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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Prospect Profile

NBA 2k League prospect profile: TimmiTHD

I want to start by saying thank you to the NBA 2k League community. The feedback I’m getting from you all is great and motivating me to produce better content. My second NBA 2k League prospect profile will feature TimmiTHD. He’s been a supporter of mine from the beginning, but that does not make him beyond my criticisms as a prospect.

TimmiTHD’s Profile

TimmiTHD (TT) has chosen to be a play-making slashing shooting guard and was matched up against a sharpshooting shot creator. Due to a technical difficulty in his stream, I wasn’t able to evaluate his first game in the combine. So, my possession-by-possession evaluation was based off of his first game of day three.

Overall, TT has incredible potential. He has some areas where he is particularly strong and has unique communication that goes beyond the norm. However, he also makes some philosophical choices on defense that frustrate me beyond belief. I don’t think any of my critiques of TT aren’t fixable, but, they will certainly hold him back from being the best player he can be.

Defense Evaluation

As I eluded in his profile, watching TT’s style of defense sends me on an emotional roller coaster where I’m applauding him one moment, and the next typing in all caps to communicate my frustration. Let’s start with the good. TT plays a style of defense that I love, aggressive hedging. He also makes flash defensive plays. In the game I watched, TT had multiple steals and even more tipped passes resulting stoppage of play, or someone else picking up the loose ball. You can see what I’m describing in the video below.

TT had several more plays just like this I did not include. As you can see, he can frustrate opposing offenses and create easy transition points and opportunities for his teammates. I am a huge fan of anyone who plays hedge defense. For those who don’t know, it means a player who’s man is not involved with the offense decides to play off with the intention of helping or making a big play. But, I have serious issues with how aggressively and frequently he plays hedge defense.

TT has to do a better job of staying out of the paint in an attempt to make plays on defense. His opponent was not confident in his jump shot, so it didn’t cost him or his team in this game. But, he repeatedly left his man open on multiple occasions and will get exposed if he faces a true sharp.

As a shooting guard, you should rarely fall below the elbows when playing hedge defense, unless executing a switch. That’s a general statement. In reference to TT, he should never fall below the elbow when hedging because he is so gifted at initiating transition offense. In order to ascend to the top of his position, he must adjust defensively.

Offense Evaluation

TT’s overall offensive approach is great. While his archetype is all about making plays, he wants to make plays for his teammates. His spacial awareness was great, with only a few instances of confusion. Overall, TT is a strong offensive player. He doesn’t take a lot of shots, but, that’s a trend I’ve seen across the combine because of the unpredictability of the shooting mechanic. What truly stands out about TT, is his gift to initiate transition offense.

As stated earlier, these are only a few clips of his incredibly strong transition game. He has a great feel for when and who to pass to on the break. But what makes him excel at this facet of the game, is his communication. “Circle gone.” I cannot tell you how impressed I was by this statement.

TT could have easily said, “I’m open” or “hit me”, but he chose to say “circle gone”. What that does is make his teammate’s job easier. By announcing the button that corresponds with his position, the outlet passer does not have to think. As the game went on, these transition passes were leaving his teammate’s hands before the camera even adjusted.

That is an elite level of communication because it doesn’t make his teammate think, just react. That is an incredible asset to have in this combine because he’s playing with teammates who are not familiar with him or his style.

Overall, his offensive game is solid. I couldn’t find any glaring holes. On several occasions, TT passed on open shots to get his teammates involved. In a game they are winning by double digits, that’s okay. In a close game where every possession is crucial, he can’t pass up on open looks.

I am attributing his, and most players’ hesitation to shoot, to the new mechanic. Players don’t want to miss a lot of shots, so they’d rather pass or drive. This is something I’d like to see improve throughout the combine, more confidence in their jump shot.

Communication and Attitude Evaluation

TimmiTHD has excellent communication on both sides of the ball. On defense he calls out screens, motions and anything else that could interrupt their defensive flow. His communication on offense is the best I’ve seen. Identifying his button for the outlet passer really puts him on another level.

TT’s personality is great as well. A shooting guard needs to know when to be aggressive and when to take a back seat. TT has demonstrated that he can do both. He also brings a fun, authentic style to the game, which his teammates feed off.

