

Before we dive in to my prospect profile on Petty_Andretti, I want to make clear my evaluation process and that these are my thoughts independent of the in-game rating system. I start by watching the first game of every prospect. I evaluate their performance on every offensive and defensive possession. Meaning I watch a possession, pause and take notes, watch a possession, pause and take notes, and repeat until the game’s completion. Then, I watch their other two games to see growth, regression and consistency. The overall grade provided is purely based on my evaluation, and how that player performed in the three games I watched.

Petty_Andretti’s Profile

Petty_Andretti (PA) has chosen to play center, with the slashing stretch five archetype. His choice is interesting. PA has chosen to naturally be an offensive player without any natural defensive abilities. Surprisingly, you’d never know by watching him play defense and rebound.

Overall, I was impressed with the group of centers I watched this weekend. It will no doubt be a highly competitive group. As a side note, I would strongly advise any fringe centers to switch to power forward given the position scarcity and archetypes available to that position.

Defense Evaluation

I was thoroughly impressed with PA’s performance. After the first few possessions, you’ll notice that the point guard PA is playing with is a huge defensive liability. Sadly, this meant that PA had to spend the majority of the game guarding two positions, given the undisciplined defense of their point guard.

PA adjusts beautifully and consistently plays an aggressive hedge defense to compensate for their Point Guard. Below I’ve included a few plays that stood out to me, and a short breakdown of each.

It might look like he’s playing lazy defense, but the high screen is meant to draw him up and out of the paint. PA doesn’t bite. He’s anticipating the point guard getting beat on the screen, which happened, and would rather force the opposing center to attempt a lower percentage shot and stop the dribble penetration.

Here’s a great example of how to play the oppositions pick and roll. PA and his teammate wait for the opponent to initiate. Instead of committing and making a mistake, they slow play, communicate, and have a great switch. While the result is not good, his verbal communication and patience creates a great example of how to play the pick and roll. He has this same patience throughout the game and as a result, forces turnovers and ill advised shots.

While PA demonstrated some great defensive qualities and awareness, it wasn’t all great. Multiple times in my evaluation, I had to give him a minus because of unnecessary block attempts. He wasn’t spamming block. But, his ill advised block attempts left him out of position for key rebounds and help defense. This continued for most of the game and into overtime.

In the first half, PA was also not fully committing to switches. He wanted to make sure he was protecting the rim and not hanging his teammate out to dry. Thankfully, he was able to verbally communicate with his teammates and establish when and how to do a fully committed switch.

Offense Evaluation

The center position has garnered a lot of conversation after the first weekend. This is an unofficial stat, but I believe just over 4,000 Centers are averaging around 30 points and 20 rebounds per game. That tells me it isn’t hard to accumulate stats at that position, so they become increasingly less valuable. It’s about the process, not the result.

PA demonstrated great spacing in his games. He wasn’t simply a static player camping out in the paint. He would set off-ball screens, run high pick and roll and know when to draw his man out to open up the lane for a teammate. His ability to set effective screens really opened up the offense in game one. Below is an example on how to truly set an effective screen instead of obviously getting set, and having the point guard react late.

This is something every player can immediately integrate into their game. Don’t be lazy and obvious about setting screens. PA makes this screen look like he’s simply getting to his spot or cutting across the court. By taking this approach, he doesn’t tip off the defense and their offense gets an easy two points. Now let’s look at how this evolved into a pick and roll/pick and pop.

While this screen wasn’t as deceptive as the previous one, it’s still effective. Once the point guard clears, he holds his ground. This was the right decision because he doesn’t need to unnecessarily clog the paint. The point guard makes a good read to get the ball back to PA, and without hesitation, he drives inside.

While the numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some of the screenshots you’ve seen on Twitter, PA’s offensive game is sound and effective. However, there are things I’d like to see him do less. He’s obviously a good screen setter. But, I don’t like how PA comes up to the three point line to initiate the play. By setting the screen so high, he takes himself out of contention to grab a rebound. He also tries to run similar offensive sets later in the game even when the defense was prepared for them. It’s minor, but it led to wasted possessions and turnovers later in the game.As a side note, I would also like to see PA be more aggressive with scoring opportunities, specifically, back-to-the-basket post moves.

communication and attitude Evaluation

PA was strong in both of these categories. His communication on offense defense was good. I’m not saying good is average, but to be great, the communication needed to be just a bit more detailed. Meaning, instead of just saying “watch it, watch it” to call out a screen, be more specific. “Hey PG on your left I got switch”, would be an excellent example of communication. PA would routinely call out screens, switches and potential offensive sets. It was great to see such leadership and initiative from the center position.

I’m a huge fan of his attitude. PA is never too high, never too low. If he finds out a teammate doesn’t have a mic, he doesn’t complain and start making excuses. He simply adjusts his strategy, and plays his game. PA is encouraging to all of his teammates no matter the situation, and takes ownership of his mistakes. And the best part it, this is completely authentic. PA is not “putting on” for the scouts. He’s truly a calm, smart and passionate teammate.

