With the release of basketball gaming king NBA 2K15 less than a month away, we project the ratings for the game’s top-20 players. Note that these rankings were gleaned from considering the final player ratings of 2K14 and simple player analysis, factoring in progression and regression. No exclusive knowledge nor personal bias was used in compiling them, either. Our projected rating follows the player’s name, with the difference between his final rating in last year’s game and our projection noted in parentheses.
Without further ado, these are Dime’s projected top-20 players for NBA 2K15:
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20. Dwyane Wade: 85 (-4)
- Lost on most given Wade’s underwhelming NBA Finals performance is that he was highly, highly effective in 2013-2014 – when he was actually on the court. The 32 year-old’s role will drastically change for the Miami Heat this season, as he’ll be afforded more respect by the defense and likely won’t have the luxury of rest due to nagging aches. If the Heat are to rebound from a disastrous offseason and make noise in the Eastern Conference, they’ll need Wade to perform like a star night-in and night-out. Given that reality, his performance last season, and another season of wear and tear, this ranking seems appropriate.
19. Damian Lillard: 85 (0)
- Lillard checks in as our sixth-ranked point guard, but we’re confident his clutch rating will bely even that exalted standing. No player in the league was better or more efficient down the stretch than the Oakland native last season, a fact driven home by an iconic shot you may remember:
(Video via Shady00018)
- But 2014-2015 offers new challenges for Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. They’re the hunted now, and will meet a different challenge on a nightly basis as a result. If Lillard’s meteoric rise from Weber State star to Portland legend is any indication, though, he and his teammates will be more than ready to overcome it.
18. John Wall: 85 (+1)
- Wall made the necessary leap to All-Star in 2013-2014 that justified the oft-questioned max-level contract he signed before last season. Not unlike Lillard, though, Wall is due for a new kind of scrutiny now that he and his teammates have established the Washington Wizards as Eastern Conference contenders. The strides Wall made as a shooter vanished in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, a humbling development that spoke to just how far he has to go to reach his immense, two-way potential. Considering he’s already an elite player, that’s a far bigger compliment than insult.
17. Derrick Rose: 86 (-3)
- Only one player’s rating was more difficult to project than the 2011 MVP’s. After glowing training camp reports that forecasted a return to his superstar form in 2014-2015, Rose has mostly struggled for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup. But that doesn’t necessarily suggest his labors will carry over to the NBA season – Rose was bound for a major adjustment after almost two years away from competitive basketball. So that he began that re-acclimation with the national team as opposed to the Chicago Bulls is actually a boon for Tom Thibodeau and company, as Rose will be more comfortable once the season finally kicks off in late October. By spring, then, don’t be surprised if his 2K rating is several points higher.
16. Anthony Davis: 86 (+2)
- The 21 year-old’s star has only risen since the end of an eye-opening 2013-2014 season that accelerated his path to superstardom. Though he’s been Team USA’s best player, Davis hasn’t shown off the drastically improved skill-game in Spain that’s been reported. We think he’ll do so for the New Orleans Pelicans, however, willing them to playoff contention in a loaded Western Conference in the process. And if so, 2015’s will be the last iteration of 2K that ranks Davis this relatively low.
15. James Harden: 86 (+1)
- It’s time for Harden’s narrative to sway back the other direction. Though hardly the best player in the league at his current stage, Harden wouldn’t be far from it if his commitment defensively comes close to matching his effort on the other end. There only a select few players in the world more influential on offense than the Houston Rockets’ divisive superstar, but his porous defense and (beneficial) penchant for drawing fouls has made him a lightning rod for criticism. If Harden can make good on reports from Team USA training camp that his defense has improved, even this esteemed rating will prove low – whether the public supports that belief or not.