Overall Grade

It pains me to do this, but I have to give TimmiTHD a “B-” from what I’ve seen. TT can make some quick, simple adjustments to quickly catapult his stock. I also wanted to communicate that his defense, if no adjustments are made, could considerably hold him back from being the best player he can possibly be.

 

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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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NBA 2k League Age Requirement Announced

This could be the most controversial announcement made so far by the NBA 2k League. We knew that all players must be 18 years old in order to be considered as a prospect. However, we now know the exact date by which a prospect needs to 18 years old to qualify. The NBA 2k League age requirement is official: January 31st, 2018.

The Decision Making Process

For players who didn’t make the cut, your frustration is understandable. Please know that this was not made without careful consideration. This decision was the result of thorough research. First, the league surveyed the player landscape and ensured that the absolute best players are not left out. Of course, there are so prospects who were unfortunately eliminated.

Second, you told them what the age requirement should be. Yes…you were the ones who gave them the data they needed to make this decision. Remember when you registered yourself as a player on nba2kleague.com? You had to give them your all of your relevant information including, your date of birth.

Third and finally, making the cutoff date January 31st is the most logical choice. Why would they pick an arbitrary date in the middle of January, when they could easily use the closing date for the qualification process. It just makes sense.

We were fortunate enough to receive comment from the Grant Paranjape, Director of Esports for Monumental Sports Entertainment about the decision.

“The January 31st date for requiring players to be 18 is a smart decision. By requiring players to turn 18 before the second stage of the tryout, it allows teams the ability to scout knowing that any player in the combine will be eligible to be drafted, as well allowing players an opportunity to correctly plan for their futures. Inevitably the 18 year old cut off date would cause some players to miss out on the league, but this is the best outcome to a difficult requirement.”

– Grant Paranjape

The Ripple Effect

If you did not meet the cutoff date, I’m truly sorry. But, it’s not the end of the world. Of course, it’s hard to not be a part of the inaugural season of the NBA 2k League. Thankfully, it’s already been confirmed that more franchises will be joining the league next year. Meaning, you will still get a chance to compete in the league.

Also, these franchises have already started hiring for position in their organization. And trust me, they will announce more opportunities by January’s end. So, you can still be a part of the NBA 2k league this season, it just may not be as a player.

This doesn’t mean the journey is over. Think about it. They have just eliminated a segment of the players that they will be relying on to consume their content. Wouldn’t it make sense to eventually have a minor league system or development program, similar to League of Legends? They need you to still be interested in the league, and still feel like you have a legitimate chance of playing in it.

Moving Forward

While this isn’t the greatest of news, it should fill fans and eventual players of the league with hope. The NBA 2k League age requirement was chosen after doing dedicated research, and with the best interest of the league  and it’s players in mind. They could have easily raised the age requirement to 21.

Potential sponsors and partners of the league would feel more comfortable spending money on an older group of professional players. But, the league knew that would not lead to the best product and would not be in the best interest of you, the NBA 2k community.

 

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NBA 2K League

NBA 2k League Series: An Interview with Anthony Muraco

December has been a whirlwind for the NBA 2k League. From Brendan Donahue’s AMA on Reddit, to the announcement of each franchises Esports “orgs”, there is something for everyone to get excited about. Chief among those excited for the 2k League, is Anthony Muraco, Director of Gaming Operations for Cavs Legion GC.

A New Dual Sport Athlete

Muraco didn’t know this at the time, but he was the first a new wave of dual sport athletes. No, I’m not talking about someone playing Football and Basketball. Rather, I’m talking about an elite athlete in sports and Esports.

“I was a professional World of Warcraft (WOW) player during college. I also played college football..It was a gut-check to say the least.”

I found just playing college football to be overwhelming at times. I couldn’t imagine being a professional gamer in addition to my athletic and collegiate responsibilities. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Muraco during that time. It’s good to know that campus internet, as it is for most students, was the bane of his existence.

“Oh I would 100% rage quit because of the internet connection…I actually had a local AT&T crew come in and set up personal internet for me so I could compete consistently at a high level.”

I think we will see new dual sport athletes like Anthony Muraco in the coming years as Esports becomes more mainstream and professional.

Connecting The Dots

Muraco, like every director I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, is incredibly well-versed in the Esports industry. Thankfully for Muraco, the Cleveland Cavaliers were similarly aware of the incredible potential of the emerging Esports industry.

