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. This week, I’m tipping things off with the results of the 2019 free agency period, according to the predictions of my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER game.
Right now, the talk of the NBA is the rapidly approaching 2019 Playoffs (and the fact that LeBron James won’t be partaking in them), but it won’t be long before attention turns to the offseason. Glancing at RealGM’s list of players who will be unrestricted free agents come July, the 2019 free agency period has the potential to be a wild one. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, Julius Randle, and Tobias Harris, are just some of the many significant names who will be available.
History suggests that for every big name that changes uniforms, another will stay put. In many cases, those players will make their decision contrary to all the speculation that they were definitely out the door, or a lock to re-sign. Sheepish admissions of being completely wrong aside, the speculation is still fun while it lasts. With the rise of basketball video games, it’s become quite fashionable to use their simulated results to generate predictions for the real NBA, whether it’s award winners, champions, or free agency signings. Having reached my second year in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER, I’ve seen some rather interesting moves take place. Let’s take a look!
The Players Who Stayed
Not everyone who enters free agency in 2019 will be moving on in the real NBA, and likewise, notable players did stay put in my NBA 2K19 MyCAREER. Additionally, since I started the game before the 2019 season, several transactions are not accounted for, while a handful of fictional trades took place during the first season. To that end, some players stayed with teams in the game that they’ve already departed in real life. Some who were traded in-game also stuck with their new, fictional teams. In each of those instances, I’ll make a note of the situation. The major players who stayed put during the 2019 free agency period in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER were:
- Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
- Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)
- Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)
- Ricky Rubio (Utah Jazz)
- Al Horford (Boston Celtics)
- Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies; traded to Toronto in reality)
- Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors; traded to Memphis in reality)
- Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks; traded to Sacramento in reality)
- DeAndre Jordan (Dallas Mavericks; traded to New York in reality)
- Goran Dragic (Memphis Grizzlies; still with Miami in reality)
Despite the speculation, I’m expecting Durant will remain with the Warriors. While winning a couple of championships (and possibly a third this season) takes a lot of the pressure off, and may set up a situation where he moves on in order to prove himself elsewhere as LeBron James did when he went back to Cleveland in 2014, it seems unlikely. I imagine Kemba Walker is staying put, and Ricky Rubio and Al Horford are good bets to remain where they are as well. The most questionable prediction is Kawhi Leonard re-signing with Toronto, but with the season they’ve had, along with the chance they have to rule the East for years to come, it’s not unthinkable.
The Mundane (But Noteworthy) & Plausible
These predictions for 2019 free agency moves are far from a lock and in many cases, very likely won’t happen. They’re not necessarily unthinkable, however. That these players would move on from their current teams isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, though the specific teams they ended up on here may well be wide of the mark. Some of the signings are also interesting due to a player’s history, and in one case, placed a player on a team that they’ve ended up on in real life (namely Nikola Mirotic, who was actually traded to the Milwaukee Bucks). Significant players who left for new teams during the 2019 free agency period are as follows:
- Tobias Harris (Dallas Mavericks)
- Trevor Ariza (Detroit Pistons)
- Boban Marjanovic (New York Knicks)
- Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz)
- Nikola Mirotic (Milwaukee Bucks)
- Jeremy Lin (Memphis Grizzlies)
- Kenneth Faried (Orlando Magic)
- Taj Gibson (Charlotte Hornets)
- Carmelo Anthony (Los Angeles Clippers)
- Greg Monroe (San Antonio Spurs)
Enes Kanter returning to the Jazz was interesting to see, and perhaps not impossible. I could see Taj Gibson moving on from Minnesota with Tim Thibodeau gone, while Greg Monroe would be a solid pickup for the Spurs. Jeremy Lin has bounced around the league a bit, as has Trevor Ariza. In this reality, Boban Marjanovic hasn’t followed Tobias Harris, who is probably going to be highly sought after and would be a great addition for a rebuilding Mavericks team. Kenneth Faried’s career resurgence might draw the interest of a team like the Magic, while a team like the Clippers could give Carmelo Anthony one last run. Some bold predictions, but nothing too outrageous.
