Growing up as an ’80s baby, I was introduced to sports VERY early on. The last sport I was introduced to was basketball. I’ll never forget “Mickey Dordan” as I used to call His Airness; I was three. As I grew older and followed the elegance that was basketball, I always stuck to the Chicago Bulls. They were the first team I got to see play on TV. Michael Jordan was the first player I got to know.
I scrutinize and criticize everything the team does. Sometimes I like to think that I could probably run the team better than Gar Forman, so why not try to rebuild the Bulls to the greatness they once were? That’s when I blew the dust off of my PS4 and booted up good old NBA 2K17. And that’s where this fantastic voyage begins.
Firstly, I’d like to mention some things in the setup of this MyGM journey. It is MyGM, so some of the things that I managed to do might seem outlandish, but that’s the whole fun in doing it. I wrote a five-part short series on the “Best Young Players to Sign In NBA 2K17” and since I like to build off of youth and potential, I decided I’d challenge myself and try to acquire players off those lists. One of the things that was mentioned in the comments on most of the pieces about my young player selections were the complexity in acquiring some or all of the players on the lists; this was DEFINITELY the case. But it was a challenge I was willing to accept.
I started MyGM at the beginning of the 2016-17 season AFTER the NBA Draft and preseason. I felt that redoing the draft would have been a bit much. I knew that I was going to play games here and there, but would be doing some simulating through stretches. To ensure that I had near realistic stats, I hit up our trusty OS forums and used user Eggie25’s “New and Improved User Timing HOF Sliders” (shout outs to Eggie25, good job sir). Sim quarter length was 12 minutes (of course).
After starting up, the very first thing I did was look at my roster. There was a lot to fix, and I knew I wouldn’t get too far with what I had. I identified who I wanted to move, which was almost everyone. I really like Bobby Portis, so he was a piece that I wanted to develop and keep around. Denzel Valentine was my rookie and had high potential, so I wasn’t going to move him. Everybody else was expendable.
Right away I decided I wanted to move my valuable pieces out and try to bring some valuable pieces back in. Rajon Rondo was the first guy I decided to trade (so I started with the less valuable players first). Since he was my point guard, I opened up my article to have the full layout of point guards that were worthy of a trade. The guards were either young but core players, or a fortune to acquire. Kyrie was out of the question, so I decided to give Dennis Schroder a shot. I’ve always thought he was a good player, and I felt he’d be a good fit to run the point for my vision of the Bulls.
After trying several different trade options, I went for broke and pulled the trigger on a trade I thought bolstered my roster:
Chicago Bulls – Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser
Atlanta Hawks – Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard, Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr.
With this trade, I got my PG to run my starting unit. I also acquired Dwight Howard, who is still a monster in the game. I lost DWade, but I didn’t feel too sad about that; he could still play, but he was old. I was bringing in some youth and potential here.
I left myself tight at SG by trading Wade, so I decided to address that next. My PG and C spots were now locked up. I had Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis as my PFs so I wasn’t too concerned there.
I mulled through teams to see what I could get at SG. I also looked at my list for that position. Who out of the five players that I listed would be most beneficial for me? Washington was calling me. The only way I was going to pull of this trade was by moving Jimmy Buckets. Jimmy Butler was the defensive ID of my team, but I wanted to bring in some youth, and greed got the better of me. I was already trying to get Bradley Beal. Why not try for the double dip and get a SF back? I checked my list, and looked at the Wizards’ roster. Otto Porter, come on down! Once again, I spent a good bit of time trying to finesse the system. I was really trying to make this trade go down without sacrificing too much. In the end I got what I wanted, but at a price:
Chicago Bulls – Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez, Doug McDermott, 2019 1st/2nd-round picks
Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr.
This finalized my starting five. My bench was a little shaky, but I built a nice young nucleus that fit my vision nicely. I bit the bullet giving up my first- and second-round draft picks in the 2019 draft, but it was a necessary evil.
Up And Down We Go
Despite a 5-2 start to the season, I quickly realized that my PF spot was not as strong as I thought it was. I felt the need to make a move for a PF. So, I went hard to work to find another trade. After trying and failing miserably at getting Kristaps Porzingis and Jabari Parker, I decided to be a little more realistic and got a solid rebounder that could still improve. I really like Bobby Portis so I figured it’d be better to get a good role player for my four spot that would still allow Portis to get some court time to improve his game as well.
