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 basketball video games, the real NBA, or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
By this point in the season, I’m guessing that a lot of basketball gamers have gotten stuck into one of the franchise modes in NBA Live 16, NBA 2K16, or perhaps even one of the older basketball games. I don’t have a Dynasty, MyLEAGUE, or MyGM game going at the moment, but hopefully I’ll get into one before the year is out. As I’ve mentioned many times before in the Friday Five, I’ve been a big fan of franchise modes for many years, and have a lot of fond memories of playing through seasons, messing around with my roster, and winning virtual championships.
Making a great trade or signing is something that can really help create a special franchise experience. It’s adding that final piece of the puzzle, or acquiring a new superstar that gives your team an entirely new look. It’s finding a bargain, or creatively wheeling and dealing to maximise the value that the CPU gives you in return. It’s a deal that makes you better, and increases the “fun factor”. With that in mind, I’m counting down the top five trades and signings that I’ve made in basketball games over the years. Let’s get started with number five…
5. Marty Gartner for Nick Collison (NBA Live 06)
I know what you’re thinking. “Who’s Marty Gartner?” And if you’re not thinking that…well, you should be, it’s a very pertinent question! Marty Gartner was a generated player in my NBA Live 06 Dynasty with the Chicago Bulls, whom the New York Knicks selected fifth overall. Since I’d won the championship and picked up a couple of fairly unremarkable players with my mid-round selections, I decided I wanted a more prominent first year player with which to chase Rookie of the Year honours. And so, I dealt Mike Dunleavy Jr. – an offseason signee, years before it happened in real life – to the Knicks for Gartner, a point guard.
It didn’t pan out so well, as Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich were taking up most of the minutes in the backcourt, while giving me solid performances…or stellar ones, in Gordon’s case. Realising my mistake, I traded Gartner to the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder – due to having my new current roster update installed, the Sonics retroactively became the Thunder a couple of years early – for Nick Collison, who proved to be a solid backup at power forward and centre. My roster felt more balanced, and I was no longer depriving a CPU team of a promising young rookie…though to be fair, it’s probably the kind of move Isiah Thomas would’ve made, given the chance.
4. Signing Shawn Kemp & Latrell Sprewell (NBA Live 06)
My Bulls Dynasty in NBA Live 06 remains one of my all-time favourite experiences with basketball games, mainly because I was able to keep a good balance between fantasy and reality; the fantasy was based somewhat in reality, and the reality was enhanced with a touch of fantasy. Before I started the Dynasty, I decided that I wanted to bring Shawn Kemp out of retirement, so I added him to the active roster, and adjusted his ratings to account for age and decline. After starting the Dynasty, I then signed him to a two year contract. He performed well in year one, was solid in a backup role in year two, and seeing as how he’s one of my all-time favourite players, I enjoyed having him on the team.
Speaking of players who were All-Stars in the 1990s, along the way I also picked up Latrell Sprewell. During that first season, Ben Gordon missed 20 games with a broken wrist, which was unfortunate but certainly made things interesting and challenging. As I scrambled to fill the void left by my leading scorer, I turned to the free agent pool and signed Spree, who in real life had pretty much brought his career to an end after his infamous comments about needing to feed his family. Virtual Sprewell filled in for Gordon admirably though, and even after Gordon returned, Spree played well off the bench. Signing Kemp and Sprewell certainly worked out for the best, and added a little extra something to the Dynasty.
3. Trevor Ariza for Kyle Korver (NBA Live 06)
A few weeks into year two of my Chicago Bulls Dynasty, I had a roster that I didn’t exactly dislike, but it felt a bit too unbalanced. I’d put together a lineup that included a fair amount of decent players (or players who would eventually become decent in real life), and it was hard finding playing time for all of them. When I picked up the game again in 2011, I decided that I’d shake things up and acquire a few of the players that the real Bulls had recently signed, to inject a little realism and balance out the roster. Trevor Ariza was a player I couldn’t find consistent minutes for since acquiring him, thus he was expendable.
I ended up trading him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Kyle Korver straight up, and while that meant getting the worst end of the deal in terms of overall ratings, I would suggest that I definitely came out of the trade on top. With Korver possessing the Shooter Freestyle Superstars moveset, he bolstered my perimeter attack, and even produced a couple of clutch performances when Gordon was struggling. He turned out to be a much better fit than Ariza, and while there’s an element of “What If?” as far as Ariza is concerned, at the end of the day, I believe I made the right call.
2. Chris Wilcox, Andres Nocioni and Danny Granger for Carlos Boozer (NBA Live 06)
In the spirit of moulding my roster in the image of the real Chicago Bulls – to a point – I also targeted Carlos Boozer, whom the Bulls signed to a big contract in the offseason of 2010. I ended up prying him away from the Utah Jazz with a package of Chris Wilcox (signed during the 2006 offseason), Andres Nocioni, and Danny Granger (acquired in an earlier trade). Utah accepted the deal, and I had a new starting power forward that was capable of putting up 20 and 10, given the opportunity. He fell a little short of that, averaging 18 and 9, but it was a more than solid contribution on his part. Besides, with Gordon’s big performances, everyone else’s numbers took a bit of a hit.
You might look at that trade and surmise that I gave up a little too much for Boozer, and in terms of the overall ratings involved – the value of the players, as represented in-game – that’s a fair call. However, I still consider it one of the best trades I’ve made, as I not only acquired the player I sought (and had that player perform well for me), but it cleared the logjam on the bench, and rebalanced my lineup. In making the trades for Carlos Boozer, Nick Collison, and Kyle Korver, I set myself up with a rotation that was a lot more fun to play with, with a touch of reality to it. I had to make a few trades to correct some of the mistakes I’d made in year two, and this was the deal that yielded the best results.
1. Jalen Rose, Marcus Fizer, and Roger Mason Jr. for Kevin Garnett (NBA Live 2004)
We’re back to the realm of fantasy here, as this is the kind of deal you’d only ever see in basketball games. Even then, it’s a difficult deal to replicate, as I’ll explore in an upcoming feature in our 20th Anniversary of NBA Live celebrations. In any case, after struggling early on in my Chicago Bulls Dynasty in NBA Live 2004, I managed to pull the trigger on what is easily the best trade that I’ve ever made in any of the franchise modes in any of the basketball games I’ve ever played: Jalen Rose, Marcus Fizer, and Roger Mason Jr. to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. I don’t know how or why the Timberwolves accepted that offer, but they did, and KG became a Bull.
Sure, it wasn’t realistic, but I was looking at winning games and competing for the championship with the 2004 Chicago Bulls. With a goal like that, I’d already discarded a fair amount of realism, and I didn’t regret making the trade one bit. While I adjusted the sliders and played the games in a sim-style, I was quite happy to have some fun in my role as a virtual GM. I ended up winning 64 games, KG had some huge performances throughout the season on route to the MVP award (which he did actually win in 2004), and the Bulls captured championship number seven, as did Scottie Pippen. In that respect, I guess I did kind of regret the fact Michael Jordan wasn’t a part of it. Not enough to lose on purpose, though.
What are some of the best trades and signings (or even Draft picks) you’ve made while playing the franchise modes in basketball games? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! Next week, I’ll be counting down my top five worst trades and signings, so stay tuned for that. Until then, thanks for checking in this week, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.