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 things that NLSC THRILLHO has collectively learned playing 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K17.
Even though we’ve cut back on our 2K Pro-Am sessions in NBA 2K17, the members of NLSC THRILLHO still get together once a week, or at least once a fortnight, to play a few games. As Arcane and I have mentioned in recent episodes of the NLSC Podcast, we’ve had a couple of really fun sessions recently including one where we finished the night on a five game winning streak, but also a couple of very frustrating ones. Last week’s session was an example of the latter, leading us to call it a night after only two games.
At this point, we’ve played over 470 games, which is the equivalent of about five and three quarter seasons (or a little under two and a half seasons, adjusting the twenty minute games for regulation length). NLSC THRILLHO certainly isn’t one of the top-ranked squads, but with all those games, we do at least have a lot of experience under our belts. To that end, we’ve undoubtedly learned a thing or two about the mode, which has given us a new perspective as we look ahead to NBA 2K18. If I may speak on behalf of NLSC THRILLHO for a moment, these are probably the five most important lessons we’ve learned in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am.
1. Choose Your Animations Wisely
Everyone likes dunks, right? No matter how sim you consider yourself to be, chances are you’ll load up your MyPLAYER with the fanciest dunk packages that your ratings will allow for, and look to throw it down as much as possible. It’s the highest percentage shot in the game, so when it comes to online modes such as 2K Pro-Am, you’ll probably be tempted to go for the dunk whenever there’s an open lane. Of course, it’s not always that simple. Lanky players can block shots very easily, and you’ll also find that players with average dunk ratings miss a few too many slams in traffic. Sometimes, however, it’s the animations that are the biggest problem.
Although the Pro Stick does provide a reasonable amount of control over the moves that you perform, the chosen animation isn’t always suitable. Slow gathers give shot blockers more than ample time to recover, but worse still are the animations that leave the ball wide open to get swatted. When it comes to dunk packages, the worst thing you can do for 2K Pro-Am is to load up your MyPLAYER with an assortment of cock-backs and backscratchers, as they’re very susceptible to being blocked. Picking the right dribbling and shooting animations is also important, but when it comes to having a safe offensive arsenal, dunk animations really need to be chosen wisely.
2. Three-Point Shooters Are Crucial
It’s something that should be obvious when you consider the emphasis on three-point shooting in the real NBA and the success that teams like the Golden State Warriors have had with that approach, but if you want to win games in 2K Pro-Am, you need to be able to knock down threes at will. Teams with Stretch Bigs and Sharpshooters are therefore at a distinct advantage, though if you’re good on the right stick, the bonus afforded by that shooting method can make players of other Archetypes very dangerous from beyond the arc as well. With Badge-boosted screens, lag, and exploits such as zigzag cheese, teams can get a lot of open looks from downtown.
We’ve learned the hard way that stacking a team with three-point specialists is a very effective tactic that can be quite difficult to counter, especially when you can’t match their firepower from range. We do have a couple of three-point threats on the NLSC THRILLHO roster, but not everyone is able to join in every session. When we don’t have our three-point gunners in the lineup, or when we’re facing a team that’s stacked with perimeter marksmen, we really have to work hard on every defensive play, and make every dunk and layup count. The limitations of certain Archetypes are an issue here, which hopefully won’t be the case in NBA 2K18.
3. One Glass Cleaner Can Kill NLSC THRILLHO’s Small Ball Lineup
While we were still planning the NLSC THRILLHO squad for NBA 2K17, we tried to work out which Archetypes we’d choose, based on our roles in NBA 2K16, information from the previews, and our experiences with The Prelude. We tried to pick the Archetypes that would best play to our individual strengths and style, and hopefully also result in a balanced squad. We also kept in mind the type of players we wanted to play with in MyCAREER, though, and in that respect, the core NLSC THRILLHO lineup probably isn’t as well-rounded as we’d like. I mentioned the problems with three-point shooting above, but we also lack a traditional big man.
With stronger three-point shooting, our small ball lineup might be more effective, but we’d still be at a disadvantage on the boards whenever we faced a Glass Cleaner. 7’3″ Glass Cleaners are, if you’ll excuse the pun, a tall order for us to counteract. Their dunking animations are very fast and they naturally gobble up rebounds left and right, so they score a lot of second chance points and nab their teams extra possessions with ease. They’ll also swat a lot of shots in the paint, so without a strong perimeter attack, our offense can be thrown into disarray. Despite the good intentions of the Archetype system, min-maxing and cheesy builds unfortunately remain an issue.
4. Badges Are Essential
I’ve mentioned this in a previous article, but Badges are absolutely essential. It’s a wise idea to grind for Badges anyway since they obviously have an impact on MyCAREER as well, but in 2K Pro-Am, where most of the players are maxed out (or close enough), they’re vital in gaining an additional edge. Since Badges can counteract each other to some extent, it pays to upgrade all the ones that you can for your Archetype. Hall of Fame level offensive Badges are going to retain some skill boosts in the face of defensive Badges, which in turn provide an effective counter to scoring buffs when they themselves are upgraded.
Once everyone in NLSC THRILLHO started earning Badges, we definitely noticed a difference, especially when the boosts worked in conjunction with one another. We’re obviously not the only ones grinding for Badges, so we didn’t suddenly have a huge advantage over most of our opponents, but it has helped us remain competitive and lifted us at opportune moments. Even Bronze level Badges have a respectable impact; as I’ve said before, I feel the three-point ratings for Playmakers are a little low, but having the Bronze Corner Specialist and Catch & Shoot Badges has helped somewhat. Of course, there are factors beyond Badges, ratings, and even stick skills…
5. Updates Literally Make or Break 2K Pro-Am
…and that’s where patches and tuning updates come in. Whenever NLSC THRILLHO is having a lengthy 2K Pro-Am session and the “Update Required” dialogue box pops up, we often groan. Originally, that was partly due to the fact that it caused massive lag spikes, which always seemed to hit us one by one and at the most inopportune moment during gameplay. Thankfully, the tuning and roster updates no longer seem to cause any lag when they come through, but unfortunately every time we see one, we’re left wondering “Alright, what’s going to change this time?” The dialogue box also kind of ruins saved videos, but the impact on gameplay is the bigger concern.
This issue isn’t exclusive to 2K Pro-Am, as the constant tweaks and tuning have impacted the stability of both online and offline gameplay. As I’ve said before, even though it sometimes seems that tweaks to enhance online play are being made at the expense of the offline experience, they haven’t really worked out that well in 2K Pro-Am, either. The quality of the 2K Pro-Am experience and our level of enjoyment have fluctuated with the updates, as tweaks to shot timing and effectiveness (among other mechanics) have changed the feel of the gameplay and tilted the balance back and forth. At least we have a Simpsons reference ready to go whenever there’s a nerf!
Hopefully, we’ll be able to learn from our experiences and put together a more balanced and successful 2K Pro-Am squad in NBA 2K18; a couple of tweaks at 2K’s end wouldn’t go astray, either. That said, for all the frustrating moments and tough lessons, I think we’ve had fun playing as NLSC THRILLHO in NBA 2K17. Do you have any reflections on 2K Pro-Am, or perhaps MyCAREER or MyPARK? Share them 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.