You've created a fresh new MyLeague save full of possibilities. You want to change things up this year and pick a franchise that you've never played as before.
Here's my way-too-early ranked list thinking through which teams might provide the most interesting franchise-building experiences in the next edition of our beloved game/real life:
To explain my thinking for you, this is what I value when starting a franchise (in order):
- Young star player
- Flexibility to make transactions (cap, expiring contracts, picks, etc.)
- Interesting supporting talent
In other words, playing as the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors is an ideal franchise for me. Young star player (Steph), flexibility to get rid of players like David Lee and Andrew Bogut, good young talent (Green, Barnes, Thompson), solid depth, and an underdog feel to the team. Fast-forward five years later and Golden State is my least fun franchise to play with. I want to be the one to build them up into the unstoppable force they are today.
The young star is the most important factor to me since I feel it is the one thing you cannot work to get in NBA 2K no matter how crafty a GM you prove to be. The 5-10 young superstars in the league are always, as they should be, essentially untouchable.
Final side note: I like to play at least semi-realistically. For instance, I know that I can trade Blake Griffin and his mega-max contract for good value via "Trade Finder" on the first day of my save, but that would probably never happen in real life. That is how I will approach this ranking
The Limited Fun Crowd
30. Golden State Warriors
Core: Steph Curry (30), Draymond Green (28), Klay Thompson (28), Kevin Durant (29), Andre Iguodala (34), Shaun Livingston (32), DeMarcus Cousins (27), Jordan Bell (23)
Most exciting young player: Bell
Cap space + Assets: -$40 million
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: Imagine your first off-season with this team. Re-sign Klay. Then...simulate the rest of the crap? No thanks.
29. Detroit Pistons
Core: Blake Griffin (29), Andre Drummond (24), Reggie Jackson (28), Stanley Johnson (22), Luke Kennard (22)
Most exciting young player: Stanley Johnson
Cap space + Assets: -$19 million
On trade block Day 1: Jackson
Explanation: The Griffin and Jackson contracts are just killers, especially considering both will probably take a downturn in the first few seasons. I'd have to move Drummond to get this team going in a new direction since he is the kind of non-shooting big man I don't care to build around. The young players aren't very interesting, especially since Johnson is not a strong shooter. Pass.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Core: Kevin Love (29), Tristan Thompson (27), George Hill (32), Collin Sexton (19), Larry Nance Jr. (25)
Most exciting young player: Sexton
Cap space + Assets: -$8 million
On trade block Day 1: Love, Clarkson
Explanation: The saving grace here is the interesting options you'd have in a Kevin Love trade. Everything else is scorched earth.
27. Miami Heat
Core: Whiteside (29), Goran Dragic (32), Dion Waiters (26), Kelly Olynyk (27), Tyler Johnson (25), James Johnson (31), Josh Richardson (24), Justice Winslow (22), Bam Adebayo (20)
Most exciting young player: Winslow
Cap space + Assets: -$20 million, no 2021 1st round pick
On trade block Day 1: Tyler Johnson
Explanation: No star, and Winslow is consistently underrated by 2K (down to a 78 potential this year), in my opinion. Bad contracts like Johnson and Whiteside bring this team down. Fine for win-now purposes, but I don't look forward to building around a non-shooting wing and Josh Richardson.
26. Brooklyn Nets
Core: Allen Crabbe (26), Kenneth Faried (28), D'Angelo Russell (22), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23), Caris LeVert (23), Jarrett Allen (20), Spencer Dinwiddie (25)
Most exciting young player: Russell?
Cap space + Assets: -$14 million, lots of expiring contracts, including Carroll's $14 mil/year
On trade block Day 1: ?
Explanation: Fun if you like a rebuild project. The young pieces are cool, but the problems are clear here. It would probably take a really unrealistic FA signing to make this team much better within 2-3 seasons.
25. Charlotte Hornets
Core: Kemba Walker (28), Cody Zeller (25), Nic Batum (29), Marvin Williams (32), MKG (24), Jeremy Lamb (26), Miles Bridges (20), Malik Monk (20)
Most exciting young player: Monk
Cap space + Assets: -$18 million (ouch...)
On trade block Day 1: Batum
Explanation: My real-life favorite team...and a team that I never choose in 2K. They're very, very slow. Monk and Bridges will probably be a very fun duo, but there are 5 or 6 contracts you probably don't want on this team. MKG's lack of shooting is depressing. Frank Kaminsky is not a great option. And Kemba is on a completely different timeline from your young guys.
