With player ratings out and some of the game's biggest upgrades now understood, it's time for players to start thinking about strategy in NBA 2K22.
The latest effort from developer Visual Concepts offers big gameplay upgrades as it releases on next-generation consoles for only the second time. Ditto for feature upgrades across the board in modes such as MyGM, MyLeague, MyTeam and even the WNBA-centric The W thanks to a new Seasons feature that reworks goals and rewards.
So online or off, competitive or casual, which young NBA stars are the best players to build teams around in this year's game? First up, naturally, is the game's cover star.
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
No great shocker that the cover star appears on such a list, right?
Luka Doncic earned cover honors by blitzing his way into the NBA via the third pick in 2018, averaging better than 21 points per game in all three of his seasons to date and earning Rookie of the Year honors and a pair of First-Team All-Pro nods.
Over 66 games last season, he averaged 27.7 points while shooting 47.9 percent from the floor. He's still only 22 and has a 94 overall rating at game's launch, just two points behind the four players good enough to earn the game's highest rating.
A force on the real court, Doncic's digital representation should be the first that comes to mind when grabbing young guys to build around in any game mode.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
For those who want to build a potential dynasty from the inside out around a budding star, look no further than Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans.
The first pick in 2019 only made it into 24 games as a rookie before erupting along expected lines as a sophomore. Over 61 games last year, he averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 61.1 percent from the floor.
To say it feels like Zion is just getting started is a big understatement. The folks behind the 2K ratings seem to agree, as he's the first player on the list just under a 90 at an 89 overall. And for those players who want to run at a championship in style, Zion has the game's highest dunk rating at a 97.
While Zion doesn't align with recent common online metas that spam shots from deep, he's a fun, refreshing foundational piece for a contender on the digital courts.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Want to center a team around a point with deadly range and the ability to get those around him involved at an elite level? There are a few sound options, but Trae Young's speed and abilities might make him the best bet on the digital courts.
The fifth pick in the 2018 draft has blossomed into one of the game's top outright weapons, as evidenced by the 89 overall rating he shares with Williamson. As a sophomore, he averaged 29.6 points per game, and over three seasons he averages 24.1 points and 8.9 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 34.3 percent from deep.
Whether solo or online, it's hard to complain about a guy who can do it all as opponents struggle to keep up. Young has got the feel of one of the league's next big things, if he's not there already. And his ability to get shooters open with high-percentage looks makes roster-building easier.
Plus, it doesn't hurt that the near-90 overall rating is bound to keep climbing from here.