Overall Grade

I want to preface this by saying I’m an extremely tough grader. So, my first grade I’m giving to Petty_Andretti is a “B”. There are a few things PA can work on to easily earn an “A” grade. Chief among them would be to eliminate unnecessary block attempts, stay away from setting so many screens at the three point line and develop a better back-to-the-basket offensive game. With all the incredible stat lines being put up by Centers, PA will have to raise his game offensively to truly be among the best. I am incredibly excited to see how Petty_Andretti develops throughout the combine.

 

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NBA 2k League Combine

Top 5 takeaways from the NBA 2k League Combine – Week 1

The dream for over 70,000 NBA 2k League prospects became one step closer to reality on Friday February 2nd, at 8 pm EST. Well, not exactly. After a 30 minute technical delay, prospects were able to access the combine and start playing. As the first weekend has concluded, here are the top 5 takeaways from the first weekend of the NBA 2k League Combine.

1. team communication

Overall, communication between players varied from stream to stream. Why? Because on some teams, every player had a headset to talk through switches, situations and encourage others. By every team member having a mic, it allows for adjustments to be made between and during possessions. This presents a huge, and completely fair, advantage for teams with five players who can talk to each other.

Conversely, players who are on teams without this ability have a tough time winning, and grading out well. It’s not impossible to play well without complete communication between all the players, but the automated grading tracker can only monitor so much.

Essentially, you need some way to communicate with your teammates if you want to perform as best you can. As a whole, players were communicating well. Yes, there are instances in which it was not up to par; however, it’s fair to project that it will improve throughout the NBA 2k League Combine.

2. Stats Aren’t Everything

Just approach this one from a logical perspective. Teams don’t operate at a high level if everyone is getting 20 plus points a game. Of course you want to show your proficiency as a scorer, but that can’t, and won’t, be the deciding factor in hearing your name called at the draft.

Stats do matter, but it’s not the conventional ones. You have to go beyond the numbers on the screen and contextualize them in terms of “what does it tell me about this player?”. For example, let’s examine defensive rebounding. If a player is averaging double digit rebounds, that’s great; however, it’s important to see the distribution.

If player “X” is averaging 12 rebounds per game, and nine of them are defensive, it means a few things. First, it shows that player “X” is playing smart defense. Player “X” is most likely playing some type of hedge defense when the ball is away, and as a result, is in a good position to crash when the shot goes up, as opposed to being glued to their opponent who isn’t a scoring threat at the time.

It also means that player “X” is limiting the opposition’s chances to score. At its core, that’s the definition of a defensive rebound. Think about it this way: if player “X” is getting nine defensive rebounds a game, and on average there are 54 possessions in a game, then player “X” is lowering the amount of points the opposition can score by about 17 percent. If that player can also score low double digit points per game, that’s valuable, and that tells scouts you can impact the game in many ways.

3. Less is More

You’ve probably heard that phrase before, but how does it apply to the NBA 2k League Combine? Well, it means that you don’t always have to be moving or doing something. Players are constantly complaining about floor spacing and too many people cutting. So, if you aren’t near the play on offense, stay where you are. You aren’t doing anything for your rating or team by dragging your man into the action for no reason. And for the love of God, please stop cutting into the paint when people are driving or running a pick and roll.

The same philosophy applies on defense. If your man isn’t presenting himself as a scoring threat, or is fine staying in one place, don’t move. So many times players are moving for no reason, or are playing too tight to their man. Also, please stop spamming block and steal. It happens every game. Someone puts themselves out of position for a rebound or help defense because they are too active with unnecessary movements.

4. Never Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

The words of Jim Valvano have never rang truer. If you lag or time out, that’s one thing. But if you quit on your teammates because you’re frustrated with them or you’re losing, then you are essentially undraftable. Think about it, there are over 70,000 prospects competing for 102 spots. These GM’s and scouts are looking for ways to eliminate you, not draft you. If you quit and hang your teammates out to dry, consider yourself done.

5. You’re Always Being Watched

This is a continuation of number four, but it can be applied to everyone in every situation. You are constantly being watched. Your words are being recorded. Within two minutes of a tweet about a popular player quitting mid game and ranting on his teammates, I was messaged by a franchise director about the incident to confirm which player it was.

Moreover, you have to monitor what you say. Even if you don’t quit, you can’t be arguing with your teammates and freeze them out. Please stop trying to justify your inability to adjust by saying, “bro the spacing is terrible”, “bro I can’t do this man”, or “I can’t play with these guys”. And at this point, swearing and slurs should not be occurring in these games. Don’t be foolish enough to think the NBA 2k League Combine is only about wins and stats.

It’s embarrassing to think that people who cared so much about this combine a week ago are the first people who are throwing their hands up and complaining. Do everything in your power to keep your composure, and show that nothing will keep you from accomplishing your dreams of making the league.

 

Featured Image courtesy of NBA2kLeague.com

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