24. L.A. Clippers
Core: Danilo Gallinari (29), Tobias Harris (25), Marcin Gortat (34), Avery Bradley (27), Louis Williams (31), Patrick Beverly (29), Boban Marjanovic (29), Milos Toedosic (31), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19), Jerome Robinson (21), Marcin Gortat (34)
Most exciting young players: SGA and Robinson
Cap space + Assets: -$18 million, no 2019 1st round pick if not 1-14
On trade block Day 1: Gallinari
Explanation: SGA and Robinson are really interesting young pieces, and I like Harris (expiring contract) and Bradley. But it's pretty barren after that. No chance of obtaining a star with any ease. Louis is getting older, Pat Bev is an unexciting option, and Gallinari is not a player I've ever liked. I'd always prefer the young pieces of a Dallas or Sacramento instead.
The Middle Class and Almost Elite
23. Washington Wizards
Core: John Wall (27), Bradley Beal (25), Otto Porter Jr. (25), Kelly Oubre (22)
Most exciting young player: Oubre
Cap space + Assets: -$33 million
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: Zero depth. Wall and Beal are much more fun in 2K than they are in real-life, which is good, but I just don't see where you go from here. You have your big three set (with A LOT of money committed to them), but, if you trade any of them, you're suddenly missing one of the pieces you need for this team to be good. And will Beal or Wall ever be even top-3 players at their positions? Who knows...
22. Portland Trail Blazers
Core: Damian Lillard (27), C.J. McCollum (26), Evan Turner (29), Jusuf Nurkic (23), Maurice Harkless (25), Al-Farouq Aminu (27), Zach Collins (20), Gary Trent Jr. (19)
Most exciting young player: Zach Collins
Cap space + Assets: -$30 million
On trade block Day 1: Turner
Explanation: Similar to the Wizards but with a few more options. You probably have to trade Lillard or McCollum to make this team reach its peak, but I'm not sure who to send out or who to bring in. The money situation is also uncomfortable.
21. Houston Rockets
Core: James Harden (28), Chris Paul (33), Eric Gordon (29), P.J. Tucker (33), Clint Capela (24), Carmelo Anthony (34)
Most exciting young player: Capela
Cap space + Assets: -$32 million
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: The appeal here is building the team that finally knocks Golden State off its pedestal. The problem is that you're pretty much locked into this roster for the next 3-5 seasons, unless you feel like trading Chris Paul, which the Rockets would never consider doing in real life.
20. OKC Thunder
Core: Russell Westbrook (29), Paul George (28), Steven Adams (24!), Andre Roberson (26), Jerami Grant (24), Nerlens Noel (24), Patrick Patterson (29), Dennis Schroder (24)
Most exciting young player:
Cap space + Assets: -$43 million, no 2020 1st round pick if not 1-20
On trade block Day 1: Patterson
Explanation: If you're a Russ guy, this could be a very fun franchise. He's a blast to play as in 2K, and George is a fun compliment. Biggest problem is the absolute lack of youth and assets. The best young player on the team is 24-year-old Adams, and he's pretty much who is always going to be as a player. Plus, look at that cap number...GEEZ.
19. San Antonio Spurs
Core: DeMar DeRozan (28), LaMarcus Aldridge (32), Patty Mills (29), Pau Gasol (38), Davis Bertans (25), Marco Belinelli (32), Rudy Gay (31), Manu Ginobili (40), Dejounte Murray (21), Derrick White (24), Lonnie Walker IV (19), Jakob Poetl (22)
Most exciting young players: Lonnie Walker and Murray
Cap space + Assets: -$21 million
On trade block Day 1: Gasol
Explanation: I think they're pretty interesting to play as if you are not a big 3-point shooter. Murray and Walker are really fun complements to DeMar and Aldridge, who is still a beast at 32. Plus, Mills, Gay, Gasol, and Poetl always have trade value in 2K, so you can make moves early to keep things moving before Pop retires.
18. Memphis Grizzlies
Core: Mike Conley (30), Marc Gasol (33), JaMychal Green (28), Kyle Anderson (24), Jaren Jackson Jr. (19), Dillon Brooks (22)
Most exciting young player: 3xJ
Cap space + Assets: -$19 million, no 2019 pick if not 1-8
On trade block Day 1: Green
Explanation: This is a fun rebuild team since you actually have valuable pieces to blow up and a potential stud in Jaren Jackson to serve as your core. Trade Gasol for some valuable pieces, move a bad contract or two, and you're looking at one of the most interesting 2019 summer windows of any franchise in the game. They'd be top-12 if you didn't have to deal with the crappy Parsons contract until 2020.
