Prior to the advent of card-collecting modes or single-player campaigns, the most anticipated mode in a sports game used to be the franchise mode. There’s just something about managing all the behind-the-scenes stuff that really hammers home a realistic game experience. And it’s still there to be enjoyed, and it’s microtransaction free.
Enter NBA 2K19 and its revamped set of MyLeague sliders. NBA 2K’s franchise mode is deep, but it does need some tweaking under the hood. These sliders allow users to meticulously edit an absurd number of items, including the degree to which individual attributes progress and regress in various stages of a player’s career. You can also adjust what teams value in a player, using any player as a sample to see how these changes would affect that player’s contract values.
As you can imagine, these changes are enormous in scope. We’re only a few weeks removed from release date, which means users are still fine tuning their sliders. You can read all about it in our forums as plenty of people are doing great work.
Before I even attempt to adjust sliders or look for a good set to download, I decided to pick a franchise and run through a few seasons to see what 2K19 gets right out of the box and what requires adjusting via sliders. A few weeks down the road, I’ll do the same with a slider set, most likely from our forums, to see just how effective these sliders are at replicating the real NBA.
I decided to take control of the Dallas Mavericks. They have a relatively clean cap sheet to go along with two fascinating young players: explosive point guard Dennis Smith and international phenom Luka Doncic. With Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to see what sort of team I could build around these two young studs, with the goal of making some noise in the playoffs in the near future.
Jumping right into to the first day of the regular season, and with a ton of cap space already waiting for me, I set out to clear even more space by dealing away the only two big, non-rookie contracts I have on the books for next year: Harrison Barnes and Dwight Powell (both are player options, but neither is turning down that money in the current climate).
For Barnes and a future second-round pick, I’m somehow able to fleece the Atlanta Hawks for Alex Len and Dallas’ original first-round pick that they sent the Hawks to move up in the draft in order to take Doncic. This is something that I would hope slider tweaks could prevent as there is no way the Hawks would ever give up a first for one year of Harrison Barnes. That doesn’t make sense on any level. But for me, fictional Mavs GM? I couldn’t be happier.
From there, I was able to flip Powell to the Bulls for Justin Holiday’s expiring contract. These two deals secured me an additional $35 million in cap space this upcoming offseason. But I wasn’t done yet. NBA rules would prevent this for another few months, but I was able to solicit offers for DeAndre Jordan. I decided to do so since I had no intention on trying to re-sign him. The Kings took him and sent back Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield. DeAndre is obviously better than WCS, but I wouldn’t mind a high draft pick next year, so it’s a worthy gamble to take a flier on him for the year to see if he’s worth re-signing. Hield gives me more depth and another shooter, plus he’s under team control for another season.
As expected, the Mavericks did not have a good year. I finished with the second-worst record in the league at 22-60. The lone bright spot on the court was that Doncic was voted Rookie of the Year. The Warriors ended up winning their third title in a row, and their fourth in five years. In a strange twist, the Pistons ended up winning the East, and even took the Warriors to seven games in the Finals.
The offseason started with a bang as Mavs icon Dirk Nowitzki announced his retirement. That was followed up by a shocking move: the firing of head coach Rick Carlisle. His replacement? None other than Gregg Popovich. There’s no denying Carlisle’s talent, but Pop is the GOAT and I couldn’t pass up the chance to make a run at him.
Going in to the Draft Lottery, I had the second-best odds at the first pick. I ended up leaving with the fourth pick. A disappointment for sure, but a top-five pick is still exciting. I drafted Eugene Roy, a sharpshooting two guard with A potential. With Smith and Doncic already in the fold, I now have three athletic guards on the roster who can fill out the first three spots in the starting lineup. Now my focus will turn to finding frontcourt help.
I started free agency with enough cap space to sign two max free agents. Given that you’re limited to three offers per day, on the first day of free agency during the moratorium period, I had three targets: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. I offered all three max deals, along with no-trade clauses to KD and Kyrie. My dream was to land both KD and Boogie, sliding KD over to the four and starting Smith, Roy, Doncic, KD and Boogie.
Unfortunately, I ended up whiffing on all three. Kyrie and KD re-signed with their teams, and Boogie signed a max deal with the Kings. Right.
It quickly became clear that a home run was not going to happen this offseason, so I decided to focus on some solid singles, making sure not to mortgage my future cap space too much. To that end, here is who I ended up signing: Nikola Mirotic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Patrick Beverley, Kyle O’Quinn, Reggie Bullock, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. I also re-signed Cauley-Stein. This gave me the following rotation heading into the 2019-2020 season:
- PG: Smith / Beverley
- SG: Young / Hield / Bullock
- SF: Doncic / Bogdanovic / Ariza
- PF: Mirotic / Mbah a Moute
- C: Cauley-Stein / O’Quinn
As far as contracts go, I will say that 2K has gotten much better in this regard, but there were some head scratchers. D’Angelo Russell got 5/145 from the Nets for some reason. And as I stated above, the Kings gave max money to Boogie, something that would never happen after their messy divorce a few years ago, especially coming off of an Achilles injury not too long ago. Also, there were far too many one-year deals. These aren’t uncommon in the NBA, but it felt like an abnormal number of players settled for just one-year deals.
