Monday Tip-Off: MyPLAYER in the Middle

Monday Tip-Off: MyPLAYER in the Middle

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 recap of my experiences playing MyCAREER in NBA 2K20 with a MyPLAYER that’s a centre rather than a point guard. As a side note, please be forewarned that I use the Australian spelling of “centre” throughout this article.

My time playing MyCAREER regularly in NBA 2K20 has come to an end. After I ended up being drawn back into the mode, I finished a full season with my traditional point guard build, winning the championship and setting an assortment of records. The MyPLAYER build I chose has also proven to be suitable for online play, and while the online experience is as hit-and-miss as ever in NBA 2K20, when it has been good, I’ve really enjoyed playing my usual role. After starting the second season by averaging a quadruple-double, I’m going to try simming my way to the Hall of Fame.

That’s not the only experiment I’m running in MyCAREER, though. Although I do want to put the mode aside, I have created a second player. I’ve enjoyed being a point guard since being thrust into the role back in NBA 2K13, and have learned the meta-gaming idiosyncrasies for my preferred build at that position. It’s helped me rack up assists, which I’ve come to really enjoy doing. However, when I was playing in my local junior league many years ago, I was a centre that loved to rebound and block shots. I decided to create a MyPLAYER that reflected my actual playing style and position, in order to see what MyCAREER is like as the man in the middle.

To go into more detail about what I was like as a teenager playing in my local league, being one of the taller kids on the team, I naturally ended up being the centre. I had some experience playing pick-up at school and had developed some skills, but when I started playing competitively, I was still raw compared to kids who’d been playing longer (and now faced a larger amount of opponents around my height). Early on, my strongest skills were rebounding and defending the paint, with largely unpolished offensive moves. Over the years playing in the comp, I came to be able to shoot three-pointers, drive and post-up, and share ballhandling duties as a bit of a point-centre.

Halftime Cutscene in a MyCAREER Game (NBA 2K20)

I’d like to think that I ended up being a pretty decent player for the level and division I was in. I was never going to be a professional player – the thought never crossed my mind – but I won a couple of team MVP awards at our annual club presentation days, had some memorable games, and despite the best efforts of some terrible referees, I enjoyed playing with a great bunch of teammates. As far as my avatars on the virtual hardwood are concerned, I’ve always had to either fudge my height, or change up my build. After all, a 6’3″ centre isn’t going to cut it in the NBA; not even in video games! It’s one of the main reasons I’ve opted for a guard build, and ended up as a playmaker.

Still, after years of playing that role and successfully completing another campaign with a point guard MyPLAYER build, I wanted to see if I could create a player that was more in my image from my days playing through to the Under-19s comp in my local league. It wasn’t easy to get the right balance that reflected my penchant for getting rebounds and blocks as well as the offensive skills I ended up developing, but after messing around with all of the pie charts, I came up with a 6’11”, 249-pound Glass-Cleaning Lockdown, with the potential for some decent scoring ratings. It felt close enough, and didn’t grossly exaggerate my skillset as meta-gaming is wont to do.

I also avoided choosing an optimal jumpshot animation, or at the very least the one that I’m used to, which is Klay Thompson. Instead I opted for Kevin Love, as at a glance it’s similar enough to my form. If nothing else, it was different, suitable for a big man, and eschewed meta-gaming. I also went with some other basic animations, though without a stack of VC to immediately upgrade, many of them were locked anyway. I also skipped the story, so ended up with a 500 VC salary as per the nerf back in October. I chose to play for the Sacramento Kings, and prepared myself to try out MyCAREER as a 60 Overall Player, and an unfamiliar MyPLAYER build.

Glass-Cleaning Lockdown MyPLAYER Build (NBA 2K20)

And man, was it frustrating! Playing as a 60 Overall point guard isn’t a whole lot of fun either, but you’re at least a little bit quicker and more agile. As a lumbering big with a speed rating in the 50s and acceleration in the 40s, the feeling of running in mud that can be an issue with NBA 2K’s motion system was even more pronounced. I couldn’t recover or switch effectively on defense. I was outmuscled on the boards at both ends, and had absolutely no offensive moves. Basic layups felt impossible, and I wasn’t used to setting up down low and not handling the ball a majority of the time. The experience felt foreign, and I struggled to score or have much of an impact at all.

It’s also at this point that I became painfully aware of how lacklustre the teammate AI really is, especially when it comes to playmaking. Granted, it’d probably be a different experience if I chose a team with a star playmaker, though it felt like no one knew how to play basketball. Without the same level of control as I had running the point, I was really at the mercy of the AI’s poor decisions at both ends. My only points in my debut game came off of free throws, and I was 0-for-4 from the field. I did get ten boards and a couple of blocks, but I felt inept. Being throttled back to 60 Overall was obviously a factor, but I didn’t know how to play better than my ratings as a centre.

My second game was a little better as I had eight points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four blocks, but it didn’t feel good. I was 4-for-8 from the field, and it felt like I’d been lucky to make those four shots. Playing against the Jazz in my third game, I was schooled by Rudy Gobert. I struggled my way to six points and one rebound, and felt mostly useless. In a double overtime loss to Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets – in which I sat for a majority of both of the extra periods – I managed ten points to go along with four rebounds and three assists. While my turnovers were down since I was no longer handling the ball very much, my fouls per game shot right up as an interior defender.