“They were in the process of purchasing stake in the 100 Thieves Esports team…My job was to teach them how to activate the local market and show them what sponsors wanted to see.”

Muraco also went on to say that the Cavaliers’ experience in Esports prior to the NBA 2k League gives them an advantage. Not because they are undeniably more knowledgeable about the industry, but because everyone in their organization has bought in. No matter who it is, everyone within their organization is a believer in Esports and the NBA 2k League.

Addressing Communal Concerns

I was incredibly excited to hear Muraco’s commentary on the NBA 2k League qualification process. Specifically, we talked about the 50-win threshold, and the current meta.

“I understand people’s concerns about 50 being to low…but we want to make sure that the casual player has an opportunity to compete…I know there are casual players who are incredibly skilled.

-Anthony Muraco

That explanation makes perfect sense. They don’t want any “diamonds in the rough” to slip through the cracks and not be eligible for the upcoming draft. Overall, I would say the community is fine with the 50-win benchmark and are excited about January 1st.

Anthony and I also talked about the current 5-out meta and the problems with defensive mechanics.

“Full disclosure, there will be a new mode separate from NBA 2k 18. It will address some of those concerns and Take 2 has done a great job.”

Muraco goes on in more detail, but you’ll have to tune into the 2k Corner 3 Podcast to hear exactly how the league plans to address growing concerns about the current meta.

Silencing The NBA 2k League Doubters

I ask this question to everyone I interview, and it’s an important one. Usually, I’m told that at this Esport at its core, is just basketball. However, I got a different response from Muraco.

“It would be foolish to doubt the NBA…Their marketing power combined with all of the high level influencers that play and love NBA 2k will make this work.”

Of all the answers I’ve heard, that was the best one. Muraco presented a new perspective that I had never really thought about before. It’s clear that with his leadership and the commitment of the entire Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, the Cavs Legion will no doubt be formidable in the inaugural season of the NBA 2k League.

You can hear the full interview, including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become part of the NBA 2k League in the 2K Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.

To stay updated be sure to follow Anthony Muraco and Cavs Legion on Twitter!

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and Esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Braxton!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA 2K League

NBA 2K Series: Interview with Pistons’ NBA 2K League staff

This was the first time I was fortunate to speak with multiple members of a franchise’s esports program. Adam Rubin, manager of esports, and Mike Donnay, vice president of brand networks, are the backbone of the Detroit Pistons’ NBA 2K League program. It’s the perfect partnership. Rubin’s esports and content production expertise paired with Donnay’s background in digital marketing, will allow the Pistons to have one of the best esports programs in the league.

A Shared Love of Storytelling

Rubin’s love for telling stories was apparent in our conversation. He has spent his professional career excelling in the content creation space. He’s created Emmy award-winning content and served as creative director for an entire esports org. Rubin’s enthusiasm for esports combined with his expertise in production made him uniquely qualified for his current position. Thankfully, he’s had a partner in crime to help deliver his incredible ideas.

Enter Mike Donnay. Donnay has proven to be a digital marketing master in Detroit. After attending Michigan State University, Donnay climbed the marketing ranks in the Detroit area. In 2012, Donnay started with the Pistons. He created huge digital platforms in the form of social media accounts, mobile apps and the Pistons Program Network.

This dynamic duo has established themselves and their franchise as a leader in creating content. Rubin spoke specifically about how the Pistons made the best of a less than ideal situation.

“Our franchise made a decision to transition from perennial contender, to a young rebuilding team,” Rubin said. “We had to deliver more to our fans, and that came in the form of content.”

They were pleasantly surprised with how much the fans loved what they were producing. This not only demonstrates their talent and creativity, but also that they understood their fan base. Thus, Rubin and Donnay plan on taking a similar approach with their eventual 2K team.

Building from the Ground Up

It’s important to remember that with all this excitement and anticipation swirling around the NBA 2K League, there is no blueprint for what these franchises are trying to do. Rubin echoed this sentiment with a tweet Monday asking for patience and respect.

Donnay echoed Rubin about how new this concept is.

“We’re all in this together,” Donnay said. “We are essentially building the airplane in the air.”

I believe that there will be less frustration now that the NBA 2K League AMA with Brendan Donohue is complete. As a result, I see franchises getting the opportunity to focus on their individual programs and worry less about players inundating them with questions.

