NBA free agency for the 2018 offseason is mostly wrapped up after a little over two weeks of chaos. We’ve seen an expected move where a beloved King has taken his throne to the Los Angeles Lakers; we’ve also seen the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors double down on guaranteeing a three-peat by signing an expressive, talented but potentially distracting center to their already stacked roster; we’ve even seen Kawhi get his trade, just not to the destination he was expecting to go. Using our good friend NBA 2K18 and a fantastic roster from community roster creating workhorse Professor2k (@Prof2kTweets), I took the liberty of breaking down who I think the top three powerhouse teams will be in NBA 2K19 for each conference. Also this week I took a quick peek at the squads I think would be tremendous fun to start a rebuild with in MyLeague. Let’s get to the nitty gritty!
Best In The West
It’s been an argument that NBA fans have had for years, and is now no longer an argument to be had at all. The Western Conference is now, without question, completely stacked. The balance in the league, or lack thereof, can’t be denied. And it’s all because of one player: LeBron James. In signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, King James has thrown off the little piece of balance left in the league; adding fuel to the fire, DeMarcus Cousins decided to sign a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, essentially making them the real life Monstars (if there were ever a time that this reference could be used…EVER, this is it). Here are the teams that should be the cream of the crop in NBA 2K19 from the Western Conference.
1 – Golden State Warriors
I don’t even need to write anything about this team. Mentioning their name is almost as infuriating as being a Cleveland Cavaliers fan and watching JR Smith’s “Shaqtin’ A Fool” hall of fame moment from game one of this year’s NBA Finals. This team is absolutely unfair. With a potential starting five overall rating average of 91, fear is easily placed in any person brave enough to try and take down this absolute beast of a team. Having virtually their whole roster intact fresh off winning a second NBA Championship in a row (now with less JaVale McGee and Nick Young), the Warriors are solid top to bottom. The bench cast is solid, so don’t think you’ll have a chance to pull a comeback if your opponent decides to rest all their starters at once, which rarely happens — it’s a video game after all. The only caveat with this Warriors squad actually comes into play in real life, and if you’re a true to life sim fan like myself, could affect the roster in-game as well should you decide to have his ailment applied; DeMarcus Cousins is coming off of a torn Achilles and reports indicate that he might not see game action until late December or early January. That, in addition to the Warriors still not really solving their backup wing problem, means the team is a little light on depth. This still obviously doesn’t affect Golden State much as they have arguably the best player in the world in Kevin Durant, as well Splash Brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Oh, and don’t forget about Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. There’s no other way to put it, and in NBA 2K19 a fully healthy Warriors squad will be a chore to beat.
2 – Houston Rockets
Placing Houston in the number two spot was an obvious but complicated decision for me after they lost key players in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. Clint Capela’s current ongoing negotiations with the Rockets seem to have hit a snag as he feels he’s worth more than the $85 million, five-year deal that the team has offered him. Should Capela decide to re-up (no one really has the cap space left to poach him), and with rumors now heating up that the Rockets are looking to snag Carmelo Anthony once he clears waivers after his imminent release from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets will solidify themselves again as the second best team in the Western Conference (at least in video game form, real-life Melo may have some more sabotage in his bag of tricks). As it stands now, the majority of the team is the same as last year’s 65-17 Rockets squad, sans Ariza and Mbah A Moute. Carmelo Anthony’s defensive game is nowhere near the level of Ariza’s, but if he can manage to find his offensive touch again, he could perhaps finally be the Olympics Melo that everyone has been waiting to see outside of the Olympics. Chris Paul and James Harden are always going to be a dangerous backcourt duo to use, and with Capela rim running that’s still a menacing trio. Houston’s ability to continue to hit the three-ball, and mostly maintain their gains on defense (even with two solid wings leaving) will be the swing elements for this team.
3 – Oklahoma City Thunder
I really could have put any team here for the third spot; spots 3 to 8 are really a toss up based on last season, and I think we’ll have more of the same this upcoming season. I’ve gone with OKC here because they currently still have the same roster. They are going to waive Carmelo Anthony any day now so that will be a loss, but based on his mediocre season last year and the way the team played into the 4th overall spot in the Western Conference, I feel like the Thunder will battle their way into the third seed. Playing with a returning Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams will always bode will for you offensively — and it will be another year of continuity to build on. Throwing in Andre Roberson (who hopefully will be back and healthy) gives you a pretty stout set of players on the defensive end of the ball as well. In NBA 2K19 terms, this really is a major toss up who ends up the third-best team, but the Thunder look like it to me right now — and that also depends on where an extremely disgruntled Kawhi Leonard ends up.
Beasts Of The East
Over in the Eastern Conference, the departure of LeBron James has opened up a path for what I believe are the three best teams in the conference to make their mark. Easily the “weaker” conference, the top three teams are still no joke. Here are the three consensus choices for top team in NBA 2K19 from the Eastern Conference.
After a terrible injury to Gordon Hayward in the opening game of the 2017-18 NBA season, a lot of people thought that Boston’s chances at making the Eastern Conference and possibly NBA Finals were out the window. A very strong roster and stellar coaching from Brad Stevens saw Boston lock in as the second-overall seed in the East. A fully healthy roster and no roster moves (to this point) easily lock Boston in as the top seed for the 2018-19 season; a trip to the NBA Finals looks like a great bet if their key players can stay healthy. Boston is a pretty stacked team; they’re a load of fun to use in NBA 2K18, and that’ll translate right over to NBA 2K19. With players like Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and impressive 2018 rookie Jayson Tatum, the Celtics will be tough to beat.
2 – Toronto Raptors
After being swept (again) by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors really appeared to live up to claims from pundits that they were a “fake” one seed in the Eastern Conference last season. These claims were made after Toronto finished with a 59-23 record in the Eastern Conference and had the second-best record in the NBA as a whole. The 2018-19 season sees the Raptors bringing back the exact same roster as last year with a change in coaching, moving away from 2018 Coach of the Year winner Dwane Casey and promoting assistant coach Nick Nurse. The system shouldn’t change much. However, the players have changed as now Kawhi Leonard is heading to the Raptors (along with Danny Green) for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. In video game terms, Kawhi and DeMar are both really good, but if Kawhi is healthy this should make the Raptors even more dangerous in real life than in 2K. Regardless, what may be even bigger for the Raptors is just LeBron leaving the conference so the Raptors can’t lose to him anymore before the NBA Finals. The irony, of course, is finally having one theoretical LeBron Stopper (Kawhi), and a secondary one like OG Anunoby/Pascal Siakam/Danny Green ready to go the year after he leaves the conference. Either way, the Toronto Raptors will be the second best team in the East.
3 – Philadelphia 76ers
This young squad showed last year that after building through the draft and finally getting (mostly) healthy, they were ready to breakout. Behind Joel Embiid, impressive second-year rookie Ben Simmons and a good supporting cast, the team finished third in the East and will look to challenge for the first spot this year. At this point in the offseason the roster remains largely unchanged. The 76ers brought in veteran Wilson Chandler, and picked up athletic guard Zhaire Smith in the 2018 NBA Draft, but their main pieces remain the same. They’ll definitely make some noise in the NBA this upcoming season, and if Markelle Fultz can figure things out, it will be an even more fun team to choose in NBA 2K19.