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What NBA 2K Got Wrong from Initial Ratings Reveal

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2021

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant reacts after sinking a 3-point shot against the Milwaukee Bucks during the fourth quarter of Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

On Wednesday, NBA 2K unleashed a barrage of player ratings on social media, including the top 10 individual players.

After roughly two decades as the leader in this arena, the debates generated from days like this have become an annual tradition.

Who's too high? Who's too low? Who should leapfrog who?

Even this year, when nothing really egregious has been revealed, people all over the internet are asking questions like those.

But before we jump on that train, let's look at the top 10.

NBA 2K @NBA2K

The Top 10 Players in 2K22 ⭐ Agree? #2KRatings https://t.co/BEfMn7xkBk

NBA 2K hasn't provided a ton of ammo for heated debate yet. Actually, that top 10 is pretty safe. All are within two points of each other. And with as much talent as there is in the NBA right now, there are countless arguments to be made to move any (or at least most) of the above up or down.

But what is the internet for, if not nitpicking? Generally speaking, the ratings we've seen so far are probably fine, but here are some potential bones of contention.

      

No 99s (or 97s or 98s)

NBA 2K @NBA2K

Steph is a 96 in 2K22 👨‍🍳 Agree or nah? #2KRatings https://t.co/KX7WUaZM88

Again, what we've seen so far is pretty safe. And in the realm of video game player ratings, that's probably a good thing.

But Nigel Tufnel would be rolling over in his grave if he knew about NBA 2K's unwillingness to turn up the volume on these ratings.

"I don't understand why they don't actually give out 99s," Blue Wire Podcast's Ti Windisch wondered on Twitter. "What's the point of this? Why have a 99 in the game if [Kevin Durant] isn't there?"

The point is fair. Nobody's perfect, but where exactly are the faults in Durant's game? He can score from everywhere, create a little for others, defend on the perimeter and protect the rim.

Of course, he's not the best passer, rebounder or defender in the league, so 2K can probably defend holding him shy of 99, but was no one in the room feeling dangerous enough to push him to 97 or 98? And are there no arguments to do the same for the other 96s?

Giannis Antetokounmpo has won two of the last three regular-season MVPs, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2021 Finals MVP. He dropped 50 in the closeout game of a Finals in which he averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals. He's led the league in box plus/minus over the last three seasons (BPM is a "basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference).

He probably deserves to be dinged for the lack of shooting, but that hasn't stopped his dominance.

Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter of all time and just finished top three in MVP voting. Even LeBron James, who has ruled basketball for almost as long as NBA 2K has dominated its genre and was in the MVP conversation before an injury derailed him last season, thinks Curry should be higher.

LeBron James @KingJames

@SLAMftw @SLAMonline @NBA2K Nah should be 99! 🤷🏾‍♂️

The decision to put them all at the same level is defensible, but a hint of boldness wouldn't have hurt.

       

Jokic Is in the Wrong Tier

NBA 2K @NBA2K

The reigning MVP will be a 95 OVR 🃏 Agree? #2KRatings https://t.co/B9MON1cjor

If the creators were intent on giving us a top tier instead of an individual top player, they probably should've included the reigning MVP.

Nikola Jokic just dominated a season in which offensive numbers from teams and players all over the league were off the charts. His 11.68 BPM was the ninth-highest mark for a single season in NBA history. LeBron, Michael Jordan, Curry and David Robinson are the only players with higher marks.

When compared to others in 2020-21, the distance between Jokic's mark and second place was the same as the distance between second and 12th.

This didn't come out of nowhere either. The 26-year-old point center has been dominant for half a decade. MJ and LeBron are the only players since 1973-74 (as far back as per-possession data is tracked) with higher career BPMs than Jokic.

Like Durant, Jokic checks basically every box. He has touch around the rim that few bigs across history have possessed. Throughout his career, he's been a sniper in the mid-range, and he just shot 38.8 percent from three.

He's the greatest big man passer of all time, can dominate the glass and has long been a plus-defender. Denver has allowed fewer points per 100 possessions when Jokic plays in five of his six seasons, thanks in large part to his quick hands and awareness. And over the course of his career, he's 10th in the league in defensive BPM.

Plenty of fans and analysts have long been skeptical of Jokic's overall impact, but 2020-21 should've put that to bed for everyone. Based on the numbers, it's hard to argue any player is definitively in a higher tier. Would it really be so hard to bump his rating up one point?

      

The Field is Catching Up to Curry's Shooting

NBA 2K @NBA2K

The Top 3PT shooters in 2K22 🔋 Agree or nah? #2KRatings https://t.co/2OSCH6lD2c

Curry is the greatest shooter of all time. And, in terms of legacy, the gap is probably growing between him and the field. If you had to pick one player to win a life-on-the-line three-point contest today, you'd probably pick Curry too.

But his influence on the game has led to an influx in phenomenal three-point shooters. This season, the league-average three-point percentage was 36.7. A whopping 39.2 percent of all field-goal attempts came from three. During Curry's rookie season, the average three-point percentage was 35.5 and the three-point-attempt rate was 22.2.

For efficiency to improve while volume has nearly doubled is pretty wild, and some of the players listed above have had a hand in pulling those numbers up.

There are 24 players in NBA history with 1,000-plus minutes, an average of at least six three-point attempts per 75 possessions and a 40-plus three-point percentage. Seventeen of those players are active. And Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Duncan Robinson and Klay Thompson are first, third, eighth and ninth, respectively, on that list in three-point percentage.

Putting Curry at 99 in three-point shooting is probably the right call. But nine points above Robinson, Harris and his younger brother? The game needs to juice up some three-point ratings.

        

Ben Simmons Is Suddenly Underrated

2K ANZ @2K_ANZ

First look at @Patty_Mills 🇦🇺 What do you think of the ANZ player ratings? #2KRatings https://t.co/SWDL98EjWl

Fair or not, Ben Simmons passing up what appeared to be a wide-open dunk in a high-pressure, playoff fourth quarter may be the defining moment of his career. Over the last four games of the Philadelphia 76ers' second-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, he was a whopping 0-of-0 from the field in fourth quarters.

His complete aversion to scoring became a massive liability for Philadelphia, and it spiraled into an offseason full of trade rumors.

And with his most recent exploits in the playoffs fresh on everyone's minds, his trade value appears to be in line with how NBA 2K's developers feel about his abilities.

Simmons does everything but score from outside the paint. And while that's a glaring weakness, it probably isn't enough drop the Defensive Player of the Year finalist all the way down to an 84.

In terms of pure talent, he's better than that. And on a team built around his strengths, where he can get to the paint before spraying out to one of four shooters, his weakness wouldn't glare quite as brightly.

         

Advanced statistics via Basketball ReferenceStathead and Cleaning the Glass unless otherwise noted.