Preview as a Pistons’ Professional 2k player

I found this to be the most interesting and revealing portion of my conversation with Rubin and Donnay. Because the NBA 2K League had scheduled their AMA, I wanted to focus on the Pistons’ program specifically. Of course, like you, I wanted to ask about the tryout mode and draft process.

If you’re just an average sports fan, you’ve seen a piece about professional athletes getting involved in their community. Whether it’s hosting a charity event or remodeling a school library, it’s great to see professional athletes actively engage with their community. If you’re drafted to the Pistons’ team, it’s likely you’ll have a similar experience.

“We want to involve our professional 2K players in the community as much as possible…a professional video gamer will be more relatable to average child in the community.”

– Adam Rubin

Donnay added that access will be key and that the Pistons’ NBA 2K team will serve as an extension of the franchise. Both indicated that they would produce content about their 2K team in the same manner they have covered the Pistons. Rubin hinted at all the different content ideas he has for the team and allowing the community the access needed to connect with their newest professional athletes.

Silencing the Doubters

In every interview, I ask the same question for people who are skeptical about the NBA 2K League.

“If you enjoy watching basketball at all, you’re going to like the product we put on display…It’s just basketball”, Rubin said.

I love consistently getting that answer. It demonstrates that everyone involved understands their product and the distinct advantage they have over other popular esports.

Consistency and communication are critical to ensure the success of any venture, let alone the formation of a new league. It’s clear that the leadership of Adam Rubin and Mike Donnay exhibit these features in spades.

 

You can hear the full interview, including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become a professional 2K player in the 2K Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.

To stay updated be sure to follow Adam Rubin, Mike Donnay and the Detroit Pistons on Twitter!

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Braxton!

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NBA 2K League

2K Corner Series: Interview with Pacers’ Cody Parrent

A critical component to any athlete’s success is their love for competition. In 2017, that competition is no longer exclusive to the hardwood or grass fields. Instead, the virtual world is home to some of the fiercest competitors in the world.

This is the belief that fuels Cody Parrent, the director of esports for the Indiana Pacers. He now channels his passion to compete into being a leader in the NBA 2K League community.

Driven By Competition and Friendship

Don’t mistake Parrent for being just a gamer. At his core, he’s a competitor.

It started as a teenager. He loved that AAU basketball and club soccer provided him with a time and place to hang out with his friends. However, Parrent never wanted the fun to stop.

“I had to be home at a certain time, and I wanted to keep hanging out with my friends. So we started playing video games online together,” he said.

NBA 2K community

Image Courtesy of Cody Parrent’s LinkedIn

That soon developed into a passion for Parrent. He would go on to compete in national tournaments in Halo 2 through his high school career. Sadly, he had to temper his competitive spirit in college.

“I wanted to buckle down on my studies,” Parrent said. “I didn’t compete much, but I kept up with the scene.”

It’s a good thing he did. Parrent earned his undergrad and MBA from University of Southern Indiana. After graduation, he and his friends started NBA 2k Lab. With this kind of experience and business acumen, he was no doubt among a short list of candidates for the director of esports position with the Pacers.

Focusing On The Community

One thing that was apparent in our conversation was his genuine understanding and love of the NBA 2K community. This kind of knowledge is critical to the success of the NBA 2K League. Parrent talked about a community event the Pacers hosted at the Game On Esports Center in Westfield, Indiana. He was hoping for an audience of 15 to 20 people to attend so he could educate them about the NBA 2K League. He had no idea what was going to transpire.

“We had over 100 people…people from Colorado, New York City, Orlando…some drove 15 hours to attend our event.”

– Cody Parrent

This kind of attendance does not only foreshadow the league’s success, but it also indicates how great the NBA 2K community is.

What does Parrent attribute to the success of this event? He knows where the community lives.

“The NBA 2K community lives on Twitter,” he said. “People are always talking and messaging with open spots in upcoming games.”

If you’re looking to get involved, search #2kfreeagent and you’ll understand how open and understanding the players in the community are.

Message for Aspiring Pros

We were able to speak at length about the draft process on the 2K Corner 3 Podcast, which you can listen to here. Parrent explained what an aspiring player needs to be doing in order to qualify for the NBA 2K League draft pool in 2018.

“If you’re listening take notes, if you are aspiring to be an NBA 2K League player, the tryout mode in February is what will allow you to get into the draft pool,” Parrent said.

