Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five teams that are appealing prospects to play with in this year’s franchise modes.
We’re just a couple of weeks away from the release of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18! Although I anticipate spending time with modes like MyCAREER, The One, 2K Pro-Am, MyTEAM, and Ultimate Team, I’m also looking forward to returning to my roots as a franchise gamer. Given its incredible depth, MyLEAGUE will likely be my mode of choice, but I’m still undecided as to which team I’ll use. My beloved Chicago Bulls are naturally always an option, but with the team entering a rebuilding phase, they’re not exactly the most appealing squad. I can’t help but think back to my attempts to play Franchise Mode with the Ron Mercer-led Bulls in NBA Live 2001!
MyLEAGUE does offer the flexibility of controlling multiple teams, switching control of teams, and of course, creating a brand new expansion team. However, I must admit that I’d personally prefer to take control of one franchise, and a real NBA team at that. I can’t rule out trying to make things work with the Bulls, but there are quite a few interesting possibilities heading into the 2018 season. If you’re looking for a team that can be competitive out of the gate, but also provide options in terms of wheeling and dealing, here are five teams that you may want to consider using in the franchise modes of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18.
1. Boston Celtics
We experienced a big surprise this offseason with Kyrie Irving demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite being fresh off three straight NBA Finals appearances and a championship in 2016. After a brief hold-up, Irving has landed with the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s winningest franchise. It’s a trade that’s had interesting ramifications in terms of basketball video games, as Irving is NBA 2K18’s cover player. 2K has already updated the game’s loading screen and will issue a new cover at some point, and the Celtics and Cavaliers will clash on opening night. Those angles alone make the Celtics an interesting choice for franchise gamers.
Boston has gambled with their future by trading away the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick in 2018, but it’s still been a strong offseason for them. In addition to Irving, the Celtics also acquired Gordon Hayward via free agency. They drafted the player they wanted in Jayson Tatum, and with the departure of Jae Crowder in the Irving deal, there should be more court time for Jaylen Brown. The core rotation is filled out by players like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, providing a good balance of star power, capable proven talent, and young players with potential. That makes them an appealing choice that can win right away, and feasibly make further moves.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Trust the Process? If you take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster and consider the possibilities in this year’s franchise modes, you just might. With Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, you’ve got two number one picks that will both have a chance to vie for Rookie of the Year. In Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, you’ve got size and talent in the middle. J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson are veterans that can still provide solid contributions. Apart from that, there are a lot of young players to develop, so you can continue the Process and keep building for the future, while also having some fun and perhaps even finding some success on the virtual hardwood.
When it comes to all those young players, though, there is admittedly still more potential than proven talent at this point. If you find yourself winning a lot of games in one of the franchise modes, it’ll be because your stick skills are allowing the 76ers to greatly overachieve, or you’ll have made a shrewd deal to beef up the roster a little. You’ll want to be careful about giving up too many valuable assets, though like the real 76ers, you may find yourself having to make a decision on whether you can make it work with both Embiid and Okafor on the roster. Mind you, that isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have.
3. Houston Rockets
The experiment of playing James Harden at point guard panned out rather well for the Houston Rockets last season, as he led the league in assists and they won 55 games, fourteen more than the previous year. We can safely assume that Harden will be moving back to shooting guard however, with the Rockets’ offseason acquisition of Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. CP3 may have a lot of miles on the clock, but he’s still one of the best point guards in the league. If he can stay healthy, he and Harden should be a fine one-two punch. It’s always fun to take control of a team that’s added a new big name player, and see how it plays out in a franchise game.
Outside of that new dynamic backcourt duo, the Rockets aren’t extremely stacked, at least compared to a team like the Golden State Warriors. They still have a very respectable amount of talent though, with a roster that includes Nene, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, and Eric Gordon. There might be enough talent there to make a blockbuster deal and form a big three, though the savvy virtual GM would be wise not to leave the roster looking too thin. With that being said, if you’ve played a lot of franchise games, chances are you’ve led far less talented teams to championship glory. As such, it may not take much tinkering to go all the way with the 2018 Rockets.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
Some projections have the Minnesota Timberwolves pegged to win around 50 games this season. While that obviously remains to be seen, the Timberwolves did have an offseason that may well net Tom Thibodeau Executive of the Year honours. In fact, if they do reach the 50-win mark, Thibs could even be named the Coach of the Year as well. We’ll certainly have a chance to make it happen in the franchise modes of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18, as Minnesota boasts the best roster they’ve had in years. It should be possible to make them competitive right away, and they also have plenty of assets to facilitate trades if you want to shake things up.
First of all, they have Karl-Anthony Towns, who is the second-best rated centre in NBA 2K18. A multitalented big who can have an impact at both ends of the floor, Towns is a great player to build around. Andrew Wiggins still has a lot of potential, and is already pretty good. Minnesota began a tremendous offseason by acquiring Jimmy Butler from the Bulls (thanks, GarPax!), and added capable veterans including Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Teague. With that much talent, the future for the real Timberwolves looks bright. In franchise modes, they could be a force to be reckoned with, and facilitate a bunch of blockbuster trades if desired.
5. Sacramento Kings
Granted, the Sacramento Kings’ management hasn’t been looked upon too favourably in recent years. The DeMarcus Cousins trade left a lot of people scratching their heads, and there was enough front office dysfunction to rival that of the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls (thanks again, GarPax!). Despite all that, the Kings have done an admirable job starting over this offseason. Their roster will probably fare a lot better in video games than in real life, but that will work out just fine for franchise enthusiasts. They’re another team with a good blend of veterans who can still go, and young players who have the potential to become stars.
De’Aaron Fox is Sacramento’s point guard of the future – for now, at least – and he has a solid veteran backup in George Hill. Vince Carter and Zach Randolph are big name veteran acquisitions who should be able to provide you with quality minutes here and there. Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Bogdan Bogdanovic are other key players in a young core that you can try to develop into something special. At the very least, you’ll be able to chase the Rookie of the Year award with Fox, and perhaps sneak into the Playoffs as a low seed. Franchise modes can produce some strange realities though, so if you’ve got the skill, there’s no reason you can’t aim higher.
There are certainly more than five appealing teams to use in franchise modes this year, and there are always tough omissions when trying to whittle down a list such as this one. Those are my picks, but now it’s your turn. Which other teams do you think will be fun to use in the franchise modes of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18? Will you be using any of the teams that I mentioned? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.