17. Indiana Pacers
Core: Victor Oladipo (26), Thaddeus Young (30), Cory Joseph (26), Bojan Bogdanovic (29), Darren Collison (30), Tyreke Evans (28), Myles Turner (22), Domantas Sabonis (22)
Most exciting young players: Sabonis, Turner
Cap space + Assets: -$2 million
On trade block Day 1: Thad Young
Explanation: I just don't see Turner or Sabonis turning into the #2 guy on a really good team (though 2K clocks Turner at an 87 potential), but I also don't see them as immediate trade assets. I like CoJo, Bojan, and Collison, but none of them could get a lot of minutes in a Finals series. I loved how this team played against Lebron's Cavs in the 2018 playoffs, but it'll take some serious maneuvering to get them where you want them to be. The cap flexibility will help. I just wish they had one more guy besides Dipo! If I'm you, I go after one of the Trail Blazer guards and get rocking from there.
The Young and Talented
16. Dallas Mavericks
Core: Harrison Barnes (26), DeAndre Jordan (30), Luka Doncic (19), Dennis Smith Jr. (20)
Most exciting young player: Doncic
Cap space + Assets: $7 million (Matthews expiring contract--$17 million)
On trade block Day 1: Powell
Explanation: While the other teams in this range have three potential stars, Dallas has only been able to find two. I suspect that Barnes will not be rated highly enough in 2k19 to get you that third star, either. Another small issue: while Smith Jr. is a very fun player on 2K, I suspect that the passing/vision-oriented game of Doncic (potential: 88) will not translate well for most players.
15. Chicago Bulls
Core: Zach Lavine (23), Kris Dunn (24), Wendell Carter Jr. (19), Lauri Markkanen (21), Bobby Portis (23), Jabari Parker (23)
Most exciting young player: Carter Jr.
Cap space + Assets: -$3 million
On trade block Day 1: Jabari
Explanation: Lavine is a much better video game basketball player than he is in real life, so he's actually not a bad contract to have on the payroll. And Portis has trade value. Lauri and Wendell are the real show here, though, and there's a chance both become top-10 bigs in the league within the next 4-5 seasons. Markkanen has an unfortunately low potential of 86. You could certainly do worse for a rebuilding team.
14. Sacramento Kings
Core: Iman Shumpert (28), Bogdan Bogdanovic (25), Zach Randolph (36), Marvin Bagley III (19), Willie Cauley-Stein (25), Buddy Hield (24), De'Aaron Fox (20), Justin Jackson (23), Harry Giles (20)
Most exciting young players: Fox and Bagley
Cap space + Assets: $19 million, 2019 negative pick swap with Philadelphia
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: Just a tad less talented than the Magic and a lot more flexible than the Bulls. Giles is the weak link in this growing big 3, but Sacramento could easily skip past #13 if their young players start strong in 2018-19.
13. Orlando Magic
Core: Evan Fournier (25), Aaron Gordon (22), Nikola Vucevic (27), Terrence Ross (27), Jonathon Simmons (28), Mo Bamba (20), Jonathan Isaac (20)
Most exciting young players: Isaac and Bamba
Cap space + Assets: -$10 million
On trade block Day 1: Vucevic
Explanation: A more flexible version of Chicago. Vucevic and Ross are expirings. Gordon is 22 (though he is stuck with a brutal 82 potential). Bamba and Isaac are 20! The goal is to find a young guard in the first year to run with those three. You can certainly do worse than beginning the save with three long-term starters on your team already.
12. Toronto Raptors
Core: Kawhi Leonard (27), Kyle Lowry (32), Serge Ibaka (28), Jonas Valanciunas (26), Norman Powell (25), C.J. Miles (31), Fred VanFleet (24), Jakob Poeltl (22), Pascal Siakam (24), OG Anunoby (20)
Most exciting young player: OG Anunoby (potential 77, which must be fixed soon I bet)
Cap space + Assets: -$36 million
On trade block Day 1: Norman Powell or Serge Ibaka
Explanation: I like this team just from the flexibility you have. Trade Lowry and build around Leonard? Trade Leonard and build around the young guys? Trade everybody but your two stars, and see if you can beat the rest of the league with depth and strategic flexibility? If you like options or are a really big Kawhi guy, this is your team.
