Predicting the Top 10 Teams to Play with on NBA 2K15
NBA gamers rejoice, because we're not that far away from adding NBA 2K15 to our collection and putting the Association's new lineups to use.
If you've listened to the soundtrack countless times and spent way too much of your day starting at virtual images and videos of Kevin Durant, this preview is for you. If you're eagerly awaiting the Oct. 7 release and continuing to add to the 500-plus hours you've logged on NBA 2K14, this is also for you.
Unfortunately, I haven't been given any insider access to the new edition of the world's top basketball game. This is all guesswork, based on changes to the rosters, expected stat boosts based on the 2013-14 proceedings and my experience spending way too much time with an Xbox controller in my hands.
Those 500-plus hours? Yep. Guilty.
Chances are, these rankings—which look at the entertainment value of playing with each team, not the sheer skill of each squad—will shift after new under-the-radar players emerge in 2K15. Consider this an early sneak peak at the teams you should get excited about playing with—and nervous about facing—in October.
10. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons have way too many players who are going to be quite difficult to stop in NBA 2K15.
Josh Smith is always terrifying when placed in the hands of someone who knows how to use him. Not only is he a defensive showstopper who specializes in chase-down blocks and can switch onto most anyone, but he's also an athletic phenom who can slash with the best of them and finish alley-oops thrown from any direction.
But what makes Smoove so much better in the world of video games is the simple fact that defenses can't leave him open. Even if he clangs perimeter jumpers off the iron in real life, he tends to have decent shooting stats and a replicable motion, one that allows him to serve as a de facto stretch 4.
Add in Andre Drummond—another athletic big man who's a devastating alley-oop target and pick-and-roll finisher—and the slithery Brandon Jennings, and you have quite the entertaining triumvirate. But what allows Detroit to gain a featured spot in 2K15, one they definitely don't earn in the previous edition, is the bevy of shooters.
With D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, an improved Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Caron Butler and Cartier Martin, you can always fire away from the perimeter.
Honorable Mentions: Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
If you play as the Minnesota Timberwolves and don't push the pace at all times, you're making a big mistake.
Ricky Rubio is one of those players who's better in video games than real life—at least at this stage of his career—because it's easier to shoot jumpers and score from all areas of the court. However, he possesses picture-perfect passing prowess in both walks of basketball, and he can squeeze the rock into tight areas while lofting it up into perfect positions on transition ventures that finish at the tin.
This year, though, he'll have targets galore.
Corey Brewer has always been a transition threat, but now he's set to be joined (or perhaps replaced, depending on the details of the pending Kevin Love trade) by Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins. Plus, either Anthony Bennett or Thaddeus Young will likely be on the roster by the time 2K15 is released.
Minnesota won't be very good, and playing as the 'Wolves will make for a nice challenge for the seasoned gamers. But that doesn't mean they'll be anything less than extremely entertaining.
8. Washington Wizards
One player can sometimes make an entire team fun to play with. In my opinion, that's especially true when the stud in question lines up at point guard and gets to spend an abundance of time with the ball in his hands, particularly if you run isolation and pick-heavy systems on the offensive end.
John Wall qualifies as such.
Not only is he a tough defensive presence, but he's one of the fastest players in the game, capable of going end to end by the time you get your fingers on the right buttons. He can distribute the ball to any spot in the half-court set, and it's always entertaining to burst past a defender and create a poster before taunting your opponent with excessive replays.
What's that you say? The Wizards aren't just a one-man team?
That's absolutely correct.
Forgetting about Bradley Beal's outside shooting is a cardinal sin, as is the case with overlooking the arrival of Paul Pierce, who's always a savvy veteran capable of doing just about anything (outside the posterizing) on the offensive end. Plus, the frontcourt features quality players, even if they aren't glamorous.
This is just a hunch, but I also expect Glen Rice Jr. to be a sleeper in 2K15, much as guys like Terrence Ross and MarShon Brooks have been in years past.
7. Sacramento Kings
Rudy Gay is a 2K14 superstar, just as he was in 2K13.
There's nothing he can't do on the basketball court, whether we're talking about the offensive or defensive end of the floor. I swear I've had nightmares about him putting up ridiculous numbers against me during a playoff series in Association mode after he's been fantasy drafted onto a team that lets him serve as the primary scoring option.
With athleticism, handles, outside shooting and just about everything else, he's borderline unstoppable in the right hands. In many ways, he plays like a poor man's version of LeBron James, and he's not even that poor.
Now that Gay has thrived with the Sacramento Kings and started redeeming his reputation, the developers should reward him by at least letting his stats stagnate, if not improving them outright. Either way, he's going to be a 2K15 superstar, even if he doesn't qualify as such in real life.
With DeMarcus Cousins, the speedy Darren Collison, the athletic Ben McLemore and virtual sleeper Derrick Williams in the lineup, the Kings are going to be the most underrated team in the game.
6. Toronto Raptors
I'm terrified of what Terrence Ross will be able to do in 2K15.
Given his smooth shooting stroke and jaw-dropping athletic tools in previous editions, he was already a valuable bench commodity. But after he exploded for 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers and improved rather significantly from his freshman showing with the Toronto Raptors, he's probably going to be even better.
And Ross isn't even the best player on the roster, whether we're talking about the virtual world or real life. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry compete for that honor, and both are a thrill to use in the gaming world.
The latter is a physical bully on both ends of the court, one who can control the tempo and fight his way through traffic on a regular basis, while the former is another freak athlete who can finish over and around virtually any opponent.
The frontcourt members north of the border aren't really needle-movers, though Jonas Valanciunas is a dangerous commodity in the hands of a player who knows how to use plenty of post moves and counters with his back to the basket. However, they don't need to be, given the strength of the backcourt.
Plus, there's no telling how good the development team will make Bruno Caboclo during his rookie season.
5. Golden State Warriors
Threes, threes and some more threes. You know, just for good measure.
If you're one of those players who likes raining in shots from the perimeter at the expense of virtually everything else, the Golden State Warriors are the team for you. After all, both Splash Brothers will be back in action during the 2014-15 campaign, as the Dubs firmly rejected any and all advances for Klay Thompson's services over the course of the offseason.
Additionally, Harrison Barnes and Brandon Rush can stroke the ball from the outside, and Andre Iguodala is a never-ending source of well-rounded contributions, provided you can get his delayed release timed perfectly in a couple of practice sessions. Iggy isn't particularly easy to use, but he's a game-changing player once you've mastered playing with him.
Andrew Bogut is also a solid source of blocks, and he can be counted on to set good screens, either freeing the Golden State shooters for golden opportunities or rolling to the hoop and finishing the play around the rim.
Just avoid getting fouled with him, because free-throw shooting is, well, an adventure.
4. Phoenix Suns
There's no player in the series with a bigger disparity between real-life skills and virtual effectiveness.
Even when Gerald Green was coming off a disappointing season with the Indiana Pacers, he was turned into a 2K14 god, to the point that I managed to win MVP with him during one season of play without even forcing the issue. He has a repeatable stroke from the perimeter, possesses insane athleticism that allows him to finish even the most aggressive alley-oop attempts and has an impressive ability to finish plays through contact, all while playing solid defense.
Now, he's on the heels of a breakout season with the Phoenix Suns, one that left him as quite the valuable NBA player. Making him any better than he already was would be unfair, but his play in the desert was so good he may have forced the issue.
In addition to Green, the Suns will boast the services of Goran Dragic, one of the most slippery players in the game, and the speedy Isaiah Thomas, who can always be counted on for versatile scoring contributions.
If Eric Bledsoe does end up staying put, they'll be even deadlier still.
Those are the highlights, but the list of entertaining players goes on and on—P.J. Tucker for his underrated shooting, T.J. Warren for the exciting possibility of offensive craftiness, the Morris twins for their mid-range jumpers and Miles Plumlee for his athleticism around the rim.
Phoenix will be synonymous with offense in this game.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
That picture should speak 1,000 words. Maybe even more.
Kevin Durant has been one of the 2K series' most fun players for a while now, and that's not exactly going to change after he finally got over the hump and dethroned LeBron James as the NBA's MVP. Plus, do we really expect the game's development team to make the cover boy anything less than tantalizingly awesome?
As if Durant wasn't good enough by himself, the Oklahoma City Thunder also grant you the privilege of playing with the incredibly dynamic Russell Westbrook—good luck staying in front of him if you're unlucky enough to go up against OKC—and the shot-blocking, mid-range-shooting Serge Ibaka.
Still not good enough?
How about upgrading from Thabo Sefolosha to Anthony Morrow, getting to space the court with Perry Jones and using the Steven Adams/Mitch McGary combination at center as soon as you relegate Kendrick Perkins to the pine?
That better be enough, unless you have your eyes set on one of the two remaining squads in the countdown.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City returns.
All the key pieces are back for the Los Angeles Clippers, except they're going to be better than ever before.
Chris Paul returns as the point guard and unquestioned leader of the squad. Even though he missed time with a separated shoulder in 2013-14, he played admirably when healthy and isn't old enough to experience an age-related decline in 2K15.
Meanwhile, his alley-oop targets are only getting better.
Blake Griffin developed into one of the NBA's 10 best players last season, doing far more than throwing down dunk after dunk. That's likely to be reflected in his ratings, which should continue allowing him to posterize everyone but also let him knock down mid-range jumpers and keep defenders from sagging off him to such a great extent.
Then there's DeAndre Jordan, who blossomed under Doc Rivers' tutelage and figures to be significantly better than he was in last year's edition of the game. Expect more dunks and plenty of rejections, just with even more offensive efficiency when not completing a slam dunk.
Throw in the bevy of shooters, Jamal Crawford's handles and Spencer Hawes' stretchiness from the 5, and you're looking at a team that will be awfully popular as soon as the game is released.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Anticlimactic? Without a doubt.
Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers were probably the team you expected to show up at No. 1, that doesn't mean they don't belong there. I have a strong suspicion that online play is going to be brimming over with users who have made the new-look Cavs their team of choice, to the point that many faithful players will let out a verbal sound of disappointment when they're left guarding LeBron James for the 10th game in a row.
Of course, there's a reason they figure to be so popular.
LeBron James is one of the most entertaining players in the game, and so is Kyrie Irving. While the four-time MVP can do literally everything on the basketball court (especially in the virtual world) and is nearly impossible to stay in front of in isolation, the young point guard has ridiculous handles and can score from anywhere on the court.
Oh, and there will be this Kevin Love guy on the team. You may have heard of him, and if you haven't, you certainly will after he's recorded double-digit rebounds and rained in a few triples.
The novelty of this team, as well as the unmatched amount of top-tier talent, makes Cleveland the clear-cut choice at No. 1. Just as the Miami Heat dominated the game when the Big Three was first assembled, so too will this new collection of stars own the virtual world.