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 a few thoughts on picking a team to use in franchise modes for the 2019 season.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” That’s how I’m feeling about career modes, which as I noted last week, I’m somewhat burned out on. Nevertheless, those of us who have been playing as the official NLSC Pro-Am squad these last few years have been talking about giving it another run in NBA 2K19, just to see if it’s something that we can enjoy in addition to our solo gaming. Alternatively, we might shake things up and see if we can get a game of MyLEAGUE Online going, perhaps even making a story topic out of it since activity is picking up on that board.
Whatever happens in that regard, I’m keen to return to my roots as a franchise gamer, and set career modes as a lower priority in my basketball gaming activities this year. It’s been too long since I allowed myself to get caught up in the fun and excitement of running a team, playing the role of head coach, general manager, and indeed, every player on the squad. In MyLEAGUE, we’ve never had a deeper franchise mode to sink our teeth into. Even if NBA Live 19’s Franchise mode isn’t everything that I’d like it to be, it’s still something I’ll check out. There’s an important question facing me however, no matter which franchise mode I play: which team should I choose?
Picking the right team is essential to having an enjoyable franchise experience. If you choose a team that’s a poor fit for you, you’re far more likely to lose interest before you even get past December in the first season. Basically, the whole scenario has to appeal to you. If you’re going to mostly stick with the team you’ve got, you need to like the players already on your roster. Conversely, if you’d like to shake things up, you’ll want a roster that gives you something to work with in terms of wheeling and dealing. You need to feel some affinity for your chosen team, and get enjoyment out of playing with them. In short, your team needs to be able to hold your interest.
The most logical approach for most franchise gamers is to choose their favourite NBA team (assuming of course that they have one). Picking your favourite team ticks a lot of boxes by default. You’re invested in their success, support the players on the roster, probably like their branding, and have your own ideas about what you’d do if you were calling the shots in the front office and/or on the sidelines. There’s a definite inbuilt appeal to controlling your favourite team in franchise modes. You can guide them to a championship – a prize they may be a long way off vying for in real life – and you don’t have to test your loyalties by having to beat them with another team.
Of course, depending on the state of your favourite team in real life, they may not be an appealing option. For those who are unaware, my favourite team is the Chicago Bulls. They’re obviously in a rebuilding phase right now, and those squads aren’t always the most fun to play with in video games. I remember trying to play with the post-Jordan, pre-Baby Bulls squad in NBA Live 2001, and losing my enthusiasm by the All-Star break. Even when a rebuilding team has a few good players – as that Bulls team did – their rosters are filled out by players that you know aren’t part of any long-term plans. Such players are often tough to trade, and don’t make the roster appealing.
If I’m playing MyLEAGUE, however, there is another option available to me. With the ability to start a new game in the offseason and make my own decisions before the 2019 season tips off, I’ll have more control over the rebuilding process. I needn’t have to re-sign Zach LaVine to a big four year deal. I can try to sign a free agent other than Jabari Parker, offer him less money, or opt to save that cap space for the next season. Should I try to persevere with the team that John Paxson and Gar Forman have put together, the frontcourt duo of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. might just be appealing enough to enjoy running with these Bulls, more or less as is.
Let’s say that the Bulls aren’t going to work out for me, though. What’s the next step if your favourite team is off the table? Well, logic dictates that you eliminate any teams that you particularly dislike or have players that you’re not a fan of, or are in a similar situation in terms of the overall appeal of their roster. To that end, while I think they will be fun teams to play with and wouldn’t discourage anyone else from using them, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers aren’t for me. The Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets are viable options, but might be too ready-made for my liking. I like the Charlotte Hornets’ branding, but I don’t know that I like their roster enough.
I’m somewhat intrigued by the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re a team on the rise, but not yet an established power in the West. Their roster isn’t completely stacked, but it’s respectably deep with players that I should enjoy playing with. Alternatively, they have enough talent to swing a few deals and reshape the team as I see fit. There are more than a couple of former Bulls on the squad – maybe another one if Luol Deng joins them following his buyout from the Lakers – which offers a feeling of having a connection with the team. The only drawback is that I’m really not a fan of their new jerseys and branding, except for the throwback that they’ll be wearing this year.
As far as blossoming teams are concerned, another viable and appealing choice would be the Philadelphia 76ers. In trusting the process, they’ve put together a fine young core that had a great year and showed a lot of promise last season. I’m a fan of Ben Simmons, seeing as how he’s Australian and also spent part of his childhood in my hometown, and the fact that both he and Joel Embiid are cover players this year makes the 76ers feel like an appropriate choice in either title. I like their jerseys, I like their roster, and to that end, I could definitely see myself assuming control of the team from the City of Brotherly Love in MyLEAGUE or Franchise mode.
Even though they’re a Central Division rival, the Milwaukee Bucks would be another option. Geographically, they’re close to Chicago, and while I’m a bit iffy about their current branding, their roster is certainly appealing. NBA 2K19 cover player Giannis Antetokounmpo is already a star, and in Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker, they have a couple of Aussies. Similarly, while it would be a tough challenge, getting one more ring for Dirk Nowitzki by assuming control of the Dallas Mavericks and their promising young roster strikes me as a fun idea. The New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Washington Wizards are also possibilities.
Whichever team I end up picking, I might play a few Play Now games with them first, just to make sure that I enjoy playing with them. Another thing that I’ll be keeping in mind – and I’d suggest this to all franchise gamers – is that if I find my chosen team really isn’t to my liking a few games into the season, I’ll let them go and start over. It’s much better than getting to February and realising that you don’t want to play with them anymore! I’ll also do my best to avoid common pitfalls that end up ruining a franchise game, such as making too many trades too soon. If I do end up maintaining a story topic, I’ll wait until I’m settled and really into the franchise experience first.
Fellow franchise mode enthusiasts, which team are you picking this year? Do you always choose your favourite team, or do you like to mix it up? What are your tips for choosing a good team for a franchise mode game? Do you have any suggestions for the team that I choose? Let me know in the comments section below!