"Play It Again, Fam" Trophy in NBA 2K20

After making some upgrades, I entered my fifth game at 68 Overall, and armed with a Silver Rebound Chaser Badge. It made a huge difference, as I was grabbing boards left and right, closing in on double digits not long after subbing into the game at the six minute mark. By halftime I had fifteen rebounds, and topped five at the offensive end to snag the elusive “Play It Again, Fam” Trophy (I’d collected twenty defensive boards with my point guard MyPLAYER build for the “Hoarder” Trophy). I figured that playing as a centre gave me a much better chance of getting those five offensive rebounds, so the experiment felt worthwhile for some Trophy Hunting if nothing else.

In twenty minutes against the Hornets in that fifth game, I ended up with ten points, twenty rebounds, and five assists. I still had trouble scoring effectively, though I put it down to an inability to dunk. The starting dunking ratings for a 6’11” centre are no better than they are for a 6’3″ point guard, which frankly is a glaring problem with the build. I’ve also noticed another troubling issue with big man builds. For the first ten games of MyCAREER in NBA 2K20, your coaches select the Badge drills in team practices. I figured that these drills would vary according to your build, but I found myself doing the same drills I had as a Playmaking Shot-Creator at point guard.

This meant that in one team practice, I was tasked to run the floor with a 3-on-2 break drill, followed by three consecutive three-point shooting drills. Apart from the generic drills such as the five minute fourth quarter scrimmage, the coaches have completely failed to select drills that are suited to my build; no rebounding or post-up drills, not even the drill for drawing charges! On the bright side, I’ve yet to be hit with 3-on-3 Continuous, though I assume that’ll come in later sessions. The bottom line is that MyCAREER really doesn’t cater to big man MyPLAYER builds that aren’t stretch fours and fives. It’s no wonder that most gamers opt to be point guards and wings!

MyPLAYER Dunking in NBA 2K20

Entering my sixth game, I upgraded a few more ratings to hit 70 Overall. Since my dunking ratings were now slightly higher, I also picked up a few more dunk packages. I also decided that I’d ease off on the “no meta-gaming” concept, and switched Kevin Love’s jumpshot for Klay Thompson’s. I wanted to see if I could Green some open jumpshots with lower ratings and a familiar animation, as well as finish stronger inside with more dunks at my disposal. Appropriately enough, it was a rematch with the Jazz and Rudy Gobert. I was eager to see if my upgrades, combined with more time on the sticks playing as a centre, would result in a better performance.

In short, it did. Gobert was still a tough opponent to face with near-starting ratings and only one Silver Badge, but I did score 35 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Unfortunately I was subbed out with five minutes left and a six point deficit, which ballooned out to double digits and ended with a 139-118 loss as I watched from the bench. Of course, this is a legacy issue with coaching logic that affects all MyPLAYER builds. My inexperience playing centre in MyCAREER and ingrained point guard habits did lead to a few mistakes trying to thread the needle with risky passes, as well as roaming too much and trying to defend the ballhandler.

The sixth game was easily the most enjoyable despite the loss, but it highlighted many of the problems with playing as a big man in NBA 2K these days. Some of the issues were admittedly the result of old habits ill-fitted to the new position and build, as well as a lack of Badges and sufficiently levelled-up ratings, but problems with the game’s mechanics also seemed to stand out more. Getting sucked into two-man animations and sticking to AI players, the imbalance of certain Badges such as Intimidator, and the CPU’s general ability to play by a different set of rules and physics, all felt even more apparent in a build that isn’t constructed to overcome them to some extent.

Defending the Paint in MyCAREER (NBA 2K20)

Once again, I can see why I’m not alone in preferring to create guards in MyCAREER and its connected modes. Even accounting for my lack of experience in the middle, it feels clunkier than it should. The fact that the coach-selected drills in the early stages of the mode don’t vary according to build really underscores how MyCAREER isn’t built to cater to bigs as much as it should. I have an easier time scoring inside and rebounding as a 6’3″ point guard, and that’s long before I maxed out my ratings and Badges (though oddly, I don’t get as many reach-in fouls on steal attempts playing as the centre build). Bigs do have their advantages, but not as much as you might think.

Indeed, it’s given me even more appreciation for the guys on the NLSC squad like Kenny and The X, who have taken on the power forward and centre roles so that we have a balanced lineup. On top of ceding ballhandling duties to others on the team (primarily me), they’ve also had to deal with builds that should be stronger and more capable than the game allows them to be, and a lot of frustration matching up with other bigs; not just in online games, but while grinding for upgrades and Badges in MyCAREER. I always figured I had it easier as a point guard, and playing just a few games as a centre has emphasised the sacrifices of taking on that role for online play.

At the same time, it was fun and interesting to try something different. I might be able to get used to playing centre and dedicating myself to rebounds rather than assists – it’s what I did when I actually played, after all – though it’s clear that there would be frustration. Then again, it’s not as though playing point guard always goes smoothly, either. Whatever position and build you choose for your MyPLAYER, there are definitely aspects of MyCAREER and the core gameplay mechanics in general that are in need of improvement. Ensuring balance and viable choices across the board is essential for everyone, but especially for those with MyPLAYERs in the middle.

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