Chicago Bulls – Michael Carter-Williams, 2018 1st-round pick swap worst (Utah)
Utah Jazz – Derrick Favors, 2018 1st-round pick swap best (Chicago)
Favors is still young and he’s a workhorse, even if he’ll be due a massive payday soon. He’s a perfect fit for my team.
Since I traded away my backup point guard, I needed to pick up a veteran that could fill in behind Schroder and contribute with the second team. After scouring free agency, I went with a guy that had experience, good playoff experience, and could put in work offensively: Mo Williams.
As all my new players were trying to mesh together and pick up the system, I quickly went on a six game losing streak. I started to re-evaluate my roster (AGAIN) and looked at the dead weight I could try and get rid of to help out with either cap space or potential draft picks. Thanks to the handy “Trade Finder” feature, I was able to unload:
Chicago Bulls – Isaiah Canaan
Phoenix Suns – Alan Williams, 2017 2nd-round pick
I released Williams to free agency because I didn’t need him. I just wanted the additional draft pick. Point guard play was still frustrating me, and I realized that Dennis Schroder wasn’t a good fit for my vision.
Christmas Day rolled around. At this point in December, I had a 5-8 record and was 14-16 overall. I looked at teams I could deal Dennis Schroder to. After working trades for 45 minutes, I finally found a pairing that worked; Taj Gibson had asked me a couple weeks prior for a contract extension and I promised him one. Unfortunately I didn’t keep my promise. This caused me to fail one of my Owner Goals, and it had upset Taj so much that his morale dropped HEAVILY. I decided that with Derrick Favors and Bobby Portis I was good at the power forward position. Otto Porter could also fill in if need be. Taj needed to go.
Chicago Bulls – Dennis Schroder, Taj Gibson, 2017 1st-round pick (from Sacramento Kings, Top 10 Protected)
Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker
This trade changed the dynamic of my team dramatically. I now had a point guard that could take over a game. Not only could he pass and run the offense efficiently, he could also score. I finished out December with a 4-1 record, bringing my season record to 20-17, and a winning record to end 2016.
Going All In – Let’s Go For The ‘Chip
From January right until the end of the season, the team held on to their winning record and the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 43-39 record overall. Unfortunately there were no players on the team that received any awards, and surprisingly Kemba Walker was kept off of the All-NBA teams. This happened despite him making the All-Star team. His season stats weren’t anything to scoff at: 21.1 points per game, 8.1 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals per game. He shot 41.9 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line (not great percentages, admittedly).
In Round 1, the Detroit Pistons were quickly dismissed in a four-game sweep. They never stood a chance against my offense, where all five of my starters were in double digits every game. Kemba Walker was the star of the series.
Round 2 saw us matched up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their repeat wasn’t meant to be, as they lost both Kevin Love and LeBron James to a broken left ankle and broken left leg, respectively. Bradley Beal and company took advantage of this opportunity, and an injury to Kyrie Irving in Game 7, to close out the series.
The Conference Finals was a matchup with the Washington Wizards, who grew to be a season rival. Jimmy Butler’s salt from being traded was evident during the season, where he torched us every game we matched up against Washington. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, the Road to the Finals stopped in Chicago. Without Markieff Morris, Washington was dispatched in six games. My rebuilt fifth-seeded Chicago Bulls were on to the NBA Finals!
The NBA Finals – All Or Nothing
The NBA Finals. The place every basketball player hopes to reach. As the recently crowned Executive of the Year, I felt pretty proud knowing that I took a Chicago Bulls team that was decent and rebuilt them with the right youth and experience to have the fortitude to fight and make it to the Finals (we’ll ignore the insane injuries to the other competitors as well).
I realized after my near-collapse in Round 2 that I would need to address the depth on my bench if I hoped to improve for the 2017-18 season. But here we were, locked and loaded for a Finals matchup with…the Houston Rockets. We got spanked twice by the Rockets during the regular season, but this would be different. The playoffs are a whole different beast, where intensity levels are quadrupled and stars are born. It might have been the youth, or the glitz of the Finals — maybe it was fatigue. My Bulls quickly went down 3-0, and it looked like the ride was all over.
Then out of the blue, my boys caught their second wind. Losing Bradley Beal for Game 4 was a brutal blow. However, some unexpected help off the bench from Mo Williams (I KNEW his experience would pay off!) and a big game from Tim Hardaway Jr. left the Bulls to fight again. The 130-88 Game 4 win showed that our offense was still dangerous, even with our backs against the wall.
Game 5 was a nail biter. James Harden dropped 30, but couldn’t find his stroke from behind the arc. Bradley Beal returned from his one-game absence and got loose to the tune of 34 points and 4 rebounds. He shot a deadly 8-12 from behind the arc, which was a huge help.