11. Atlanta Hawks
Core: Trae Young (19), John Collins (20), Taurean Prince (23), and Kent Bazemore (29), Jeremy Lin (30)
Most exciting young players: Trae Young and John Collins
Cap space + Assets: $-4 million, 2019 Dallas 1st Round Pick
On trade block Day 1: Bazemore
Explanation: I'm not a Trae Young guy, so you won't see me with any Hawks saves this coming year. However, they have more cap space for the foreseeable future than any other team in the league (Lin's contract makes the figure above misleading), and Collins-Prince-Young is an interesting Diet version of 2013-14 Golden State. As close to a blank slate as you'll find, with more assets than any of the teams in this range, you can pretty much take this franchise wherever you want to within 2 or 3 years. (And, since it's 2k, you'll have the cap room to sign a superstar in 2019 no problem.)
The Mega-Watt Young Superstars
This is where things get interesting. There are only a small number of mega-watt young superstars in this game. Anthony Davis, Giannis, Ben Simmons, Embiid, KP, KAT, Booker, Jokic, Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell. (We can probably throw in Deandre Ayton and his 93 potential,) Those are the near-untouchable guys I'm after, and this is where I actually begin my search:
10. Boston Celtics
Core: Gordon Hayward (28), Al Horford (32), Kyrie Irving (26), Jaylen Brown (21), Jayson Tatum (20!), Marcus Morris (28), Terry Rozier (24), Marcus Smart (24)
Most exciting young player: Jayson Tatum
Cap space + Assets: -$13 million, 2 extra 1st round picks
On trade block Day 1: Rozier
Explanation: Too easy. That's the only complaint I have here, but it's a big one. Danny Ainge has essentially created a 2K dream squad here. A top-10 player in Irving, two top-25 players, the most untouchable young player in the league (who plays the most valuable position in the league), and two really, really good young guys in Brown and Smart. Plus a stash of draft picks still. Fun if you want to just destroy the East for the next decade.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Core: Joel Embiid (24), Robert Covington (27), Wilson Chandler (31), Ben Simmons (21), Markelle Fultz (20), J.J. Redick (34), Dario Saric (24), Justin Anderson (24), Zhaire Smith (19), Richaun Holmes (24), T.J. McConnell (26), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Furkan Korkmaz (20)
Most exciting young player: Zhaire Smith
Cap space + Assets: -$3 million, 2019 pick swap with Sacramento, 2021 1st round pick from Miami
On trade block Day 1: Covington
Explanation: Like Boston, this one feels too easy. You'll have 2 of the top 10 players in the league within the first 2 seasons of your career. That's before we mention the cap space, whatever Markelle Fultz is, Saric, and Zhaire Smith. Plus great depth and a few extra 1st round picks. If you cannot make this work, go play MyTeam.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Core: Andrew Wiggins (23), Jimmy Butler (28), Gorgui Dieng (28), Jeff Teague (30), Taj Gibson (33), Karl-Anthony Towns (22), Jamal Crawford (38), Tyus Jones (22), Derrick Rose (29)
Most exciting young player: Tyus Jones
Cap space + Assets: -$20 million
On trade block Day 1: Dieng
Explanation: This team's lack of chemistry is gross to me as a basketball coach. It makes sense, though. KAT and Wiggins seem to enjoy playing basketball while Butler and Tibbs act like they would cut off each other's ears to just win a playoff game. It's a strange dynamic that would prevent me from choosing this team in my 2K experience. But, unless Ronnie and the gang radically change how they view him and his future, KAT is going to be a top-5 player after a few seasons in 2k19 (95 potential!). He is the perfect big man for modern space-and-pace basketball, and he's about a thousand miles from his ceiling. Wiggins is a much better video game player than he is real-life player. And Butler is a beast. The money situation is a problem here. Wiggins makes an absurd $36 million in 2018-19, so trade him away if you don't care about realism. Or trade Butler if you do.
7. New York Knicks
Core: Joakim Noah (33), Tim Hardaway Jr. (26), Enes Kanter (26), Courtney Lee (32), Lance Thomas (30), Kristaps Porzingis (22), Emmanuel Mudiay (22), Kevin Knox (18), Frank Ntilikina (19)
Most exciting young players: Knox and Ntilikina
Cap space + Assets: -$7 million
On trade block Day 1: Hardaway Jr.
Explanation: KP is about as close to a cheat code as it gets in NBA 2K. His injury concerns in real life are lessened in the game, and Knox + Ntilikina should be a starter-quality duo if they are rated in a positive light. Plus, how cool is it to take the Knicks back to the top? Trade away Kanter, Thomas, and Hardaway Jr., and let the Latvian Lord begin his reign.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
Core: Jrue Holiday (28), Anthony Davis (25), Solomon Hill (27), E'Twaun Moore (29), Julius Randle (23), Nikola Mirotic (27)
Most exciting young player: Randle
Cap space + Assets: -$11 million
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: Anthony Davis. My favorite player in the league besides the guy on #3. Only Ben Simmons and Giannis might be "more fun" to play with in 2K than this guy. Their lack of a draft pick this year really hurts when looking at the post-Boogie Pelicans. I wish AD had someone interesting on the roster besides Jrue, but it is what it is.
