Six weeks of the 12-week regular season have been played, and two in-season tournaments are complete. The 100th game in league history took place between 76ers GC and Blazer5 Gaming, and the 200th game in league history — Game 2 of the Finals — might well feature those same two teams. One in-season tournament remains: “The Ticket,” July 13, whose winner earns an automatic playoff berth. Blazer5 Gaming currently sit at the top of the league with an unblemished 7-0 regular season record; they’ve only lost one game, the final of “The Tipoff” tournament, to 76ers GC. Inverting true NBA fashion, Warriors Gaming Squad sit in last place with a 1-5 record (though good things happen to 1-5 teams coming off narrow losses to Blazer5, as two-in-a-row winners Raptors Uprising GC have shown). Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far and how we can apply that going forward.
What did we learn from the league’s first-ever games? Well, we learned that champions 76ers GC and runners-up Blazer5 Gaming are really good. That’s persisted, with undefeated Blazer5 now the top dogs and 5-2 76ers GC the challengers. We also learned that every game has the potential to be a close one, though some teams are capable enough to put their games in little doubt.
We saw that Kings Guard Gaming liked to play fast-paced with unspectacular results. That’s held up: they’re 3-4 and have lost four consecutive games after a hot regular-season start. Some teams failed to integrate their first-round picks successfully, and have long suffered the consequences: Warriors Gaming Squad has never really featured ShawnWin, and sit 1-5 after making it out of the group stage. Grizz Gaming hasn’t maximized the potential of Winner_Stayz_On; they sit 2-5 in 16th, and a DDouble2K last-second winner away from last.
Some top teams, though, have found their groove, keyed by their first-rounders. Fab, who dishes out approximately 17,000 assists every game, led 11th-seeded Celtics Crossover Gaming to second place and $25,000 at “The Turn.” First-seeded Blazer5 Gaming won it all, but in true NCAA tournament fashion the #12 and #13 seeds (Knicks Gaming and Warriors Gaming Squad, respectively) made noise, with #12 going all the way to a semifinal exit at the hands of Blazer5.
Magic Gaming had their four-game win streak snapped by (who else) Blazer5. After inserting sixth-round pick KingCamRoyalty into the lineup, the Magic beat the Grizz, Warriors, Knicks and Kings Guard. They’ve fallen to better teams since, though, including a close loss to Bucks Gaming and an absolute torching at the hands of 76ers GC, 87-47. “The Turn” seemed to preclude a fall from favor for Pistons GT, too: they were upset by Warriors Gaming Squad in the first round, and after showing resilience in a win over Cavs Legion GC, dropped two games in Week 6 in embarrassing fashion. They suffered a 25-point blowout at the hands of Dimez and Mavs Gaming, and then an arguably more demoralizing loss to 1-4 Pacers Gaming.
What can we expect from “The Ticket”? There’s more at stake here than ever before, as the winner gets an automatic playoff spot. By the time it tips off, the tournament may be the clear last chance for several teams who have already fallen from playoff contention. They’ll have to put it all on the line, but in what looks to be a single-elimination it’s unrealistic to expect the top teams to cede their dominance. More likely is that team in playoff limbo gets hot and offers the top dogs a challenge. Watch for Wizards District Gaming, who are a better team than their 3-4 record suggests; the talent is certainly there, although the perfect lineup may not have been found yet. Similarly dangerous are Cavs Legion GC, who look stronger than their still-solid 5-3 after “The Tipoff” star Hood returned to the lineup.
Thinking more generally, the league has shown great improvement from its first weekend. Overall viewership is up, and average concurrent viewership — the easy barometer of success — is trending upwards. The league has done well to improve Twitch streams, improving presentation and making smart personnel choices. Four games Friday night rather than a 3/7 split? Please retain that. June 29 is the deadline for the 13 NBA teams on the outside looking in to apply for an expansion team. The safe money is on about five teams joining, with the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets likely. There’s half a season left with much more excitement to come.