14. Kevin Love: 87 (+1)
- What a difference a summer makes. The face of bumbling mediocrity with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love suddenly finds himself a second banana – or even third wheel – for the championship contending Cleveland Cavaliers. His unique offensive game is an absolutely seamless fit with the Cavs; it’s he and his teammates’ performance on the other end that will likely dictate how far Cleveland goes in its first season of relevance since 2010. That aside, don’t be surprised if Love’s elite efficiency improves this season. There’s a possibility that despite his excellent performance in Minnesota, Love was miscast as his team’s first scoring option; as a souped-up ancillary scorer, he’s poised for even greater dominance in 2014-2015.
13. LaMarcus Aldridge: 87 (-2)
- The subject of incessant trade rumors before Portland storybook 2013-2014, Aldridge finds himself in a far different position just one year later. His unique and aesthetically pleasing merits as a primary scorer get most of the attention, but put to bed last season was the long-held notion that Aldridge was “soft” and was uncomfortable handling the rigors of physical NBA play. Perhaps more than anything else, that was the most important and influential development of his banner campaign. Firmly entrenched as a franchise cornerstone with a basic contract extension looming next summer, look for Aldridge to build on a career season in 2014-2015 even if his numbers take a step back to accommodate the growth of his team.
12. Carmelo Anthony: 87 (-4)
- It’s a shame that arguably the best season of Anthony’s hallowed career was wasted playing for the 2013-2014 New York Knicks. Always one of the several most gifted individual scorers in basketball, Anthony adjusted his game last season to account for ousted coach Mike Woodson’s puzzling decision to play him on the wing as opposed to at nominal power forward. The results were as unsurprising as they were stunning: Carmelo took fewer shots at the rim and in the paint than ever before yet still managed arguably the most efficient campaign of his career. Why? In addition to typical mid-range prowess, he’s developed into one of the game’s truly premier long-range marksmen. After slimming down in an effort to best utilize the triangle offense implemented by Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson, we could be in for another change to ‘Melo’s game. Let’s just say we’re expecting it to work.
11. Kobe Bryant: 88 (-5)
- Frankly, this seems high for a 36 year-old coming off of two major lower body injuries – even one as physically and mentally gifted as Bryant. But Kobe is insisting that his newly adjusted game will be just as good as his previous one, and the folks at 2K were bullish on Bryant in their final ranking of last year’s game. His days as a franchise-level talent are behind him, though, and – unfortunately, it should be noted – we’re expecting that ugly reality to rear its head in 2014-2015. Kobe will be good and perhaps even great this season, but not the eleventh best player in the league. So get in your games with Bryant now; he surely won’t be rated so highly for next year’s edition of 2K.
10. Paul George: 88 (-4)
- Like his playing peers and sponsors, we’re expecting George’s comeback from early August’s devastating leg injury to be fruitful. Unfortunately, though, it’s a virtual guarantee that it won’t come until the 2015-2016 season. Virtual PG, though, will still be very, very good for the Indiana Pacers this season.
9. Dwight Howard: 88 (-3)
- Howard’s playoff numbers against the Trail Blazers last season: 26.0 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 62.5 percent at the free throw line. He’s not the athlete he once was, the development of his post-game has stalled, and his reluctance to serve full-time as the game’s greatest pick-and-roll dive man is very, very frustrating. But Howard is still arguably the game’s best two-way big man, and his standing here reflects that oft-forgotten reality. Don’t be shocked if he has a huge regular season, too; the Houston Rockets need him to play to his full capabilities to account for such a poor offseason.
8. Tony Parker: 88 (+2)
- Look at the San Antonio Spurs getting respect! For shame that it took a fifth title in 15 years for it to happen, but at least it’s finally here. When Parker is healthy and playing full-tilt, he’s clearly still among the several best point guards in the league – that’s just been easy for fans to forget given playing constraints ingeniously placed on he and his teammates by Gregg Popovich. Clearly, 2K remembers. Here’s a leaked screenshot of what looks to be San Antonio’s ratings for this year’s game. Spoiler alert: 2K15 is especially high on one of Parker’s teammates, too.
