The NBA was the first major sporting domino to fall as the global pandemic worsened, suspending the 2019–20 season indefinitely after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive to coronavirus. The league will not be able to make a call about when it can return until at least May, and there’s no guarantee the season will resume at all.
But e-Sports has again come to the rescue of action-starved punters and basketball fans, courtesy of an NBA 2K pro players tournament. NBA 2K is a beloved basketball simulation video game franchise, which released its 21st instalment in September. Adorning the cover of the latest game is regarded as a genuine honour – the LA Lakers’ marquee recruit Anthony Davis is front and centre on NBA 2K20.
Anthony Davis to be on the cover of NBA 2K20 pic.twitter.com/8ojbizRqcN
— Lakers Empire (@LakersEmpire) June 30, 2019
The NBA 2K Players League has pitted 16 current NBA stars in an online knockout tournament, with the first round of matches played last weekend. Each player gets eight assigned teams to choose from and they can’t select the same team twice. The winner must prevail in four straight matches with four different teams before being crowned the NBA 2K Players League champion.
The first round
The initial batch of matches featured a couple of upsets – if the flawed seeding system was to be believed. Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant was handed the number-one seeding but went down 78–62 to 16th seed Derrick Jones Jr of the Miami Heat. The LA Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, seeded 14th, dished out a 30-point thrashing to Heat rebounding machine and third seed Hassan Whiteside.
Patrick Beverley is going OFF in the 2K tourney. 😂 pic.twitter.com/Uxn22tdDJ4
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 4, 2020
Perhaps proving that e-Sports remain the domain of the young, 21-year-old Atlanta Hawks sensation Trae Young lived up to his second-seed billing with a 101–59 demolition of Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes. Another 21-year-old, the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton, accounted for Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in a low-scorer.
On day two, the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell and the Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis went against the trend and selected their own teams. The Clippers ran out 73–51 winners and Harrell advanced to the last eight.
Phoenix linchpin Devin Booker’s Milwaukee Bucks defeated Denver Nuggets tyro Michael Porter Jr’s Lakers in a trash-talking 10-point win. Safe to say Booker won’t be selecting the lowly Suns at any stage, however.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 6, 2020
Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura – arguably the lowest-profile player in the NBA 2K Players League – used the Lakers to dump Jazz star Donovan Mitchell (who picked the Nets) out with a thrilling three-point win. Mitchell (and virtual Spencer Dinwiddie) missed with a three-point attempt on the buzzer.
The big-name showdown of the opening round, the battle of veteran big men Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins, was a fizzer. ‘Boogie’s’ Nets had no answer for Drummond’s Lakers in a 101–49 beatdown.
— NBA 2K20 (@NBA2K) April 7, 2020
Giving no quarter
The NBA 2K Players League quarter-finals get underway with a showdown between Derrick Jones Jr and Montrezl Harrell, with Jones Jr a narrow favourite at the time of writing – the tightest of the four match-ups.
Did your bracket survive Round 1 of the #NBA2KTourney ? 🎮🏀
QUARTER-FINALS start this Thursday 4/9 at 7PM ET on ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/cwBLyznVjC
— NBA 2K20 (@NBA2K) April 6, 2020
Devin Booker is a red-hot favourite to eliminate Rui Hachimura, who has to be considered tremendous value at $3.05 – if he can overcome Booker’s mind games. Booker is on the second line of betting to be crowned the NBA 2K Players League champion, with Hachimura considered a $15 long shot at the time of writing.
Trae Young – $5.00 in the NBA 2K futures market – squares off against Deandre Ayton in the third quarter-final. Young shapes as strong head-to-head value at $1.65 after his dominant first-round display.
Patrick Beverley has been backed into favouritism to be crowned NBA 2K Players League champion. Accordingly, he heads into his quarter-final against Andre Drummond – who is on the last line of futures betting – at just $1.33 for the win at the time of writing. Drummond showed some impressive form in outclassing DeMarcus Cousins, however, and Beverley has his work cut out.
Light work for @patbev21.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) April 4, 2020
While we’d much prefer to see Beverley, Young, Booker and co on the court in the flesh, this is an entertaining substitute. Stay tuned for more NBA 2K pro players tournament tips as the competition gets down to the business end.