It’s NBA 2K Week here at Oregon Sports News. Throughout the week, OSN will publish articles simulating different scenarios we’ve dreamed up in the absence of IRL sports, and we’ll also spotlight previous simulations others have completed.
Today, OSN’s Bryant Knox takes a look at a video from this NBA season where one 2K20 player sets out to not only rebuild the Portland Trail Blazers but to do it in true Rip City fashion.
Three words. Four syllables. One incredibly complicated mantra.
Rebuilding an NBA franchise is something the vast, vast majority of us will never experience. And that’s okay—it’s for the better. Whether you’re a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Philadelphia 76ers or any team in between, your only responsibility is to sit back, critique if you must, enjoy an adult beverage if legally allowed, and simply…
Trust the process.
Yet here’s the beautiful thing about 2020. Sometimes, we can take destiny into our own hands with the technology at our fingertips.
The even more beautiful thing about the age in which we live? We can also, always, trust someone has already done it for us.
After searching YouTube for “Realistic Portland Trail Blazers 2K Rebuild,” one of the first videos to pop up came courtesy of user KOT4Q. The video, which posted back on Nov. 13, has over 236k views and an overwhelmingly positive like-to-dislike ratio.
Despite not including “realistic” in his title, a few minutes of watching makes it clear he’s not in this for a quick fix or to build a superteam.
“In real life, if the Wizards offer you this [Bradley Beal for CJ McCollum] trade,” he’d go on to say early in the first season after viewing a Washington offer, “you gotta pull the trigger—you have to.
“But that’s not real. That’s not even close to realistic, so I’m declining.”
That right there was all the evidence we needed to know this was our guy and someone who would treat the simulation with the respect it deserved.
He also had cool merch for sale on his page, so he pretty much had me at hello.
To kick things off, our Trail Blazers 2K20 user declares a strong intent to trade Hassan Whiteside. This isn’t what Neil Olshey ever said out loud, but it’s clear KOT4Q and Olshey had the same mindset to start their campaigns.
Our new Blazers overlord also notes that getting this team to jell in a meaningful way won’t be easy considering the roster turnover from the 2019 offseason. So it’s intriguing when he gets an offer to trade CJ McCollum for Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton 11 games into the year.
(Image courtesy of NBA 2K20)
Breaking up the backcourt in the interest of adding a bigger, stronger, three-and-D All -Star feels downright responsible on paper. But when it comes to staying “realistic,” it didn’t make sense to move on from the consistency and cohesion McCollum gives the roster mere months after he and Dame led a Western Conference Finals run.
Having passed on both the Middleton offer and the previously mentioned Beal deal, the first month of the season is a wrap. A 10-16 record isn’t too inspiring for a team with title aspirations, but alas, this is why rebuilds are a thing.
At this point, our de facto general manager completes what Olshey couldn’t, or at least wouldn’t. He talks the Cavaliers down from what felt like a Kevin Love hostage negotiation that included a demand of two Trail Blazers first-rounders in addition to Whiteside. The Cavs, knowing they didn’t have any actual bullets to fire, balk and send Love home to Portland at the reduced price of Whiteside’s expiring contract and a single lottery-protected draft selection.
After seeking out Marcus Morris, Sr., as well as a potential cap-relieving trade partner when that flopped, the Blazers elect to move on, putting their trust in eventual health to aid the team’s growth organically.
Ironically, the final big move came out of necessity when Anfernee Simons fractured his hand, forcing the team to sign point guard Jerami Grant for the remainder of the season.
(Image courtesy of NBA 2K20)
As far as immediate rebuilds are concerned, these Blazers have already found success. The Kevin Love deal is justified, at least for now, by not only making the postseason but retaining their lotto-protected pick. The team even ends up as a 5 seed with an extremely favorable matchup against the young No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns.
But wouldn’t you know it, it turns out those Suns are the higher seed for a reason.
Seven games made for a good series but a bad result for the Blazers. The Suns move on, sparing Portland the sweep they themselves had to endure in Round 2 vs. the eventual champion LA Clippers.
Kevin Love put up bonkers numbers. He was an All-Star-caliber player with Portland and he got the Blazers to the playoffs.
