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.
Last week, I counted down the top five best trades and signings that I’ve made in the franchise modes of basketball games. It was fun to reminisce about some of the deals that really made the games more fun for me, even if a few of them were correcting earlier mistakes. And speaking of mistakes, that’s what I’m taking a look at this week: the trades and signings that didn’t pan out nearly as well as I hoped they would.
Just as a great trade or signing can make a franchise game even more enjoyable, a bad move can greatly detract from the overall experience. A series of bad deals often leads to frustration and boredom, with a roster that’s too thin, too stacked, or just too strangely put together. To paraphrase a certain animated ski instructor, if you make a lot of questionable moves, you’re gonna have a bad time. In that spirit, I’m counting down what I feel are the top five worst trades and signings that I’ve made when playing through the franchise modes of basketball games. Let’s tip things off with number five…
5. Mike Sweetney, Howard Mobley & Wyatt Hanlon for Danny Granger & Eddie Gill (NBA Live 06)
Come year two of my Chicago Bulls Dynasty in NBA Live 06, I made a few missteps in my wheeling and dealing. I signed a couple of players that didn’t really pan out, and I made some trades that didn’t look too bad on paper – some might even qualify as steals – but made it difficult to distribute minutes and in turn, my lineup less fun to play with. On top of that, a few of the players I’d acquired would go on to be impact players in real life, but were still a couple of years away from reaching that level in the roster I was using. Danny Granger was definitely in that category.
Compared to some of the other deals I’m listing in this week’s Five, this one wasn’t too bad. Mike Sweetney and the two generated players I gave up – big men Howard Mobley and Wyatt Hanlon – were far from irreplaceable or untradeable. Still, it was deals like this one that began to upset the balance of my roster, and Granger ultimately got lost in the shuffle, which was a waste. I fancied the idea of adding some future stars and key role players to my lineup, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t find the minutes in my rotation to utilise them all effectively. Obviously, I’d also slightly messed up other teams’ rosters into the bargain. This was an example of a trade that was shrewd in theory, but something I just didn’t need to do (and probably shouldn’t have, in retrospect).
4. Signing Mike Dunleavy Jr. & Chris Wilcox (NBA Live 06)
I had some money to spend in the 2006 offseason of my Bulls Dynasty, and I decided to shore up my roster in a few key areas: rebounding, inside scoring, and three-point shooting. To strengthen my rotation at power forward and centre, I signed Chris Wilcox, who was rated in the mid 70s and in reality, hadn’t been performing too badly off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers. Dunleavy had pretty good shooting ratings and was similarly solid, so I took a chance on him as well. It’s funny, since Mike Dunleavy Jr. has since signed with the Bulls in real life, and has performed fairly well for them during the past couple of seasons.
Sadly, basketball games do not always mimic real life, even when they unwittingly predict the future. Virtual Dunleavy wasn’t the knock-down shooter I hoped he would be, underperforming as a three-point marksman despite his ample ratings. I decided to part ways with him, but made an even bigger blunder there; more on that momentarily. Wilcox was a little more reliable in his role, but still didn’t seem like a good fit. As I mentioned last week, it worked out a lot better when I traded him compared to Mike Dunleavy Jr., but nevertheless both were disappointing signings who didn’t last a full season with the team. Definite missteps on my part.
3. Mike Dunleavy Jr. for Marty Gartner (NBA Live 06)
If you caught last week’s Friday Five, you’ll know who Marty Gartner is. For those who need a refresher, he was a generated player, the fifth pick in the 2006 Draft, selected by the New York Knicks. I decided that I wanted to try to win the Rookie of the Year award with one of my players, and the generated rookies that I’d drafted weren’t really cut out for the task. As I mentioned above, Dunleavy wasn’t really panning out either, so I ended up trading him to the Knicks for their promising young point guard, Marty Gartner.
On paper, it wasn’t a bad deal, but I quickly regretted my impulsiveness. It’s a trade that the Knicks shouldn’t and likely wouldn’t have made – though as I said last week, anything was possible with Isiah Thomas, who was still calling the shots at that time – and it was hard to find playing time for Gartner with Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich playing so well. I’d not only unbalanced my roster, but messed up an opponent’s rotation and future, too. It’s a mistake I’d ultimately rectify – at least in terms of my roster – but it still stands out to me as one of the worst moves I’ve made in all my years of playing basketball games, because of how unnecessary and unrealistic it was.
2. Mike Bibby for John Stockton (NBA Live 2002)
I’ve mentioned this one a few times before, but it really stands out as one the biggest mistakes I’ve made in all my time playing basketball games, so it’s always in contention for a list like this. Some history behind this baffling deal: I started a Utah Jazz Franchise in NBA Live 2002, with the intention of doing something really wacky. The Jazz are not one of my favourite teams in the league, and back in the day, I was a bit of a hater when it came to Karl Malone. He’s still not one of my favourite players, but I do have a greater appreciation for his talent now, as I should. Anyway, the plan was to shake things up with the Jazz, bring The Mailman off the bench (for no good reason), and see how things went.
You won’t be very surprised to hear that it didn’t go well. I traded for Scottie Pippen so I’d have an all-time favourite on the roster, but that just felt weird. The novelty of making a bench player out of an all-time great that I didn’t like quickly wore off. And then there was the silliest thing of all: my trade of the legendary John Stockton for the not-so-legendary Mike Bibby. Now, Bibby was pretty good at the time and kind of my go-to point guard when I sought to rebuild a team, but he was no John Stockton. Even though my intention with the Franchise game was to be silly, it was just too ridiculous and out there. It was the proverbial cherry on top of a Terrible Idea Sundae. I’ll just let the guys from Monty Python sum the whole thing up for me.
1. Basically Every Trade in a Phoenix Suns Season (NBA Live 97)
In my opinion, few things spoil the experience of season or franchise play quite like making too many trades that are nonsensical and wildly unrealistic. With that in mind, a Phoenix Suns Season my cousin and I were playing in NBA Live 97 absolutely deserves the top spot on this list. We only made it through eighteen games, but during that span we managed to reshape the roster with some of the craziest and most unnecessary deals you could ever imagine. It’s been a long time and the records that I found in my archives are incomplete, so I am missing a few of the details. Nevertheless, I can list the players that we ended up with, at one time or another.
For a start, we acquired Shawn Kemp, for what I’d imagine was nowhere near market value; I don’t have the specifics about that one. We somehow ended up with Jayson Williams from the New Jersey Nets, but soon flipped him and a bunch of other players to the Atlanta Hawks for Dikembe Mutombo (who had just signed there in the offseason). Mutombo got dealt to the Washington Bullets for Chris Webber and Malik Sealy, the latter only being in Washington because we had the Los Angeles Clippers trade him there. Again, this is all within the span of eighteen games. Not even prematurely turning Steve Nash into a superstar (with back-to-back 30+ assist games!) could keep things interesting. Worse yet, it didn’t help us; we were just 11-7 in that span. All in all, it was a complete flop, and not surprisingly, we moved on.
What are some of the worst trades and signings (or indeed, Draft picks) that you’ve made while playing the franchise modes in basketball games? 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 next Friday for another Five.