Monday Tip-Off: Fixing NBA 2K’s Grading Logic

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games.

Something that I’ve complained about on the Podcast, as well as in previous columns and most recently in this Forum thread, is the problematic nature of the grading logic in NBA 2K. Although there have been some subtle improvements in recent years, it’s extremely rare that I play a game of MyCAREER or 2K Pro-Am where I’m not hit with a deduction that leaves me grumbling, and wondering how the grading logic figures that I should be penalised. Even in situations where my grade should take a hit, there are deductions that seem needlessly harsh.

Of course, at a certain point you need to channel those complaints into something more constructive, namely suggestions and solutions. Since we’ve tipped off the NBA 2K18 Wishlist, it’s come time to start talking about some of the improvements and additions we want to see, and how we believe certain problems should be addressed. Since I’ve been playing a lot of 2K Pro-Am and MyCAREER in NBA 2K17, my issues with the grading logic sprang immediately when I was considering what I wanted to talk about this week. Without any further ado, here is an outline of how I feel the grading logic can be fixed in future NBA 2K releases.

I’ve long felt that the general approach to the grading logic is skewed towards punishing mistakes rather than rewarding good play. There have been some improvements in that regard, but it’s still much easier to lower your teammate grade with a couple of mistakes than it is to raise it with competent play. A good teammate grade can fall very quickly with a couple of bad possessions, but it takes a lot more to bring the grade back up, even if you’ve been playing superbly up until that point. It’s a bit easier in MyCAREER since your player will likely be the focus, but in 2K Pro-Am, you might not get the opportunities to raise your grade very quickly.

Teammate Grade in NBA 2K17's 2K Pro-Am

Why is this important? Well, your teammate grade factors into your VC earnings, since you receive a bonus based on it. Additionally, a low teammate grade will get you booted from 2K Pro-Am games, “in fairness to your teammates”. A good idea in theory, but with the grading logic leaving something to be desired, it’s not exactly fair. Low teammate grades can easily be the result of gameplay flaws, a simple miscommunication, or a couple of forgivable errors, rather than truly being a bad teammate out on the floor. With the new squad options in NBA 2K17, kicking players should really be at the discretion of your teammates, or at least the team owner.

Regardless, the grading logic could stand to be fixed. An example of how the grading system favours penalising mistakes over rewarding good play is the way it will hand out multiple penalties for the same error. A specific scenario that comes to mind is being penalised for losing the ball, receiving another penalty if the loose ball then results in a turnover, with one more if the opponent then scores off the turnover. Even more ridiculous is getting hit with a “lose ball” penalty when you’re fouled on a reach-in, since the “draw foul” reward doesn’t fully negate the deduction. Multiple rewards do admittedly happen on good possessions, but once again, the boosts are smaller.

To that end, evening things out so that good play is rewarded as much as mistakes are penalised would be an excellent start. That way, even if there is something screwy such as receiving a reduction for losing the ball when it’s knocked loose on a foul, the reward for drawing the foul will basically cancel it out (and preferably, then some). I would also suggest that the higher the grade, the more it should take to either raise or lower it. That way, it’s a more accurate reflection of your overall performance over the course of the game. If you’re sitting on an A+ grade by the start of the fourth quarter, it should take some major blunders to bring it down.

Quadruple-Double in NBA 2K17's MyCAREER

It’s also important that the grading logic take context into account. The “allow offensive rebound” penalty seems a bit unfair when you’re a 6’4″ point guard doing all you can to box out a seven foot centre, but they manage to overpower you and snag the board anyway. I’ve also been hit with the deduction while guarding players on the perimeter, including one play where a long rebound fortuitously bounced straight into the hands of an opponent at the three-point line before I could react and get in front of them. The “defensive breakdown” deduction really seems to depend on whether the shot goes in or not, often ignoring the concept of “great defense, better offense”.

Then there are deductions that seem to defy all logic. On this play, I was hit with a “bad block attempt”, despite the fact I hustled back and altered the shot. I can only deduce that because Valor managed to get back and swat the shot, my unsuccessful block attempt (that nevertheless altered the shot and probably helped facilitate the swat from behind) was considered redundant and therefore a bad decision. To date, it may be the most bewildering deduction I’ve received in a MyCAREER or 2K Pro-Am game. It’s a fair call when I bite on a fake or otherwise jump prematurely, but that one made absolutely no sense. Good and bad shot selections are still a bit random, too.

Another contributing factor is the annoying issue of statistics not registering properly, or consistently. Sometimes the player who knocks the ball loose gets the steal, while other times the player who picks it up gets credited. Sometimes assists will count when a player dribbles the length of the floor, while other times no assist will be tallied if the recipient merely takes a couple of dribbles along the baseline, or fumbles the pass slightly. Similarly, there are times when you won’t get credit for things like knocking the ball loose, or forcing a pick up. If your grade is low and you need to make a couple of good plays to avoid getting kicked, it definitely hurts.

Winner's Circle in NBA 2K17's 2K Pro-Am

On the whole, I just want to see fairer and more consistent grading logic. That means more balance between penalties and rewards, and grades that don’t fluctuate as wildly over a couple of possessions. I’d like to see context taken into account, especially when there’s a mismatch and the overmatched player has done all that can be expected of them. I’d like to see legacy issues with inappropriate penalties and incorrectly tallied statistics resolved, as those problems have been present in a few iterations of NBA 2K now. I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but there are some very talented folks at Visual Concepts, and it’s an area that could really use some improvement.

If a good chunk of the Virtual Currency that can be earned and the prospect of being booted from a 2K Pro-Am game are both dependant on the teammate grade, then it’s imperative that the grading logic is fair and consistent. As it stands, it’s one of the elements of MyCAREER and 2K Pro-Am that feels very antiquated and “last gen”, due to some simplistic logic and unfair bias. Possession to possession, it’s one of the things I most want to see improved in those modes. If we’re going to be at its mercy, then it at least needs to play fair.

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March 6, 2017 4:47 pm

I play good defence but nope defensive breakdown kicks my fucking player out. I got 20 points on pro-am in a game but this stupid team grade fucks everything. 2K is garbage.