Matt Dunn / Contributing Writer (@MattNowitzki)
NBA 2K16, the aptly named latest release of the popular basketball video game series, is chillingly lifelike. Those of us without girlfriends and social skills can attest that playing the game feels like controlling actual players and teams. All aspects of the game mimics real life, from Anthony Davis' Inspector Gadget limbs to Stephen Curry's endless range, LeBron's, well, everything. I'll say Dirk's hair is the one exception. I don't remember his David Bowie phase.
So with the (real) season quickly approaching, why bother wasting time on ‘statistics,' ‘metrics' or ‘reasoned analysis' to preview our Mavericks. Let's use 2K. It's quicker. It's more realistic. It's obviously better than actually analyzing the actual humans playing the game.
What I've done is construct 3 scenarios: a best case, worst case and a most likely. In each scenario, I edited the team's roster to account for each variables which could factor in. I also played one season as if DeAndre Jordan was on the team -- hopefully not to cause you additional pain, but just to see "what if."
Best case: 51-31, semifinals loss
This is when everything goes right. It's an encapsulation of all that is positive, uplifting and spiritually pure. Let's call this the "Parson's cowbell dance scenario." Remember how Dirk struggled for four months last year and we convinced ourselves it was everything other than age? Well in this scenario, it was (a wizard made him older). Dirk was edited and his 2013-14 self returned. Not only that, Deron Williams was made good again -- Utah Jazz days good. Chandler Parsons has become the elite point forward in the league we all think he can be. Wesley Matthews is one the best 3-and-D players in the league. Justin Anderson is running lanes, nailing open 3s. Even Javale is amaz--well, better.
What's this Mavericks' team ceiling? According to 2K, 51-31, good for a fourth-place finish in the Western Conference and a second-round loss in seven games to the eventual champion Spurs. But hey, the Mavericks did win our first playoff series since 2011. That's good, right? Look at those juicy stats. It even nearly puts a smile on digital Deron. Dirk putting up 22 and 11. He remembered how to rebound again! Parsons with 22-6-5, Matthews raining 3s.
Best case (with Jordan): 57-25, conference finals loss
Now part of me was intrigued. A second loss to the champion is good, but it's not that good. No, an alternate reality where DeAndre Jordan was man enough to honor a verbal agreement better fulfills that scenario. So let's plug DAJ into that starting lineup. It's a video game, so unless Blake Griffin shuts off my power I can make this happen. So what happened with the simulation? Lots of good stuff. The kind of stuff that makes you wonder why Chandler Parsons couldn't take DAJ out to clubs for just a few more nights.
See the team that is second in the West? Yeah, that's the Mavericks. See the team with the 11.9 point differential? That's them, too.
Here is the playoff tree. You'll notice a few things.
- We beat the Clippers in the second round. This is what real life has robbed us of. This is why a retreat into digital basketball can dull the pain.
- We lost to the Spurs anyway ... again. What's with those guys.
- A 57-win team only has 53.7 percent fan interest. In game, the lower bowl only arrives halfway through the second quarter, looks at their cell phones for 90 minutes then leaves without knowing who won. OK, so I made that part up, but come on, what's with such a low number.
Worst case: 27-55, missed playoffs
This is when everything goes wrong. Dirk, the 38 year old forward? It turns out he is actually getting old. His shooting accuracy ratings were bumped down, injury susceptibility bumped up. Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews remain until Christmas. Matthews' ratings were edited so he's slower, shooting is a little off and his defense not as good. Parsons is edited to be a bit slower and less agile in the pick and roll. All those colorful cocktails and weird unsatisfying model party food morsels have added 20 pounds, as well, so Carlisle really does have something to complain about. We start Devin Harris and Justin Anderson for the first 35 games while John Jenkins is the main bench guy. Like I said, worst case. And let's face it, this is probably more likely than the best case. I bet you're nodding along thinking "Oh ****, this is probably going to happen". What is the result?
No screenshot of the playoff tree needed -- just the division standings. That's the Mavericks, 17 games behind the second worst team in the division.
Dirk fell to 15 and 5. (Can't be age though. Probably a curse, or something). Parsons was painfully average. Deron missed 24 games. Dallas traded for C.J. Watson. The A.I. went with the nuclear option and they signed Mike James. See, not cool. It gets worse. Let's look at two of the award winners.
That's right. Jordan is defensive player of the year and Rondo has rediscovered the talent he left in Boston. Is 2K smart enough to perpetuate Mavs' fans collective ‘woe is me' mentality? Undoubtedly yes. I used to play games to escape reality. This is like Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat jumping out of the actual screen to give me a bicycle kick.
At the conclusion of the season, the A.I. says Dallas is in rebuilding mode and will be looking to trade our bunch of declining old players for draft picks we will (presumably) waste anyway. Sigh. But don't worry, help is on the way!
LeBron is on his way to Dallas ... before he gets back in his car to finish his journey to San Antonio to sign his new contract.
Most realistic case: 36-46, missed playoffs.
This is where the default rosters were used. I sat Matthews and Chandler down for a month each. Dirk had a slight downgrade in ratings. What was the result? A very uneventful, if maddeningly likely, 36-46 finish. Not good enough to sniff the playoffs, not bad enough to keep our pick. We are one of those lame comedy channel cartoons between the brilliantly satirical Daily Show and deliciously offensive Tosh.0. We are Brickleberry.
What have we learned?
- We need to make copies of the 2011 Championship DVD in case the original gets lost.
- The Spurs. Man, those guys.
- Forget DeAndre. If everything goes right; injuries heal, old players don't regress, young players improve, we can get back to where we finished last year. Wait, what? Basketball is cruel.
- NBA2K16 will endanger your relationships and sap your productivity.
- Play with the 2003 classic team. Shawn Bradley and Nick Van Exel are cheat codes.
- The TL;DR version of this is a video of Javale McGee completing an alleyoop without the ball. Enjoy!