Defense wins championships, or so they say.
One of the most influential additions to Season 2 was the Pure Lockdown Defender archetype at the Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions. Defenses last season were built around the center position, but this year teams have elite-level defensive players in the back court or on the wing as well. This has changed almost everything for the league from scouting to drafting to on-court game planning to trades. Along with these broader changes, we have also seen many players use this archetype to show off their own defensive skillset and impact their team in ways that simply weren’t possible last year.
Let’s take a look at six players who have consistently balled out on the defensive side of the floor and pushed their teams to the very top of defensive effectiveness. These players are not ranked or in any sort of order.
ToXsiK – Grizz Gaming/Magic Gaming
Opp. PG (since trade): 9.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.5 TO, 57 FG%, 42.8 3P%
It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for one of the most well-known members of the 2K community. Prior to his trade to Magic Gaming, his fit with Grizz Gaming may not have been ideal. Since his trade, ToXsiK has put up defensive numbers far closer to what you’d expect from a player of his caliber. He is brilliant at fighting guards off the perimeter and forcing them into the mid-range. His steals and turnover numbers are relatively low compared to other locks, however, this could be due to his aggressiveness and his clear intention of keeping the other team’s best player off the ball entirely.
Sherm – Mavs Gaming
Opp. PG: 11.8 ppg, 7.25 apg, 5 TO, 41 FG%, 27 3P%
There are two key numbers to look at for Sherm. One is his efficiency at forcing turnovers and the other is what players are shooting from 3-point range against him. Let’s start with turnovers. With Rux and PeteBeBallin behind him, Sherm has been able to be hyper-aggressive all season long. This has allowed him to get into more passing lanes, reach in more often, and challenge more shots. He has forced four or more turnovers in 10 of his team’s 13 games this year. This aggressiveness can have it’s downsides, of course, as 7.25 opp. APG is among the higher numbers for pure locks for Season 2, but you’ll take that with all the other chaos he causes. Lastly, holding point guards to 27% shooting from 3-point range is incredible. For reference, PGs are shooting 44% from deep this year. He doesn’t just make you a worse shooter, he turns your 3-point shooting into a weakness.
WoLF 74 – Pacers Gaming
Opp. PG: 14.9 ppg, 7.5 apg, 4.2 TO, 45.7 FG%, 47.7 3P%
It’s important when studying stats to apply them to your own eye test for a player. Many times you’ll find the numbers simply not matching up to what you are seeing and WoLF is a perfect example. Multiple players in the 2K League pegged WoLF as the best lock in the league, but the numbers don’t necessarily back that up. His Opp. FG% and Opp. 3P% are much higher than you’d expect given his reputation. Context, however, is needed. You never want to excuse a player’s two worst games, but for fun, what happens when you take out the back-to-back 41- and 30-point performances dropped on him in back-to-back weeks?
10.1 ppg, 37.7 FG%, 36 3P%
That looks much more like stingy WoLF that we watch every week. He has allowed 20+ points only three times this season, but those three games have come in Pacers Gaming’s four losses. You want to beat Pacers Gaming? You better drop 20 or more on WoLF if you want a chance.
GoDDDof2K – Cavs Legion GC
Opp. PG: 9.8 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.8 TO, 50.5 FG%, 45.6 3P%
When preparing this article, GoDDDof2K was mentioned routinely by players as a top lock. The typical names were brought up — i.e. ToXsiK, LavishPhenom, WoLF 74 — but this one was a bit of a surprise. After much research, his stats are the perfect baseline for any player that wants to be considered an “elite lock.” Low overall point per game numbers despite average shooting percentages. A very high assist-to-turnover ratio goes very far as well, but he is truly elite at a much different skill.
He currently leads the league with 41 steals, five more than the player in 2nd place (Gradient) and has the same amount of steals as he does personal fouls. His pick-and-roll partners this season, oLarry, Sick x 973 and All Hail Trey, have given him complete freedom to wreak havoc in the backcourt and force point guards into extremely difficult situations. Low scoring + average shooting + good opp. assist-to-turnover ratio + high number of steals = game breaker.
LavishPhenom – Blazer5 Gaming
Opp. PG: 9.1 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.5 TO, 44 FG%, 38 3P%
There may not be a better 1-on-1 defender in the entire league right now than LavishPhenom. Not only does he have the most balanced overall numbers and an impressively low opp. PPG, he also hasn’t allowed a single 20-point game this year. Not one. DevGoss got close last week by putting up 18, but that’s it. Many will point to DPOY OneWildWalnut as his main helper on defense, but we would then be ignoring the amazing pick-and-roll partner work of Daveed 3x. Lavish and Daveed have been arguably the best pick and roll defensive duo this year and are a huge reason for Blazer5 currently ranking #1 in both opp. PPG and defensive efficiency. Mix all of this in with Lavish being one of the most vocal defenders in the league and you might just have a candidate for Season 2 Defensive Player of the Year.
Gradient – Warriors Gaming
Opp. players: 14 ppg, 7.3 apg, 4.5 TO, 51.1 FG%, 45.8 3P%
Gradient is last for a reason. Gradient is perhaps the only player in the league who is asked to do what he does. Every single game, regardless of who they are playing, he is in charge of shutting down the other team’s best offensive player. He is the only player in the league to switch back and forth from the 2 and 3 specifically to defend. The numbers under his name are the average performance of the team’s most dangerous wing or guard scorer every time they play the Warriors. The verdict? He turns every elite offensive player into a league-average player. Let’s give him the WoLF treatment. The last two games he and the Warriors played following THE TICKET powered by AT&T, which they won while he was the best defensive player of the whole tournament, were the two worst games they played all year. Here are his defensive stats without those two games:
10 ppg, 6.6 apg, 4.4 TO, 48 FG%, 41.8 3P%. Mind-bending.
These great numbers should also be attributed to the excellent team defense of the Warriors Gaming Squad as well to the great play of Jin and Type this year as one of the best defensive front court duos we have in the league. Gradient has taken advantage of the Pure Lockdown Defender archetype unlike anyone else in the league and after two tournament titles, it’s clear Warriors Gaming Squad is making the most of it.