Champions. Superstars. And perhaps one of the greatest comeback stories in the history of esports. In Season 2, T-Wolves Gaming rebounded from a 3-6 start and made it all the way to the Finals where they took down 76ers GC to win the title. A truly special sports story that gave birth to one of the league’s best and most captivating players, BearDaBeast. A lot comes with wearing the crown, including a massive target on their backs. They’ll get the best of every team this year, since everyone always wants to take down the champs. However, spend a few minutes with the T-Wolves Gaming crew and you realize very quickly that they have already moved on from their historic season. They want the back-to-back titles and there might not be many teams who can stand in their way.
Coach: Justin Butler
Justin Butler took the reigns from Head Coach/GM Shawn Vilvens last season and coached the team to the title. When Butler came in, the team was 1-3. By the time the regular season was over, the team was 10-6 as the No. 4 seed in the Playoffs. They were definitely running the system that Vilvens had installed, but keeping a team focused through internal changes deserves a ton of credit. Without Justin Butler, this team doesn’t win a title.
Season 2 Team MVP: BearDaBeast
Say hello to the one of the faces of the league! BearDaBeast’s story started with him falling in the Season 2 Draft to T-Wolves Gaming to No. 13 overall, a move that would set in motion the very fabric of the league. He became the leader of this team quickly and soon became one of the best players the league has to offer. We can go into his regular season stats, but they don’t do him justice considering how challenging the first half of the season was for the team. Here were his stats in the Playoffs, as they give a much better picture into the kind of player he is: 19.8 PPG, 12 APG, 64.7% FG, 64.3% FG3. Complete and utter domination.
Best Stat From Season 2: 7-game win streak to make the Playoffs
Something really special about late-season title runs: The rush of wondering whether a team is going to be able to see it through is what a sports fan lives for. The best part about the T-Wolves’ 7-game win streak is what preceded it. The last game they ever lost in the regular season was the fateful game against Cavs Legion GC where they lost an 18-point 4th quarter lead. That was rock bottom. It was all uphill from there. They’d go on to finish the regular season with an incredible buzzer-beating win against Blazer5 Gaming that was an instant classic. We’ve used this section to talk about a lot of fascinating statistics, some that really help contextualize a team’s whole season. Nothing beats winning and nothing beats the T-Wolves’ winning streak. Makes you wonder if we’ll ever see a run like that again.
22. Big Saint
With the way the league is structured, it’s nearly impossible to bring back your entire starting 5 from one season to another, title teams included. The T-Wolves were forced to watch Turnupdefense, the keystone to their defense down the stretch, get drafted by Gen.G in the Expansion Draft, leaving a huge hole on the wing as the primary defender. Lucky for the T-Wolves, BearDaBeast has very talented friends. Enter Big Saint (or baby Saint as Bear calls him). Big Saint is a perfect replacement for Turnup, but he plays the position much differently. Turnup excelled last year at staying within his game and forcing opponents to make mistakes. Big Saint is much more aggressive and loves to get opponents out of their comfort zone. He’s a very vocal player and loves to go toe-to-toe with point guards. He’ll be a great player for them on stage and his combination with Feast on defense should be fantastic. Detoxys is a seasoned vet with two seasons of NBA 2K League experience. He’s a good role player and well-rounded off the court. He’ll fill in at PF/C and could see a good chunk of starts there as well.
SF: Big Saint
6th Man: Detoxys
1-5, this is a title-contending lineup. Arguably the best backcourt in the entire league, Bear and JMoney return to wreak havoc for a full season this time around. With the way the league-meta is shifting, JMoney is going to have the ball in his hands a lot as the secondary ball-handler, making him a bonafide offensive threat. Don’t be surprised if he adds 8+ PPG to his end-of-season total year over year. Bear is just fine with this as well. He’ll be the primary ball-handler and the offense will run through him no matter what. His play-making abilities should put him near the top of assists leaders this year, especially with a full season of JMoney next to him. Big Saint and Jojo/Detoxys will fit just fine playing the corner and shooting from the perimeter. Defensively, this team might somehow be better than they were last year. Feast getting the nod as the full-time center is going to instantly improve their paint defense and give them a very smart player to defend the pick-and-roll. Big Saint will take the primary ball-handler and funnel guys into the paint. Their base offense/defense is pretty vanilla, but the different intricacies that they install on both sides of the ball is what makes this team special. Their ability to adapt their play style on a per-opponent basis is unparalleled. This T-Wolves Gaming team is the definition of versatile. Each player can handle their position to match-up the best with the opposing team and it’s why this team is one to be feared across the league. Sure, they will primarily play the pick-and-roll, but it’ll never look the same game to game.
Season 3 Breakout Candidate: JMoney
We have not spent enough time talking about JMoney, who was one of the league’s best 10-15 players after he got traded to Minnesota. He goes into the season as maybe the league’s best secondary ball-handler and is going to have a full season to create chaos next to Bear. Every single statistic took a 10-20% leap for him after the trade, so a full season with this team should be a true “breakout” season for JMoney.
Season Outlook: Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown
Winning a title is hard. Winning two in a row is even harder. This team is incredibly good and is led by one of the best team leaders in all of esports. If they lose, it will not be for lack of talent, it may just be because the odds are stacked against them. Yes, it’s a fresh season. Yes, anything can happen in one given year, but history across sports suggests repeating will be a very tough task. Now for the good news: The T-Wolves won’t care about the percentages. They already beat the odds last year. This team is locked and loaded for another title run and once again playing with something to prove.