5. Denver Nuggets
Core: Nikola Jokic (23), Gary Harris (23), Paul Millsap (33), Will Barton (27), Trey Lyles (22), Jamal Murray (21), Michael Porter Jr. (20), Juan Hernangomez (22), Isaiah Thomas (29)
Most exciting young players: Murray and MPJ
Cap space + Assets: -$15 million
On trade block Day 1: Thomas (2K is never easy on the little guys..)
Explanation: Super underrated team. It is interesting to see Porter Jr. pulled down an 88 potential in 2k19. Even before they drafted him, this team was going to be really, really fun. If you're the kind of player who can make use of Jokic's inside-out game, you're ready to roll. Murray and Harris are one of the most interesting young duos in the league, Jokic is your foundation, and you can probably move Barton or Millsap to find a wing who fits with your timeline. I'm thinking poach Jaylen Brown? What an athletic, skilled starting 5 that'd be! My big hang up is that Jokic is not terribly fun to play with in 2K. He's slow, plays below the rim, and needs another big to help on D. That conflicts harshly with how I like to play.
4. L.A. Lakers
Core: Lebron James (33), Brandon Ingram (20), Lonzo Ball (20), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (25), Rajon Rondo (32), Kyle Kuzma (22), Josh Hart (23)
Most exciting young players: Ingram and Ball
Cap space + Assets: -$1 million
On trade block Day 1:
Explanation: They had to be at least this high, right? I am actually more interested in the young guys than in the King. LeBron will make this a team capable of a deep playoff run (depending on your difficult level) in Year 1, and things only get brighter from there. Ingram is going into his third year, and the dude's 20 years old. Ball and Kuzma are likely long-term starters for you, depending on your play style, and you'll have ALL the cap room in 2019 to sign Klay, Kawhi, Kemba, and a bunch of other studs.
3. Phoenix Suns
Core: Devin Booker (21), Tyson Chandler (35), T.J. Warren (24), Jared Dudley (33), Deandre Ayton (19), Trevor Ariza (33), Dragan Bender (20), Josh Jackson (21), Mikal Bridges (21)
Most exciting young players: Ayton and Bridges
Cap space + Assets: -$2 million, 2019 first round pick from Milwaukee
On trade block Day 1: Warren and Chriss
Explanation: I considered putting them above the #1 and #2 team but couldn't quite get there. The Suns have finally convinced me to give them a try in MyLeague. I still think they will probably turn out to be duds in real life over the next few years, but their video game version will be incredible. Booker is a made-for-2K kind of player. Ayton will be solid in the game Year 1 and carries a massive potential rating. Josh Jackson is solid both ways, and you have trade pieces galore if you're willing to part with Bender or Warren (both of whom you should be more than willing to part with).
2. Utah Jazz
Core: Rudy Gobert (26), Ricky Rubio (27), Joe Ingles (30), Alec Burks (26), Derrick Favors (26), Jae Crowder (28), Dante Exum (22), Donovan Mitchell (21), Grayson Allen (22)
Most exciting young players: Allen and Exum
Cap space + Assets: -$14 million
On trade block Day 1: Burks
Explanation: The Jazz are probably too high on this list. I don't care. If you watched their 2018 playoffs series against Russ and OKC, you're probably in the same boat as me. Mitchell is the real deal, and he's a blast to play in 2K. Combine Mitchell with Gobert (under contract at $25 million) until 2021, you have the freedom to make a thousand different moves from the jump. Like Rubio? Great. Keep him and push Mitchell to the 2 and trade Burks or Exum or both. Not a Rubio fan? Fine. Push Mitchell to the 1, back him up with Exum, and trade for a wing. The moves in Year 1 won't be flashy, but this is a great challenge for the aspiring GM.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
Core: Giannis Antetokounmpo (23!!), Eric Bledsoe (28), Khris Middleton (26), John Henson (27), Tony Snell (26), Matthew Dellavedova (27), Ersan Ilyasova (31), Thon Maker (21), Donte DiVincenzo (21), Malcolm Brogdon (25)
Most exciting young player: Maker
Cap space + Assets: -$14 million, 2019 1st round pick probably goes to Phoenix
On trade block Day 1: Bledsoe
Explanation: Giannis is 23, and his 96 potential means he and AD will be at the top of the league within two seasons. Figure out the rest.