Every year, around the release of the latest edition of NBA 2K, player ratings are the most debated topic on the game.
Which players are rated too high? Which players are rated too low? Should he really be better than him?
Those are just a few of the common questions asked whenever NBA 2K player ratings drop, and although the discussion fizzles out a bit during the season, it always pops back up whenever there's a ratings update.
Amidst these discussions, have you ever been curious as to how the NBA 2K development team rates each player? So were we.
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In an email exchange with 2K Roster Producer Mike Stauffer (@2Kstauff), 2K Gameplay Producer Mike Wang (@Beluba) and 2K Executive Producer Erick Boenisch, NBA.com was able to get some answers on what goes into each rating, along with other updates on the game's newest edition.
Starting at the top, three players entered NBA 2K22 tied for the highest rating in the game at 96 overall: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Was it just a coincidence they all finished with the same rating?
"It's hard to argue that those players aren't the best in the game," Stauffer said. "In their own way, each of these athletes dominates on the court when compared to their peers, which is a big reason why they are the top-rated players in the game."
NBA.com was curious about how much last year's performance goes into this year's ratings, especially given the NBA Finals run that Antetokounmpo had. Should that have been enough to give him the edge over Curry and James?
"We drive a lot of factors into deciding the final ratings for each player," Stauffer stated.
"We primarily focus on stats from last year and evaluating those advanced analytics, interpreting them and figuring out how to translate additional data into actual ratings. For players who are new to the NBA or have had less experience, projection can be necessary with the expectation that rating will change as more data becomes available."
Since the game's release, superstar Kevin Durant has joined that top tier, making it a four-way tie at 96 overall. NBA.com was wondering what it would take for a player to separate themselves from the pack or join that elite group at the top of the ratings pool.
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"We regularly update ratings as NBA games are played, so we'll have to wait and see what their performance will be like in the upcoming season," Stauffer stated prior to the start of the year.
Since the email interview, there have been plenty of players who got out to roaring starts, and others who have struggled out of the gate. With that being the case every year, NBA.com wanted to know how much early-season performance affects a player's 2K rating at the first update.
"In general, when we update the roster, we look at how the player is trending, and adjustments are made," Stauffer answered.
"Sample size is very important in determining player attributes. A player who has spent less time in the NBA may see updates based on a smaller sample of games than a player who has established themselves. We judge a player's rating more by who they are at their core, and adjust based on recent trends and how they're performing in real life."
We've already seen other adjustments this year, including young star LaMelo Ball being bumped up from an 84 to an 87 overall, breakout guard Ja Morant leveling up from an 85 to an 89 overall and super-skilled center Karl-Anthony Towns going from an 87 to an 89 overall.
Our first #2KRatings update of the year 🚨- NBA 2K (@NBA2K) November 5, 2021
LaMelo, Ja, and KAT go up and Harden drops. Agree with these? pic.twitter.com/j233enClMr
Lastly, every 2K gamer knows that there are some players whose playstyle in real life seamlessly translates to the sticks. Along with stars like Curry, Durant and Antetokounmpo, others like Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden and Paul George come to mind.
However, the 2021 NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, is far from that conversation of a "video game player."
After a remarkable season last year, how can 2K try and replicate Jokic's real-life on-court dominance to the game, even if it's not as smooth of a transition as others?
"The players that are the hardest to rate are the players that measure extremely well based on advanced analytics, but have limited playing time," Stauffer said, in general, not referring to Jokic.
"It can be difficult to tell if these players would be performing at that same high level with more playing time, and in most cases, we are left wondering why their coaches do not play them more. Each year we look at all of our attributes and badges to make sure that we are properly adapting and representing the skills of NBA players.
"With over 100 badges and attributes combined, even players like Nikola Jokic have their unique skills represented in our game," he concluded.
The next time you debate 2K ratings online or with a friend, take these things into consideration. As you can see, it's much more than just seeing a player and assigning an overall number.
And ratings aren't the only thing that change in 2K year-over-year - NBA 2K22 also features a new and more accurate shot meter, as well as some enhanced features to WNBA gameplay, including a WNBA "MyCareer" feature for the first time in the game's history.
Gameplay Producer Wang wrote on the shot meter, stating, "Shooting is always a huge priority and this year's mechanics have undergone many changes to make it the best experience across varying skill levels."
With the prominence of 3-point shooting in today's NBA, it is essential that long-range shooting is equally as important in the game.
"We always strive to create a shooting system that's competitive and accessible to everyone while also modeling the trends of the NBA," Wang concluded.
On The W front, Executive Producer Boenisch spoke on how thrilled the development team is with the progression of the WNBA in 2K.
"It's exciting. NBA 2K22 gives players more to do in The W this year, including an all-new badge progression experience, three playable off-day experiences, and ways to connect with friends online," Boensich stated.
"And we're committed to looking at how we can further build on this for future games, so we expect only more good things to come."
The WNBA is quickly rising in popularity and that is well-represented in the newest model of 2K, where you can create your own WNBA MyPlayer or compete in other game modes with some of the league's best stars like Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, A'ja Wilson or Candace Parker, the WNBA champion who became the first-ever female player on the cover of 2K this year.
Extremely proud and humbled to be the first female cover athlete in the history of @NBA2K- Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) July 14, 2021
I'm honored to work with a company that's investing in women and betting on us to succeed. I'm hopeful there will be many more badass females to follow 💪🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/WJan4YE7Qt
Whether you're playing to compete with the superstars in the NBA or WNBA, build your own career or just pick up the sticks and play with friends, NBA 2K22 has something to offer for every level of gamer.
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