— Note: This article reflects the opinions of this writer and does not reflect the views of the NBA 2K League or its clubs. —
What an insane, exciting 24 hours for the NBA 2K League.
The 2018 expansion draft, broadcast live on Twitch and Twitter, is in the books, and eight players (actually, more!) are on their way to their new teams. The four expansion teams drafted two players apiece in a snake-style draft. Each new team made franchise-shaping decisions that will play a huge role in the first years of their franchise.
So, let’s see how they did.
There are two components of these draft grades that I want to enumerate before I receive the usual belittlement. I considered whether or not I thought a team achieved its own particular objective in the draft and whether or not it maximized its potential for season two. Every team did well by the first metric and performed at least competently in the second.
And yes, a little excitement never hurt anyone’s draft grade.
Hawks Talon GC: A-
Hawks Talon made the smart, safe selection with the first overall pick. Former Blazer5 Gaming forward DatBoyShotz was the consensus top player available to the expansion teams, and Jonathan Raber and the Hawks made no mistake in selecting him first. He figures to be a franchise-caliber player and scorer from day one in Atlanta.
The top available rebounder will join Shotz in the Peach State. Arsonal, expected by some to go in the first round of the expansion draft, was a key cog in Celtics Crossover Gaming’s balanced offensive attack last season. He and Shotz will form a very potent frontcourt pairing that can score and rebound with ease.
Although the Hawks got the best player available as well as a potential steal, they’ll want to find a lockdown defender, especially with that position’s current importance in 2K19, as well as institute a system that maximizes the offensive talents of Shotz and Arsonal away from their tried-and-true season one systems.
Nets Gaming Crew: A-
Nets Gaming Crew entered the draft with a target in mind and nailed it. Immediately fostering a New York rivalry, they snagged former Knicks Gaming Finals MVP NateKahl second overall. Nate, arguably the best defender in the league, will be a perfect fit to establish NetsGC’s culture and provide a flexible weapon on both ends of the court.
Curt and NGartrelle then shocked several people by selecting former Pacers Gaming big man Shockey seventh overall. The first-ever NBA 2K League free agent, Shockey made an impressive impact in his limited playing time with Pacers Gaming, displaying high-level stick skills and intangibles. He’ll combine with Nate to give the Nets one of the most diligent and defensive frontcourts in the entire league.
I was hardly surprised by the Nate pick, and I really liked the Shockey selection. The Nets didn’t need to make a splash to get what they wanted, but they’ll need to find some primary scoring as well as ensure that their players consistently display the skill the flashed late last season.
T-Wolves Gaming: A
The T-Wolves came out swinging, dealing the third pick in the expansion draft (oLarry) to Cavs Legion GC for Hood, one of the most talented scorers in the entire league. He appeared on SportsCenter the very first night of the NBA 2K League TIPOFF tournament after posting two 40-point games. The T-Wolves didn’t roll with the flow, but instead went out and got Hood, the dynamic offensive player not available to them otherwise.
The T-Wolves also made a brilliant complementary selection in iFeast, who honed his pick-and-roll game with Radiant on 76ers GC last season. He also just happens to be one of the premier on-ball defenders in the league. Feast will fit in seamlessly with Hood on the court and provide a level of two-way production matched by few of his peers.
The T-Wolves made the most out of their expansion draft. They’ll need to be sure to find the right situation for Hood, but Feast’s flexibility and the sheer excitement of the trade compelled me to hand the T-Wolves the only straight-A of the draft.
Lakers Gaming: B+
Lakers Gaming had the back-to-back 4th and 5th picks of the draft, and nabbed two former first-rounder picks in Mootyy and KontruL. Mootyy came on strong last season after Kings Guard made a drastic lineup change that cleared up the paint, and Mootyy seized the opportunity and averaged a double-double after the change. He knows all about being under bright lights from the start; is there a better personality fit than Lakers Gaming?
Lakers Gaming then took KontruL, the lone guard selected in the draft. It makes perfect positional sense, taking a pick-and-roll partner for Mootyy and someone who might be able to explode with full situational control (KontruL?) of the offense. KontuL had a solid season that flew a little under the radar, but as a franchise cornerstone he’ll need to take it to the next level.
I’ll give the Lakers the lowest grade (not a low one by any means), though not because I think they did particularly poorly. Rather, I think there’s simply less certainty about whether Mootyy will replicate his late-season form and whether KontruL will take his offensive game to the next level.