7. Steph Curry: 89 (+1)
- What a testament to Curry’s all-around offensive prowess that he could post a career-low in three-point shooting percentage – a still mind-boggling 42.4, by the way – last season and still manage unequivocally the best season of his career. The world’s best shooter is also one of its premier ball ballhandlers and passers, but it was Curry’s development from close-range that spurred him to new heights in 2013-2014. He notched career-bests in both accuracy and frequency from the restricted area last season, making 60 percent and taking 16.2 percent of his shots at the rim, numbers far higher than those established in 2012-2013. It wouldn’t surprise if Curry has even bigger things in store for 2014-2015, too. Often hamstrung by the predictable, stagnant nature of Mark Jackson’s offense in the past few years, he stands to grossly benefit from motion- and continuity- based concepts implemented by new coach Steve Kerr.
6. Blake Griffin: 89 (+2)
- Griffin fully realized the fruits of his long underrated floor game under the guidance of Doc Rivers last season, notching a career-high with 24.1 points per game due to wholesale, all-court aggression and further development of his jumper, handle, and rare passing ability. You’ll no longer hear the tired notion from misinformed fans that Griffin is just a dunker; he’s still a high-flyer, obviously, but is now clearly among the most skilled big men in basketball, too. It was no accident that Griffin ranked third in MVP voting last season. And given that he’s just 25 years-old and still improving, it seems likely Griffin gets even more consideration for the award going forward.
5. Russell Westbrook: 89 (-1)
- Is there a player in basketball more relentless than Westbrook? After missing 36 games last season due to lingering effects of a May 2013 knee injury, conventional wisdom said Westbrook would struggle. Nope. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s dynamo point guard followed up a typically awesome regular season with even play in the postseason, averaging a crazy 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists in 19 games against the likes of Mike Conley, Parker, and Chris Paul. After electing against playing for Team USA this summer to get some much-needed rest, Westbrook is poised for another huge campaign in 2014-2015. Here’s hoping it’s healthier than last season’s, too.
4. Tim Duncan: 90 (+3)
- We wondered who would emerge as the fourth player ranked in the 90s for this edition of 2K. Let’s just say we didn’t consider Duncan until the screenshot leaked which confirmed that unlikelihood.
- Who’s to say Timmy really isn’t the fourth best player in the NBA, though? Certainly not us, and kudos to 2K for taking the bold stance of rewarding Duncan’s longstanding individual influence and unparalleled team success accordingly. We almost wish they would have gone a step farther and given him the cover.
3. Chris Paul: 92 (-1)
- Ho-hum. Another historic season for one of the best point guards of all-time. The amazing thing about Paul’s continued dominance is that its been sustained despite a rash of injuries leading to a change in the way he plays. Now only capable of spurts of the elite athleticism he showcased as a New Orleans Hornet, Paul’s effectiveness hasn’t waned because he’s arguably the most cerebral player in basketball. No playmaker directs a game like CP3, orchestrating offense and getting teammates involved in the early going before taking over as assassin with the result on the line. After suffering injuries that left him sidelined for part of the 2013-2014 regular season and limited for the playoffs, let’s hope a restful summer has gotten him healthy for the coming year.
2. Kevin Durant: 95 (0)
- We already know the 2K15 cover boy’s rating, and its one he earned after an absolutely brilliant 2013-2014. Firmly established as the world’s second best player going into last season, Durant could have rested on his laurels and remained as simply one of the best scorers this game has ever seen. Instead, KD became the second-most versatile player in basketball during his MVP campaign, making major, major strides as a passer and defender. At most any other time in NBA history, Durant would be far and away the league’s top dog. At just 25 years-old, of course, there’s ample time for him to earn that hallowed distinction. Considering that Durant has improves every season, it surely won’t be long until he does. And when that happens, his rating will grow even higher, too.
1. LeBron James: 97 (-2)
- The King is coming home.
(Video via Shady00018)
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