The 2019 NBA 2K League season tips off on April 2 with the Tip-Off tournament. With four new teams joining the league, an increased prize pool, and a longer schedule, here’s what to look out for in the second season of what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has deemed “the NBA’s fourth league.”
What Happened In The 2018 NBA 2K League Season?
Knicks Gaming, the eight seed in the playoffs, shocked the world to win the inaugural NBA 2K League Finals. The Knicks went 5-9, but automatically qualified for the playoffs by winning the final mid-season tournament (called the “Ticket” for its automatic qualifying bid). In the first round, they beat top-seeded Blazer5 Gaming, which was led by MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey. The Knicks then eliminated Cavs Legion GC before sweeping Heat Check Gaming in the Finals.
OneWildWalnut took home MVP honours, though. The field consisted of the following players; 1) Austin “Boo Painter” Painter, dismissed from the league due to a violation of the league’s code of conduct during the offseason; 2) Ramo “Ramo” Radoncic, whom Pistons GT traded to Pacers Gaming over the offseason for a first-round pick, Juan “Hotshot” Gonzalez, Heat Check Gaming’s first-round pick in 2018; and 3) Nidal “MamaImDatMan” Nasser, Walnut’s teammate and team captain of Blazer5 Gaming.
– Top 4 Picks In Draft
The season saw an interesting contrast between the top picks in the draft. The four teams with the top four picks in the 2018 NBA 2K League draft all missed the playoffs. No. 1 overall pick Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd and Mavs Gaming missed the playoffs and so rebuilt their roster. Albano “Fab” Thomallari, the second overall pick, and Celtics Crossover Gaming performed well in tournaments. Nevertheless, they were eliminated from the playoff hunt on the last day of the season. Third- and fourth-overall picks Shaka “Compete” Browne and Mitchell “Mootyy” Franklin both saw their teams underperform and end near the bottom of the league. By contrast, the fifth (Ramo), sixth (Walnut), and seventh (Hotshot) picks all led their teams to the playoffs and earned recognition as MVP candidates.
Over the offseason, four new NBA franchises joined the league as expansion teams, bringing the league total to 21. Nets GC, Lakers Gaming, T-Wolves Gaming, and Hawks Talon GC all took part in an expansion draft during the offseason. They will subsequently begin competition in the league this season.
2019 NBA 2K League Draft Recap
The 2019 NBA 2K League conducted its draft at the Barclays Center. Through an online combine, application, player interviews, and a special Asia-Pacific Invitational tournament in Hong Kong, the league determined a 198-person draft pool. This includes both new players and players from season one who had been unretained by their original teams. The draft saw 75 players chosen over four rounds. Mavs Gaming and Kings Guard Gaming added the most new players at five each.
Utah Jazz Gaming selected Spencer “Ria” Wyman, the consensus top pick, first overall. Warriors Gaming Squad took Sam “Gradient” Salyers with the second overall pick and Charles “CB13” Bostwick tenth overall; the two played on the same amateur NBA 2K Pro-Am team. T-Wolves Gaming and 76ers GC were the beneficiaries of some players falling the draft. The T-Wolves drafted Michael “BearDaBeast” Key, projected by many to go sixth overall to Bucks Gaming, eleventh overall. 76ers GC, drafting nineteenth, selected Breadwinner, considered one of the top three defenders in the draft. Another notable pick was Hawks Talon GC’s selection of Devin “DevGoss” Gossett with the thirteen pick. Gosset coached Magic Gaming in the 2018 season before qualifying as a player in the combine.
The most notable pick of the draft came in the fourth round. Warriors Gaming Squad selected Chiquita “Chiquita” Evans with the fifty-sixth pick. This made her the first woman to be drafted into the NBA 2K League. Evans, one of two women in the draft pool, was one of several players featured by the league in a series of mini-documentaries leading up to the draft.
Who Are The 2019 NBA 2K League Favourites?
The draft saw an influx of new talent after teams were permitted to bring back a maximum of four players from their season-one rosters. Most retained only two, though. Consequently rosters have changed greatly from last year. The game build on which the league plays has also changed, complicating early predictions. Nevertheless, there are several clear-cut contenders heading into the season.
– Clear-Cut Contenders
An early favourite will be the 2018 champions, Knicks Gaming. The team returns four players from its championship core. This includes star point guard Adam “iamadamthe1st” Kudeimati and Dayvon “Goofy757” Curry, one of the best centers in the league. The Knicks also lost defensive stopper and Finals MVP Nate “NateKahl” Kahl to Nets GC in the expansion draft. However, they added Malik “Malik” Hobson, one of the best sharpshooters in the draft, with their first-round pick.
Runners-up Heat Check Gaming is eager to succeed Knicks Gaming as champions after narrowly falling to them in the Finals last year. Heat Check has three players from its 2018 team, including MVP candidate Hotshot. The team also secured a steal in the draft, landing Jordan “JMoney” Martinez in the third round. The vast majority of scouts gave the point guard a first-round talent grade. The Heat are experienced, and, with one of the best coaches in the league and the helm, expect to be one of the most dangerous and capable teams in the league all season.
Blazer5 Gaming will be an easy favourite if they can return to their play from the regular season, where they finished a league-best 12-2. Walnut and MamaImDatMan figure to repeat as one of the most prolific pairings in the league. While the team lost third option Connor “DatBoyShotz” Rodrigues in the expansion draft, it acquired Matthew “King_Peroxide” Hoffmann from Bucks Gaming to replace his scoring output on the wing.
Who Are The 2019 NBA 2K League Sleepers?
Expansion team Nets GC is a serious sleeper candidate in the 2019 NBA 2K League. The team already has some of the best chemistry in the entire league, and has players whose personalities mesh extremely well. The team acquired Finals MVP NateKahl and former Pacers Gaming big man Moshood “Shockey” Balogun Jr. in the expansion draft before completing their balanced roster with four new players in the entry draft. The Nets will therefore have the patience and unity to challenge any team in the league. Especially with a widely respected coach and locker-room leaders on board.
Celtics Crossover Gaming has a remarkably high ceiling. The team barely missed the playoffs after finishing in second place in two mid-season tournaments last year and are looking to get over the hump this season. Fab, one of the top point guards in the league, is an early favourite for MVP. The Celtics retained three players from their 2018 team and drafted three players already familiar with Fab’s style of play. They showed flashes of their ceiling last season. But with a more experienced roster this year, Celtics could vault into the upper echelon of NBA 2K League teams in 2019.
– Other Sleeper Candidates
One darkhorse candidate flying off the radar is Grizz Gaming. The Grizz found franchise cornerstone Mehyar “AuthenticAfrican” Ahmed-Hassan, who set a single-game scoring record with 84 points against 76ers GC, in the second round last year, and are confident in their selections this year. They clearly lacked sufficient talent in season one. However, Grizz did very well in the entry draft and will rely on protected players AuthenticAfrican and Antonio “UnversalPhenom” Salvidar to bring the team together immediately.
Plenty of unsuccessful season-one teams have some claim to contention in the 2019 season. The teams most often mentioned as contenders include Pacers Gaming, Mavs Gaming, and Jazz Gaming. They all missed the playoffs in season one, but acquired franchise-changing players through the draft or by trade.
This season will have plenty of motivation for teams and players. The 2019 NBA 2K League raised the total prize pool to $1.2 million USD, up from $1 million last season. The league also extended the season schedule, adding two games for each team, and changed the days of the week on which games are played to feature more weeknights. Games will be played Wednesday through Friday nights, with the league rebroadcasting one game per day to increase international viewership.