Also, on the first day of the season, there were way too many talented players left unsigned: Malcolm Brogdon, Julius Randle, Thaddeus Young, Wayne Ellington, JJ Redick, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, just to name a few. I could see one, maybe two still waiting for a deal as the season starts, but that is a rarity in general, let alone it happening to this many players.
Back to the Mavs and, unfortunately, we didn’t make the playoffs this year like I hoped. We ended with a 35-47 record. The playoffs ended the same way they have for the past four seasons: with a Warriors championship after sweeping the Hawks, of all teams.
The Mavs ended up with the eighth pick in the draft. I took Sheldon Dantley, a SF/PF hybrid with B potential. I’m confident in the future with four solid young pieces in the fold, but I was anxious for a little on-court success this season. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of premium free agents available. Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown were the headliners, but I’m not counting them as they both received max offers from their clubs, so my less than one percent chance at signing them away ended as you’d expect. As a result, it was a fairly quiet offseason. I added Al-Farouq Aminu and Tristan Thompson in free agency, along with re-signing Buddy Hield to a three-year deal.
At the start of the season, there were some talented young players left in the free agent pool again, including Kris Dunn and Domantas Sabonis. KCP never got signed last year and was still available. Dunn and KCP have underwhelmed so far, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario where they remain unsigned for any length of time, much less an entire season.
To my surprise and disappointment, the Mavs started off slow again, despite being ranked fifth in the preseason power rankings for the second straight year. At the trade deadline and more than 10 games below .500, I decided to try and make a major move. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to re-sign Dennis Smith at the price he was likely to demand. I attempted to open negotiations to see what he was looking for, but the system wouldn’t let me as you can only negotiate with players whose original contract was four or more years in length. NBA 2K handled this correctly as rookie-scale players can’t do the renegotiate and extend like non-rookies can on their long-term deals.
Knowing I wouldn’t try to re-sign Smith until the offseason, I decided to see what I could get for him on the trade market. As difficult as it is to trade away a franchise point guard, Doncic had developed into my top playmaker, so dumping 25-plus million per year into Smith was less than ideal. I badly needed help up front, so I ended up making this trade with the Magic:
- DALLAS TRADES: Dennis Smith, Patrick Beverley, 2022 second-round pick, 2021 first-round pick (top ten protected)
- ORLANDO TRADES: Mo Bamba and Laurence Wesley (last year’s second-overall pick, a PG with A- potential)
Wesley isn’t far behind Smith in overall rating, he’s younger, and I have him on his rookie deal for two more seasons after this one. Bamba gives me my franchise big man, and I also have one more season of his rookie deal, giving me one additional year to play around with cap space. Despite the disappointing finishes in recent seasons, I’m thrilled with my young core’s potential as I have five legit young starters in Wesley, Roy, Doncic, Dantley and Bamba.
My hope for the rest of the year was to struggle enough to keep my upcoming pick, but I couldn’t be too upset to see the Mavs get a spark post trade deadline, finishing 38-44 on the year with, unfortunately, the worst lottery odds. The Warriors captured their fifth title in a row. They lost one game the entire playoffs – game one of the Finals against the Raptors.
SEASON 4 AND BEYOND
With no draft pick at all this year, I skipped right to free agency and made my first big signing since taking over the Mavs, landing Lauri Markkanen on a max four-year deal with a player option. I could now slide Hield and Dantley back to the bench and field an all-prospect starting five of Wesley, Roy, Doncic, Markkanen and Bamba.
Following that signing, an odd glitch happened during free agency — one that I see all the time — where I was told a player I offered a contract to accepted another offer, but the very next day he was still in the free-agent pool. This happened with Cristiano Felicio, but I was able to sign him the day after I was told he signed somewhere else. You sometimes see this with the moratorium period as well, where you receive notice that a player signed somewhere, but once free agency officially opens on day one he’s in the free-agent pool.
With my roster now set for my fourth season as GM, I decided to let the computer take control and sim out a few years to see how the league looks and how players are rated. But first, I took a quick peak at my roster before season five started, and for some reason Doncic was a free agent despite his 88 rating. That doesn’t make the least bit of sense. Even if Dallas didn’t want to sign him, another team certainly would have. I then went ahead and simmed six more seasons for a total of 10. Things only managed to get more strange.
At the start of season 11, 17 teams were more than $60 million over the salary cap, with a handful of those teams $100 million or more over. That probably has something to do with the diluted talent pool. Out of the box, 2K19 features 60 players rated between 80-89. But by the start of the 2028-2029 season, that number shot from 60 to 233. That likely helps explain why so many teams are way over the cap as there are so many players that fall into max or near-max salary range. Sliders are definitely needed to help fix this.
That is where I ended the simulation as I feel like I have a clear picture now what needs to be touched up. Something needs to be done to get player ratings in check, which should in turn help normalize player contracts and team salary caps. In a few weeks, I’ll be back with a follow-up article where I sim another franchise (any suggestions?) for 10 seasons with a yet to be determined set of sliders.
What do you think of how MyLeague plays right out of the box? Have you played around with sliders? What do you think needs improving? Do you have any slider tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments!