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 teams that you might consider trying to rebuild in this year’s franchise modes.
Last week, I discussed some of the most appealing options in terms of teams to use in this year’s franchise modes. This week, I’m looking at some of the more challenging options, in the form of teams that are currently rebuilding. Admittedly a couple of the teams that I mentioned last week are in rebuilding phases themselves, but they also happen to have a bit more talent on their rosters, including players with definite superstar potential. The teams I’m focusing on this time around generally aren’t quite as talented, but still present some interesting scenarios for franchise gamers.
Assuming control of a rebuilding team in a franchise mode can be an unusual experience. Depending on your skill on the sticks, lottery-bound teams can greatly overachieve, even pulling off unlikely championship victories in year one. Of course, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you, and the rosters of teams who are bottoming out or trying to claw their way back to respectability aren’t always fun to play with. At the same time, the challenge they present can be an enjoyable change of pace. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five teams that you can try to rebuild in the franchise modes of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18.
1. Chicago Bulls
I mentioned the Chicago Bulls in passing last week because they’re my favourite team, and normally they’d be my first choice. After the offseason they’ve had, which included giving up Jimmy Butler for cents on the dollar, they’re not quite as appealing as they have been in recent years. I even drew comparisons to the Bulls of the 2001 season, though when I look back at that roster, I may have been underestimating the talent of the ’01 squad compared to the 2018 team. In any event, you’re certainly in for a challenge if you choose to take control of the Bulls, though in all fairness there are some glimmers of hope.
Your first order of business will be making a decision about Dwyane Wade. The real Bulls are likely to buy him out or let him walk at the end of the year, but there’s no reason that you can’t explore trade possibilities. At the same time, he should still be quite effective in video games, so you may want to hang onto him. Lauri Markkanen is performing well at the Euro Cup; along with Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, and Denzel Valentine, he’s a player you’ll want to try to develop. Deals might be tough to make outside of Wade, at least without gutting the roster, so be careful when trading. The best help may come through the Draft, so patience will be a virtue.
2. New York Knicks
Even though I’ve been frustrated with a lot of the moves that the Bulls have made, I have to admit that Knicks fans have suffered a lot more when it comes to incompetence and dysfunction in the front office of their favourite team. At least in franchise modes, you won’t have to deal with an overbearing owner. Well, it sounds like there might be some friction in the new story that’s a part of MyGM this year, but they’re probably nothing like James Dolan. You’ll also still have full control over roster movement, so you’ll have the freedom to try rebuilding the Knicks as you see fit, just like in MyLEAGUE. Just be prepared to clean up a few messes along the way.
Fortunately, virtual Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so he won’t be able to veto any deals. He’s still rated high enough to pull off a shrewd deal, so presumably that’ll be one of the first possibilities you’ll explore if you take control of the Knicks. Like Wade though, he’s still pretty good, and a few years younger than his Class of 2003 alum, so you may not be in too much of a rush to trade him. Kristaps Porzingas is obviously the future, though if you really want to risk trading him, you could probably get another up and coming star. Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Tim Hardaway Jr. are among the prime candidates for roster reshaping trades.
3. Utah Jazz
After winning 51 games in 2017, the Utah Jazz suddenly find themselves in rebuilding mode again after the departure of Gordon Hayward. They’ll likely drop off in real life this season, but they still have a few good players and acquired a couple more during the offseason, which should make them an interesting team to play with and try to rebuild. The centrepiece is obviously the man in the middle, Rudy Gobert. The Stifle Tower has a bright future, and on the virtual hardwood, could quickly be turned into a dominant, traditional big man. Derrick Favors was injured for much of last season, but he’s a capable player to have alongside Gobert, if you keep him.
If you’re an Aussie like me, you might attempt to make stars out of Joe Ingles and Dante Exum. At the very least, you could try making Exum into the next Patty Mills. Speaking of point guards, newly acquired Ricky Rubio should make things fun, with his ability to make flashy passes. Veteran swingmen Joe Johnson and Thabo Sefolosha should help you be competitive in the short term, and you might also be able to package them in a deal. Donovan Mitchell and Tony Bradley will provide you with a shot at earning All-Rookie honours, and are promising young players who could be at the heart of your rebuilding efforts in the wake of “The Indecision”.
4. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of a new era, with Dirk Nowitzki unquestionably in the twilight of his career. However, the future Hall of Famer has signed on for two more seasons, and he’s still capable of having an impact on the court. He should be even more effective in video games, so on top of the obvious sentimental reasons, you’ll probably want to keep him around. If you do give in to the temptation of doing the unthinkable and opt to trade Dirk away, you’d probably be able to get a good deal in return. I would recommend keeping him around though, as he still has enough left in the tank to anchor a rebuilding effort.
Their roster beyond Dirk Nowitzki isn’t too shabby, either. Seth Curry may still be in the shadow of his older brother, but he’s turning into a dependable point guard for the Mavericks. Yogi Ferrell was a pleasant surprise last season, and could be turned into a beast in a franchise game. Established players like Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Barea are joined by promising new talents like Dennis Smith Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith. Nerlens Noel is back, though only for one year on a qualifying offer. All in all, there’s enough talent to swing a few trades for other interesting prospects and possibly Draft picks, while developing your young core.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Alright, I’m playing it a little loose with the term “rebuilding” here, as the Oklahoma City Thunder did win 47 games last season, and made the Playoffs. However, they are a team at a crossroads. Their offseason acquisition of Paul George has given them a one-two punch following Russell Westbrook’s one man show last year, but is that a likely (or indeed, desirable) long-term solution? George is a free agent at the end of the season, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be sticking around, in real life or in your franchise game. Do you take the risk and try to re-sign him, or will you try to move him in a deal that nets you a star with a longer contract, or perhaps a lottery pick?
Whatever you decide in regards to PG13, Westbrook will no doubt be a part of your rebuilding plans. Of course, if he isn’t, he is one of the highest rated players in both games, meaning you should get some great value on the trade market. Oklahoma City has some good young players like Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Enes Kanter, prospects with potential such as Terrance Ferguson, and capable veterans including Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson. They’d be an ideal team for anyone who fancies a rebuild, but would also like the luxury of having a few big name trade options, and a roster that can be reasonably competitive out of the gate.
It may be a long road ahead for some of these teams – both in real life and in the franchise modes of NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to attempt to rebuild them. Perhaps I’ll end up taking control of my beloved Bulls yet! Which other teams would you like to try to rebuild in this year’s franchise modes? Will you be choosing any of these teams? 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.