He was also going to bog down the team’s cap situation in a monumental way, which is unfortunate in any rebuild and all the more problematic when you just lost a playoff series to a young team on the rise.
With that in mind, Love is out. It wasn’t a long time but it was a (mostly) good time. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Lake O.
(Image courtesy of NBA 2K20)
With Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in, via the Love trade, Portland still has to decide if it’s in tear-down mode or going all-in.
Our YouTube user makes the realistic decision to ignore a tempting D’Angelo Russel, Eric Paschall trade for Nassir Little, Zach Collins, Evan Fournier and a draft pick. Instead, he pulls off a more modest but significant move and brings aboard Danilo Gallinari, a longtime Blazers target.
Just like Year 1, the Blazers get the “first month” treatment with a super-speed PC simulation through Dec. 1. This time, a 12-5 start gives our user early-season confidence to proceed sans shakeups.
No notable trades, no major signings—off to the postseason.
After winning 59 games and watching Terry Stotts win Head Coach of the Year, the Blazers earn the West’s No. 1 seed. “This ain’t the greatest team I’ve put together,” KOT4Q says, “but it’s definitely a very good team, a winnable team.”
Up against the San Antonio Spurs in Round 1, we get to see just how winnable these Blazers have become. Four games in, four games out. A clean sweep for Portland.
Next comes the No. 5 LA Clippers. With no notable injuries and a roster that looks a lot like the one we know today, the Clips must be considered one of the most dangerous five seeds in recent memory, and it showed as they force seven games.
Portland ultimately takes the series with a convincing 126-100 win en route to a Western Conference Finals appearance against the Houston Rockets.
It took six games, but the starting 5 of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Danilo Gallinari, Aaron Gordon and Jusuf Nurkic handled their business against Russell Westbrook and James Harden as well.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Blazers are making their way back to the championship looking for their first title since 1977.
And wouldn’t you know it, it’s a process-trusting, once-familiar Finals foe standing in their way.
Leading into any championship, you can expect drama. With so much time between the conference finals and finals series—not to mention a bevy of media members privy to the league’s dirty little secrets all gathered in one location—you’re bound to find bulletin-board material.
In this case, Portland’s new man in charge dropped the bomb as if he were Woj himself revealing he’d approached Philly before the season began with a trade that included none other than CJ McCollum.
“Now, I was trying to make a deal with the 76ers before the season started—I did try to give them CJ, honestly,” KOT4Q said before Game 1. “I ain’t gone tell you what I tried to get in return … but they said no.
Flash forward three games, and the Sixers are up in the series. Philly bounced back from a Game 1 loss to take the next two, but the Trail Blazers recovered nicely to tie things up at 2 a piece.
Then, in what can only be described as time flying while the Blazers had fun, Portland cleaned up, took Games 5 and 6 in just a few seconds time and completed the team’s second successful title run in franchise history.
“Oh there it is!” KOT4Q shouts. “So we do get out there with a championship…
(Image courtesy of NBA 2K)
“I tried to steal Ben Simmons from them.”
So Why Not Tank?
The Blazers get their championship, and the de facto GM gets to rub it in the faces of the Sixers that his guard beat their guard. His franchise beat their franchise.
His process beat their process.
Just as importantly, KOT4Q did it the Rip City way.
At one point, our host gets ahead of criticism that could come from either a national audience begging for a backcourt breakup or viewers craving instant gratification. He says the Blazers don’t tank, so neither will he.
“That’s not Portland Trail Blazers. That’s not their identity.”
Maybe this title run proves to be more Dirk Nowitzki than Tim Duncan. It’s tough to picture a scenario where the now-33-year-old Gallinari, 30-year-old McCollum and 31-year old Lillard, despite Gordon and Nurk handling the “youth movement” at the rim, win not one, not two, not three…
But for fans in Portland, the chance to rally for a title, even if it proves the only one, will always look greater than tossing players, wins and morale to the curb.
Like we said at the start. Three words. Four syllables. One incredibly complicated mantra.
There’s no one way to win an NBA title. But sometimes, you just have to trust the process.