The fast way isn’t always the best way. You can get to your destination in a hurry, sure, but sometimes you miss things along the way. While building our Grizz Gaming teams the last few seasons, I was able to take the long view. As some other NBA 2K League franchises made move after move after move, I tried my best to be deliberate, to embrace the slow build. I knew the types of players and people we wanted on our team, and we invested our resources in not only finding those people, but developing them as well.
While we were able to build a winning culture and fill our roster with terrific players, the reality is we just never got good enough, or at least not as good as I wanted us to be. Even last year, when Grizz Gaming finished the regular season 18-10 and made our first-ever playoff appearance, we didn’t win any tournament money, and we didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
So, it became time to take that next step, not to rebuild but to refresh, to try to strengthen our team. While we considered our offseason options, we also had to factor in that the 2K League had made some significant gameplay changes, adding several 3-on-3 tournaments. This sounds much simpler than it actually is, but playing 5-on-5 in 2K is pretty different than playing three on three, and finding someone who excels at both isn’t easy.
We began our offseason by trading a first round pick for JMoney, who played point guard last season for Gen.G. There are really two types of point guards in the 2K League, either ball-dominant players or PGs who are really more like game managers. JMoney is one of the best game managers I’ve ever seen — he knows how to control tempo and how to maximize his teammates (he led the 2K League in assists per game last season). If we were able to build as balanced a roster as we had previously, having a balanced, dynamic offensive attack would make us even tougher to play against.
But it wasn’t just that easy. Switching to a more balanced style of play would mean a new role for Vandi, who played point guard for us over the last three seasons. Vandi and I talked and talked and talked over the options, and we eventually agreed to find a new home for him. We were able to move Vandi to Pacers Gaming, where he could continue to play point guard, and in return we picked up the twelfth overall pick.
This meant heading into the draft we had the 12th pick, the 38th pick, JMoney, plus two returning players in our center, AuthenticAfrican, and our power forward, Spartxn. Authentic and Spartxn are two of the best players in the 2K League and the backbones of our defense. More importantly, they are both incredibly high-quality people and awesome teammates.
With the 12th pick, we knew we needed someone who could help us out offensively, and we also understood from the beginning that the best player out there was BP. After three seasons in the 2K League, BP had established himself as the one of the best offensive players in the world, but he had never been able to really find a perfect fit among 2K League teams. We felt like with our established culture and great group of 2K League veterans already in place, we could give BP his best chance to be successful this season. As the draft slowly moved toward the 12 pick, there were a few nerve-wracking moments where it looked as though BP would be gone before we got to the 12 spot, but we made it and were eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief when we made the pick official.
Our other choice was 38th overall, at the end of the second round. We knew we needed to draft someone who could come in and play the lockdown defender position–basically a three-and-D role. But we also knew that picking at 38 meant a lot of players would already be off the board. So, a few weeks ago, as a group we started brainstorming other ideas. What were we looking for? Someone we knew would be a good teammate, someone who would listen, someone who would work hard, someone who would collaborate, someone who could be versatile. And of course, we needed someone who would be able to learn how to become a solid defender, someone who could hit corner threes and could make the proper reads while on fastbreaks.
And the name we kept coming back to was Jrod. Jrod spent season two and three as our shooting guard, and then ended up joining us midway through last season and embracing a sixth man role. Jrod is one of the most respected we’ve had come through our program, has been an integral part of building our team culture, and most importantly, Jrod has mastered every job we’ve asked him to tackle, without ever complaining once. A few weeks before the draft, I asked Jrod if he’d be willing to give lock a try, and he promised he would give it his all. I knew he would. (I also knew the draft “experts” would probably be confused by the pick. I didn’t care. IYKYK.)
So that’s how we got our five, our common denominator. It’s a team made up of 2K League veterans, all players who are talented and, more importantly, willing to buy into our team concept. I can’t wait to get everyone here in the M to start grinding together. This year there’s no sixth man, so these five are our five. We are literally all we got.
And we will be ready to go.