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Re-Doing NBA 2K16 Ratings for the Top 10 Players at Each Position

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Another year, another tidal wave of outrage about NBA 2K ratings.

The wildly popular video game is a big deal for millions of basketball fans, and they want to make sure the virtual players they control are given a skill level that’s fitting for the player’s real-life counterpart. Although people can simply change the player ratings themselves and save the rosters, there’s just something about wanting the game’s creators to be in touch with reality. It’s also a lot of work to change everything you feel is incorrect.

NBA 2K16 introduced a slightly different rating system this year, which essentially grades today’s players on a historical curve. The below tweet from 2K’s Mike Stauffer explains the concept.

After a long wait, NBA 2K’s Twitter account finally released its top 10 player ratings at each position, starting last Thursday with point guards and going up the position ladder daily to end Monday with centers.

The ratings weren’t terrible, for the most part, but I’ve been chomping at the bit to amend them myself. So, based on the new format, below are my picks for the top 10 player ratings at each position, with five honorable mentions below each list.

I realize the position distinctions can get muddy, so I just put each player at the spot I think they will get the most minutes at during the 2015-16 season (with the exception of one player, who I’ll mention later).

Point Guard

2K’s Top 10:

My Top 10 (2K ranking in parentheses, NR if not ranked):

1. Chris Paul – 93 (90)

2. Stephen Curry – 93 (93)

3. Russell Westbrook – 92 (89)

4. John Wall – 88 (87)

5. Kyrie Irving – 86 (87)

6. Jeff Teague – 85 (83)

7. Kyle Lowry – 85 (83)

8. Damian Lillard – 84 (86)

9. Mike Conley – 84 (85)

10. Goran Dragic – 83 (NR)

Honorable mention: Eric Bledsoe (NR), Ty Lawson (NR), Derrick Rose (84), Jrue Holiday (NR), George Hill (NR)

Key Differences: 

The difference between Curry and the rest of the field was much too big. Paul and Westbrook both have strong arguments as the league’s best point guard, but the raters acted as if Curry was the easy No. 1. Presumably, the NBA championship and his MVP award were doing a lot of the influencing there.

But remember, all three were strong MVP candidates this past season, and you could argue the biggest differences between their candidacies was the quality of Curry’s teammates. Personally, I still feel Paul is the best all-around point guard, by a hair, because of his defensive and passing abilities.

Below that, Wall deserves the nod over Irving. The Wizards floor general has proved he can lead a team to the playoffs as its best player while Kyrie struggled to make his teammates better as “the man.” Irving’s ball-handling and shooting should be better, but Wall’s defense, passing and physical attributes should be far superior to the Cavs point guard.

In the bottom half of the top 10, Teague, Lowry and Dragic probably were under-ranked. None of them are particularly flashy, but they get the job done with solid all-around play.

Lillard is below-average on defense, but also fantastic at getting his own shot and is an efficient ball-handler.

Conley is in the category of guys who’ve been called underrated so often that they aren’t anymore. I won’t call him overrated, but the offensive impact he has isn’t in the same category as the guys above him. His defense is good, but not quite as elite as some might not tell you (he had a negative-0.25 defensive real plus-minus in 2014-15).

Aside from this, former MVP Rose was given legacy points, which 2K tends to do. He may bounce back this season, but he had a pretty rough season in 2014-15 even though he was healthy most of the year.

He gets an honorable mention because his skill set and athleticism are still both solid; he just needs to re-learn how to assert himself better.

Shooting Guard

2K’s Top 10:

My Top 10 (2K ranking in parentheses, NR if not ranked):

1. James Harden – 92 (92)

2. Jimmy Butler – 88 (86)

3. Klay Thompson – 87 (87)

4. Dwyane Wade – 85 (86)

5. DeMar DeRozan – 83 (83)

6. Monta Ellis – 82 (81)

7. Khris Middleton – 81 (NR)

8. Wesley Matthews – 81 (81)

9. Bradley Beal – 81 (80)

10. Kobe Bryant – 80 (85)

Honorable mention: Victor Oladipo (80), Danny Green (NR), Brandon Knight (NR), Kyle Korver (NR), J.J. Redick (NR)

Key Differences:

Shooting guard was probably the most accurate of all the positions. Bravo, 2K!

I would’ve switched Thompson and Butler, but they’re pretty close. Both are good defenders, but Butler is better and their overall offensive games are close to a wash.

Khris Middleton is a super tough player to slot positionally, because he’s listed as a small forward and shooting guard, but actually played 68 percent of his minutes at power forward last season.

But with Greg Monroe added to the Bucks roster and Jabari Parker back in the lineup after his ACL injury, I think we see Middleton play more at the 2 this season. Whatever happens, he’s an intriguing 3-and-D player who has the potential to be much more.

Sorry, Kobe fans, but your boy is not an 85-level player anymore. I obviously haven’t seen the exact ratings in each category, so I don’t know what needs to be decreased, but I suspect they probably gave him too much credit on the defensive end and maybe his mid-range and three-point attributes.

Kobe actually might play mostly at small forward this season because of the Lakers’ personnel. But if just feels wrong putting him anywhere besides shooting guard, so I have him here.

Small Forward

2K’s Top 10:

My Top 10 (2K ranking in parentheses, NR if not ranked):

1. LeBron James – 96 (94)

2. Kevin Durant – 94 (91)

3. Kawhi Leonard – 89 (87)

4. Carmelo Anthony – 88 (88)

5. Paul George – 88 (86)

6. Gordon Hayward – 85 (83)

7. Rudy Gay – 84 (83)

8. Tobias Harris – 80 (NR)

9. Andrew Wiggins – 80 (80)

10. Andre Iguodala – 80 (NR)

Honorable mention: Joe Johnson (NR), Giannis Antetokounmpo (79), DeMarre Carroll (79), Tyreke Evans (NR), Luol Deng (NR)

LeBron is definitely the best player in the game today. 2K realized this, giving him a 94 rating.

