Trying to figure out what will happen during the 2019-20 NBA season is awfully difficult. With how much player movement there was this offseason and how the landscape of the league completely changed, the NBA is in a spot where there’s no clear-cut favorite to win a championship this season, a bit of a welcomed feeling now that we’re no longer in the era of the superteam.
What we do have at our disposal, however, is NBA 2K20, which dropped on Friday. We figured we might as well use the game to try and determine all the award winners, records, and the team that will come out on top during this upcoming season because, well, this seems like a good use of three hours on a Thursday night.
You will notice that I used five teams: the Lakers, Nets, Pacers, Warriors, and Wizards. I promise, I am not the worst sports fan that you have ever met in your entire life — the guy who went to college with you and liked Duke and the Cowboys despite being from northern New Jersey still holds that title — we just wanted to make sure that the five most impactful players who suffered major injuries won’t take the floor. As such, I used the Lakers and Nets and held DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant, respectively, out all year, brought Victor Oladipo back in December, and had Klay Thompson and John Wall take the floor in February. This may not end up happening, but it may be our best approximation of how this all plays out. Also if there is a more efficient way to do this, feel free to tell me for when NBA 2K21 drops.
Some caveats: I declined every trade that popped up for all my teams, which is probably inaccurate, but I am not a general manager, and as such, I cannot be made liable for any of my decisions (also I was not trading Draymond Green and Eric Paschall for Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schröder, which was a proposed deal, because that doesn’t make sense). Injuries were not turned off, and a few popped up during the season. I think that’s everything. Let’s look at how the year went, shall we?
In terms of where teams end up in both conferences, the game doesn’t expect there to be any super major surprises. All eight playoff teams in the East and the West make sense, even if 2K looks to be a little higher on the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons than you might be. Here’s how things broke down, 1-15, on both sides of the league. First the Western Conference…
…then the Eastern Conference.
Apologies to fans of the Cavs, Wizards, Knicks, Heat, Pacers, Hawks, Hornets, Grizzlies, Thunder, Suns, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Kings, and all the best as the ping pong balls bounce around and, potentially, bless you with a decade of Cole Anthony as a reward for your virtual suffering. Also, because the virtual NBA and the real NBA are not on the same calendar, the game doles out awards at the end of the regular season. They break down like this:
Your All-NBA squads feature Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic on the first-team; James Harden, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Zion Williamson(!!!), and Anthony Davis on the second-team; and Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Karl-Anthony Towns on the third-team.
We got the All-Defense squads as well: Eric Bledsoe, Westbrook, Leonard, Antetokounmpo, and Rudy Gobert are the first-team grouping, with Marcus Smart, Jrue Holiday, George, James, and Davis as your second teamers. For the All-Rookie teams, the first-team is Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett, Jarrett Culver, and DeAndre Hunter, while the second team is Coby White, Darius Garland, Rui Hachimura, Cameron Reddish, and Goga Bitadze.
Good? Good. It’s playoff time.
This seems…about right? Again, the game really likes the teams that make up the 4-5 matchup in the East, perhaps a little more so than some prognosticators might. Otherwise, a lot of that makes sense, especially if Pascal Siakam needs a little time to take over as the man in Toronto and if the Celtics take a little for everyone to gel and the four members of their core at the World Cup are a bit tired when they return. In the West, almost any order of those teams 1-7 is reasonable to one extent or another, and the Spurs are the Spurs, so them making the playoffs always makes sense.
Making the playoffs is one thing. Winning in the postseason is something else entirely. Through the first round of games, this happens.
The sound you just heard is the city of Philadelphia rejoicing over the fact that the Sixers swept the Celtics in a playoff series. Elsewhere, in the East, Brooklyn put paws on the Magic, Milwaukee killed Toronto’s quest for a repeat, and the Pistons and Bulls gave us our only seven-game series. Heading to the West, the Lakers swept the Spurs and the Warriors’ run of Finals appearances came to an end thanks to the Jazz. The Clippers gave Houston a head start on what would assuredly be a tumultuous offseason, while the Nuggets got revenge on the Blazers for the 2019 playoffs.
Let’s move on a round, shall we?
Just in general, this might be our best conference finals slate. The Eastern Conference would give us the Sixers-Bucks showdown that seems destined, while the Western Conference would showcase a battle for supremacy in Los Angeles. Can we just make this happen? Let’s just fast forward to May if this is the result, I want this a lot.
Whew lord would seven games in the East be something. But congrats to Milwaukee, although a word of advice to Philadelphia: In the event this happens — and I say this as a big fan of him as a player — having rookie wing Matisse Thybulle take 14 shots (the second-most on the team and one behind the 15 Embiid attempted) in a Game 7 against the Bucks could backfire. The West isn’t quite as dramatic, but George and Leonard out-dueling James and Davis in a deciding Game 6 would lead to about a million more things being written about the 2019 offseason. To the Finals! Bucks-Clippers. Kawhi-Giannis. It’s a hot take, but that’d be great.
In the most gentlemanly of sweeps, the Clippers race out to a 3-0 lead, lost Game 4, then take care of business during Game 5 in Milwaukee. Your NBA Finals MVP is none other than Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 29.5 points and seven rebounds en route to going 3-for-3 in the Finals while taking home the MVP award in every one of them. If that does end up happening, any doubt that Leonard’s name would deserved to be thrown around among the best in the history of the game would go out the window, but for now, we’ll have to just wait and see.