Game 6 saw James Harden score 30 again, but he still didn’t have the touch from 3-point land. A big second quarter gave us a 76-50 lead at the half. Houston fought hard to come back but couldn’t go into overdrive, losing 122-108. Kemba Walker turned in a triple-double performance, and Bradly Beal was still hot beyond the arc, going 6-6.
ANYTHING IS POSSSIBLEE!!!!
Game 7. The fight to come back and now we were here. Could the Chicago Bulls one-up the Cleveland Cavaliers by coming back from 3-0 rather than 3-1? The Houston Rockets didn’t think so. Right out the gate, they played aggressively and attacked the paint. Dwight Howard had his nose broken in Game 6 and was playing injured. His awareness must have been lost or something because the paint was WIDE open all game. Despite adjustments, the Rockets ran rampant off of screens and backdoor passes, scoring at will inside. Chicago also committed an unsightly amount of turnovers…19 to be exact.
But in the second half, Kemba Walker put his head down and took the game into his own hands. The green light was fully lit, and Walker got hot late in the fourth quarter, hitting six consecutive 3s to bring the game within one with 12 seconds left. After an intentional foul and two free throws by Eric Gordon, the Bulls were down again by 3. Running an out-of-bounds play, Walker hit a step-back 3 off the pick and roll to tie the game with two seconds left! The Rockets called timeout and their subsequent inbound play went to…Clint Capela. He missed his 3-point attempt badly, sending the game to OT.
In overtime, in what would end up being the downfall of the Rockets, they mysteriously left James Harden on the bench. Chicago took full advantage of this blunder, using the double teams Houston was putting on Kemba Walker to free up Otto Porter and Bradley Beal for some clutch 3s. By the final whistle, the Chicago Bulls pulled off the improbable and erased a 20-point deficit to win the 2016-17 NBA Finals, 112-106.
Finals MVP went, of course, to Kemba Walker. His 26.9 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.3 RPG and 2.0 SPG put him at the top of the pack. His red hot 51.9 percent field-goal percentage and a steady 50 percent from the three-point line underlined why he got the award.
Getting Ready To Defend The ‘Chip
I went into the offseason thinking I needed to bolster the bench. The owner also gave me an offseason goal of signing a superstar rated 89 or higher during free agency. With the 30th overall pick and the second pick in Round 2 of the NBA Draft, I also had to make sure my scouts were up to the task. In addition, nine of my 13 players were either RFAs or UFAs, but my core nucleus was still intact.
Once draft night came, I chose Jaron Blossomgame from Clemson with my 30th-overall pick, and Edmond Sumner from Xavier with my second-round pick. After signing Blossomgame, I realized he wasn’t going to develop into much so I tried to figure out how to offload him. Because all the rookies were newly signed, I couldn’t move Blossomgame for 30 days. I picked up my player options on Bobby Portis, Mo Williams, Jerian Grant and Kelly Oubre Jr. I wanted to keep the team together (for the most part) so I gave qualifying offers to both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cristiano Felicio. I offered Hardaway Jr. a 2+1 deal at $6.5M. Felicio decided to test free agency, and I wasn’t going to bother trying to keep him with a pitch.
My secondary free agency goal was to sign a sixth man that had a rating of at least 77 overall. In a move to make some cap space, I made a trade that overstocked me at one position, gave me some options for other moves, but also left me with a two-year gap in the draft. I figured I might as well build up for another run at a title, especially after the season that just finished.
Chicago Bulls – Otto Porter, 2018 2nd-round pick (from Denver Nuggets), 2020 1st and 2nd-round picks (1st-round pick Top 3 Protected)
Boston Celtics – Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart
In Crowder I got a player that was similar to Otto Porter, but cheaper. He had a 3-year contract at $21.92M to Porter’s $63M contract. Crowder could shoot AND play defense. Marcus Smart, one of the point guards on my Young Guns list, was a defensive stalwart. It was a win for me. This trade also allowed me to look at getting rid of one of my other point guards to get some picks back.
Chicago Bulls – Jerian Grant
Golden State Warriors – 2020 1st and 2nd round picks
I passed my secondary GM goal by signing Nene to a 1+1 deal. I added a good depth player with experience that could play at the 4 or 5 spot. It was a good addition in my opinion.
Here is my current roster to start the 2017-18 season:
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
After seeing my journey in my first season, how do you think you’d handle control of your favorite NBA team? Feel free to comment!