But even with the new rating system, I feel like he should be a bit higher. As the tweet at the beginning of this article mentioned, Michael Jordan in his best season is the only player rated 99. Considering the current version of Stephen Curry was given a 93, I feel 96 is more appropriate for LeBron than 94, which is barely above Steph.

Durant was obviously docked a couple of points for injury, which is understandable. I tend to give players returning from injuries the benefit of the doubt until they prove the injury is negatively affecting them. KD had an extremely dominant 2013-14 MVP campaign and was very good in limited action last season, so I have him tied as the second-highest rating among current players.

Leonard and Hayward were both slightly under-ranked, for different reasons.

Kawhi is one of those guys whose stats won’t ever look amazing because he plays for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, who keep stars’ minutes and touches under control.

For example, Leonard averaged 17.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.5 turnovers in 31.4 minutes per game after the All-Star break last season. Convert those to per-36 numbers, and you have 20.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.0 steals and a measly 1.7 turnovers, with a 52.1/36.3/80.0 shooting slash and Defensive Player of the Year-quality defense to boot.

Hayward plays for the Utah Jazz, who are generally an under-the-radar team. Last season, they took a leap and finished the season 38-44 after a 19-10 finish. Center Rudy Gobert got a lot of the praise for taking a huge leap in his second season and anchoring an elite defense, but Hayward was the offense’s leader all year who just happened to be pretty solid on defense.

After Rudy Gay at No. 7, there’s a considerable gap followed by a big group of guys in the 78-80 range. Harris leads the pack as a talented, versatile offensive player for the rebuilding Magic.

Power Forward

2K’s Top 10:

My Top 10 (2K ranking in parentheses, NR if not ranked):

1. Anthony Davis – 94 (92)

2. Blake Griffin – 90 (88)

3. LaMarcus Aldridge – 88 (88)

4. Pau Gasol – 86 (86)

5. Kevin Love – 86 (84)

6. Chris Bosh – 86 (84)

7. Derrick Favors – 85 (NR)

8. Paul Millsap – 85 (83)

9. Serge Ibaka – 85 (NR)

10. Draymond Green – 84 (NR)

Honorable mention: Zach Randolph (84), Dirk Nowitzki (84), Nikola Mirotic (NR), Terrence Jones (NR), Nerlens Noel (NR)

Davis is a super-athletic, super-skilled big man without any major weaknesses. His 2014-15 season also represents the 11th-best PER in NBA history, behind only campaigns from Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Obviously, he gets a lofty ranking.

Griffin, to me, is the clear-cut No. 2 power forward in the league. His versatility as a rim assaulter on the fast break and pick-and-roll, low-post scoring bully, mid-range threat and guard-esque dribbler/passer is really exciting to watch. His defense is often criticized, somewhat fairly, but he’s more average than bad on that end. In fact, he allowed the league’s fewest points per possession (0.61) in post-up situations last season; feel free to read into that however you want.

Derrick Favors was another glaring omission, for the same reasons as Gordon Hayward, his Jazz teammate. The former No. 3 overall pick took awhile to find his stride in the NBA, but finally started to fulfill his potential during his fifth season in 2014-15. He’s one of the few big men in the league who are well above average on both ends of the floor.

I also promoted Ibaka and Green to the top 10, taking out Randolph and Nowitzki. The former two are both light years better on defense than the latter two, making up for any offensive shortcomings they might have.

As you can probably tell, there’s a dropoff after 12 guys. Mirotic will have an excellent chance to close that gap throughout his upcoming season with the Chicago Bulls, however.


2K’s Top 10:

My Top 10 (2K ranking in parentheses, NR if not ranked):

1. DeMarcus Cousins – 89 (87)

2. Marc Gasol – 88 (87)

3. Dwight Howard – 86 (85)

4. Tim Duncan – 86 (87)

5. Al Horford – 85 (83)

6. Brook Lopez – 85 (83)

7. Andre Drummond – 84 (83)

8. Rudy Gobert – 83 (NR)

9. DeAndre Jordan – 83 (84)

10. Nikola Vucevic – 82 (83)

Honorable mention: Al Jefferson (83), Joakim Noah (NR), Hassan Whiteside (81), Tyson Chandler (NR), Greg Monroe (NR)

Cousins and Gasol are super close at the top of the NBA’s center position. It’s a classic brawn vs. brain battle, but I have brawn winning out with DMC. He’s just the more dynamic player overall with his relentless low-post work on offense, although Gasol is more reliable from game-to-game and better on defense.

You may have noticed Duncan missing from the power forward list; that’s because he’s a center, and has played the majority of his minutes there for the past nine seasons. He’ll play the 5 even more this year, now that Aron Baynes and Tiago Splitter are gone and San Antonio’s main rotation will likely be without anyone who can pass as a center.

Horford and Lopez both deserve to be higher than Jordan, which was not the case in the original rankings. The Clippers big man has some glaring weaknesses (free throw shooting, any offensive skill that isn’t dunking or setting picks) that should be docking his rating.

Gobert was another under-ranked player from the Jazz, but this one was more surprising considering all the love he’s gotten as a rising star this offseason. His skill set is somewhat limited, similar to Jordan, but he’s even better defensively and can shoot free throws.

Note: All statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com/stats

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