The Somewhat Unlikely & Unusual
While a few of the previous predictions seem somewhat unlikely, I have even less confidence that we’ll see the following moves come this year’s free agency. With that being said, a couple of moves aren’t completely implausible, but don’t seem the best fit for the team’s current direction. Once again, we also have a couple of interesting moves, and players signing on for another stint with a team they previously played for. If I had to guess, I’d suggest that a few of these players will be staying put in real life as they’re already in good situations, playing for teams that will likely want to keep them. Nevertheless, MyCAREER predicts that these players will move on:
- Marcin Gortat (Chicago Bulls)
- Javale McGee (Philadelphia 76ers)
- Hassan Whiteside (Sacramento Kings)
- Tyson Chandler (New Orleans Pelicans)
- Dwight Howard (New Orleans Pelicans)
- Rudy Gay (New Orleans Pelicans)
- Eric Bledsoe (Orlando Magic)
- Eric Gordon (Brooklyn Nets)
- Nikola Vucevic (Brooklyn Nets)
- J.J. Redick (Minnesota Timberwolves)
I was surprised to see my Bulls sign Marcin Gortat after winning the championship, particularly since Robin Lopez and Joakim Noah are still on the team. The Pelicans still have Anthony Davis, but I don’t see the real team surrounding him with Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Rudy Gay in an attempt to keep him. The Nets are on the rise, but I’m not sure about them being able to nab both Eric Gordon and Nikola Vucevic. Hassan Whiteside began his career with the Kings, so it’d be an interesting return, albeit unexpected. The same goes for the Javale McGee, Eric Bledsoe, and J.J. Redick signings. Something about those teams just doesn’t seem right.
The Highly Unlikely & Bizarre
Finally, we come to the moves that I just can’t see happening during the real 2019 free agency period. We’ve got a couple of players delaying their retirement, some highly unlikely destinations for players who can almost assuredly be counted on to re-sign or go to practically any other team, and a player who is somehow out of the league, even though it doesn’t seem like their career is quite done yet. I guess you never know and it’s not like we haven’t seen unexpected free agency signings before, but some of these moves feel like they’ve happened for the sole purpose of shaking up the league in the second year of MyCAREER. Brace yourself for these unexpected signings:
- Kyrie Irving (Atlanta Hawks)
- Klay Thompson (Los Angeles Lakers)
- DeMarcus Cousins (Indiana Pacers)
- Dwyane Wade (Sacramento Kings)
- Patrick Beverley (Atlanta Hawks)
- Jimmy Butler (Dallas Mavericks)
- Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- Khris Middleton (Memphis Grizzlies)
- Al Jefferson (Golden State Warriors)
- Derrick Rose (Unsigned)
There’s a lot of talk about where Kyrie Irving will end up, but I doubt he and Patrick Beverley will join Trae Young in Atlanta. Klay Thompson, a Laker? It does seem unlikely. Dwyane Wade is done, though not in my game, where he missed the 2019 season. Al Jefferson, who just retired, replaces DeMarcus Cousins on the Warriors. The latter is now a Pacer, which is truly out of left field! The same can be said for Khris Middleton, whom I imagine the Bucks will be keen to re-sign; ditto for Jimmy Butler and the 76ers. I don’t see Isaiah Thomas opting for a second stint in Cleveland, and Derrick Rose is back in form, so I don’t anticipate him retiring or going unsigned.
Overall, I’m not that impressed with, and rather sceptical of, the predictions that NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER has made pertaining to the 2019 free agency period in real life. I don’t see a lot of them being accurate, though a number of those players may indeed join new teams; just not the ones they’ve ended up with here. As far as what it’s meant for my experience on the virtual hardwood, it’s been interesting and amusing to see. With some big names now in unexpected places, it alters the landscape of the league, making for new matchups and a weird, fantasy future. As for the Bulls’ future moves, I may have to start throwing my weight around, now that I can influence them.