Parrent went on to mention specific items and skills they will be evaluating during that tryout mode. While this isn’t an official announcement by the league, the NBA 2K community should take notice of any advice Parrent has to offer.

Silencing The Doubters

For those who continue to doubt this league’s credibility and success, Parrent has a message for you.

“2K17 sold 9 million copies and has 1.6 million active daily users and a growing Pro Am Scene,” he said.

The numbers clearly illustrate a demand for the game and an engaged consumer. The key will be converting those who don’t qualify for the draft pool and the casual player to tune in once the games start up.

With people like Cody Parrent at the helm, I have no doubt the NBA 2K League will find a way attract and sustain viewers.

 

You can hear the full interview including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become a professional 2K player in the 2K Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.

To stay updated be sure to follow Cody Parrent on Twitter @codyparrent and Kelly Krauskopf, President of the Indiana Fever and Senior Vice President of Pacers Sports & Entertainment @FeverPrez.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Braxton!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

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A look at the teams not in the NBA 2K League

17 teams are entering the NBA 2K League. That is more than half of the 30 teams in the NBA participating in the 2K League’s inaugural season. While a few teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers have deeper roots in esports than others, there are 13 teams waiting for their opportunity to enter the scene.

Eventually the NBA would want every team to join the NBA 2K League. I’m optimistic that it’s not a matter of if they’ll join, it’s a matter of when they’ll join. The NBA 2K League will thrive with more competition synonymous to the NBA. As a result it will present excellent opportunities for the community as well.

Who are these teams?

  1. Atlanta Hawks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Charlotte Hornets
  4. Chicago Bulls
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. LA Clippers
  8. Los Angeles Lakers
  9. Minnesota Timberwolves
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
  11. Oklahoma City Thunder
  12. Phoenix Suns
  13. San Antonio Spurs

Business as usual

While a number of teams don’t have any reported esports experience, they have the business experience to make the NBA 2K League a success. In a marriage between esports and traditional sports, it’s a transition that’ll help grow both industries for the world to see.

There are three teams that have their feet wet in the esports landscape and have created successful moves. But because these teams have esports experience doesn’t necessarily mean they’re locked in for season two nor does it mean that the other 10 teams are less likely to join either.

Denver Nuggets

One of the two Los Angeles teams in the Overwatch League. Courtesy of LA Gladiators via Twitter.

Josh Kroenke, Nuggets President, and his father Stan Kroenke co-own the Los Angeles Gladiators after securing a league spot in the Overwatch League. Blizzard set a $20 million fee to own a regional franchise in the Overwatch League and the Kroenke’s can pay the bill.

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is a sports and entertainment holding company based in Denver with control over five professional sports franchises. The Kroenke’s own numerous Colorado sports franchises including the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and the Colorado Mammoth.

With the Los Angeles Gladiators as their first venture into the esports landscape, the Denver Nuggets joining the NBA 2K League next season is a possibility.

Houston Rockets

Clutch Gaming has a spot in the NA LCS. Courtesy of Clutch Gaming via Twitter.

Tilman Fertitta, Rockets Owner, owns Clutch Gaming after securing a league spot in the North American League of Legends Championship Series. The Clutch Gaming brand coincidentally inspired from the nickname given to the Houston Rockets, Clutch City.

It also helps that Daryl Morey, Rockets General Manager, is an avid supporter of esports and joined the MLG Board of Directors back in 2013. In an interview with ESPN, he spoke esports as “[t]he 1950s basketball right now, where there’s that kind of opportunity.”

 

 

There’s enough esports involvement to believe the Houston Rockets will eventually make their way into the NBA 2K League sooner rather than later.

Los Angeles Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson. Courtesy of Fox Sports.

Magic Johnson, Lakers President of Basketball Operations, is an investor for aXiomatic which has an ownership in Team Liquid. Johnson is no stranger to business and Team Liquid may be his first stop among many in his esports career.

Other traditional sports figures include former Lakers, Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal, who are making waves of their own. Both Echo Fox and NRG are continuing to grow and recruit the best talent in their respected esports.

Meanwhile both Northern California teams, the Warriors and Kings, are in the NBA 2K League this year. There’s a lot of opportunity in a large market like Los Angeles and we hope to see the Lakers and Clippers soon.

 

Featured image courtesy of Tito Sar.

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