In an effort to fill the void left behind in the lives of NBA fans from the league's current hiatus, the NBA and NBA Players Association is partnering with NBA 2K and ESPN to put on the NBA 2K Players Tournament.
The single-elimination tournament will consist of 16 NBA players competing head-to-head on NBA 2K20, with the first round set to begin on Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. The tournament will be nationally televised on ESPN and ESPN2 in the United States, with live streams set up on @NBA2K and @NBA on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube and Facebook as well.
We will have the live streams embedded within an article on our NBA.com site for you to watch if you don't have access to ESPN or ESPN2.
You can find the complete schedule and more information on the tournament here.
As for the matchups, there should be plenty of trash talk and entertainment with the list of players competing. Below we have you covered with a "Tale of the Tape" for each first-round matchup, including odds on who's projected to win the tournament via OddsShark.
Get your popcorn ready.
Kevin Durant (1) vs. Derrick Jones Jr. (16)
Odds to win the tournament: Durant (+500), Jones Jr. (+2200)
Durant is the heavy favourite in this matchup, but what else would you expect?
While Jones was out dunking all over the NBA this season, stealing Slam Dunk Contest titles and whatnot, Durant has been recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals.
You know what that means - plenty of time to work on his NBA 2K game.
Durant's probably logged more games on the sticks this year than Jones has played in his real NBA career (163). All the pressure is on KD as the headliner of the tournament, though, so Jones is playing with nothing to lose. He might want to contact UMBC to learn a thing or two about 16-over-1 upsets.
Trae Young (2) vs. Harrison Barnes (15)
Odds to win the tournament: Young (+1500), Barnes (+2200)
While we've seen plenty of Young on social media during this free time in quarantine, perfecting his dance moves on Tik Tok, we haven't seen much of Barnes, and it's safe to assume he probably looks something like Tom Hanks in Castaway at this point.
The Sacramento Kings forward pledged that he wouldn't shave his beard until his team got back to .500, and the league's hiatus has put that on hold indefinitely. I'm not sure that dance moves or an untrimmed beard help you in any way, shape or form on NBA 2K, but we can't rule anything out.
One thing I am sure of is that Barnes is going to want to get payback for the 30-foot bomb Young drained in his face earlier this season, even though the Kings came away with the win.
Hassan Whiteside (3) vs. Patrick Beverley (14)
Odds to win the tournament: Whiteside (+2200), Beverley (+2200)
When Beverley went viral on Twitter for training on the beach in Timberland boots this offseason, who would've thought this is what he'd be training for? His opponent might want to leave the headset unplugged for this matchup, because Beverley is undoubtedly going to be running his mouth all game long.
Meanwhile, Whiteside has been preparing for this moment since his first big splash in the NBA back in 2015.
This should be one of the most entertaining first-round matchups to tune into.
Donovan Mitchell (4) vs. Rui Hachimura (13)
Odds to win the tournament: Mitchell (+700), Hachimura (+2000)
Mitchell certainly has the edge in this matchup.
The All-Star guard has been working on his 2K game throughout this break, as evidence of him schooling Ronnie2K on a live stream on NBA2K's official account just a week back. He even has an entire highlight tape of him giving Ronnie2K buckets with his virtual self in a winning effort for the whole Twitter world to see.
Hachimura was able to avoid a posterizing dunk by Mitchell about a month ago...
Donovan Mitchell elevates off two feet for the HAMMER!- NBA (@NBA) February 29, 2020
📲💻: https://t.co/lZZApswzuX pic.twitter.com/wO9s1CmRYw
Will he avoid catching an L to him in 2K in the first round of the tournament?
Devin Booker (5) vs. Michael Porter Jr. (12)
Odds to win the tournament: Booker (+220), Porter Jr. (+2000)
Booker is the heavy favourite to take home the NBA 2K Players Tournament title, and it makes sense. Aside from the daily workouts we can assume that Booker has been doing, it seems like the Phoenix Suns All-Star guard hasn't gotten off the sticks.
He's been live streaming on Twitch every day, raising money for COVID-19 relief foundations. And even though it's Call of Duty, not 2K, that has been his game of choice, his hands are warm and ready to compete for this championship.
The only edge Porter might have over Booker is if each player elects to use their real NBA teams - Denver is rated much higher than Phoenix. Aside from that, MPJ just has trash talking rights because the Nuggets swept the Suns 4-0 in the season series this year and kept Booker relatively quiet in the process.
This tournament ain't big enough for two players with a fade and swag stripe haircut. Only one can advance.
Andre Drummond (6) vs. DeMarcus Cousins (11)
Odds to win the tournament: Drummond (+900), Cousins (+800)
By the odds, this should be the best first round contest in a meeting between two bruising centres and known gamers in the NBA community.
However, it appears as though Drummond has spent more time in the studio than on the XBox or PS4 during this quarantine. The Cleveland Cavaliers big man announced on Twitter this week that his second album, "FYI 2," is coming soon, so I guess that explains the slight edge to Cousins on the sticks.
Wow, Vegas does their homework.
In fact, Boogie just jumped on board with the gaming team NRG a few weeks back, so you know he's coming into this matchup ready.
Will this first round meeting look something like this...
Or like this?
Zach LaVine (7) vs. Deandre Ayton (10)
Odds to win the tournament: LaVine (+2200), Ayton (+550)
They must have some competitive 2K games on those Suns road trips because Ayton is only two spots behind his teammate Booker as the favourite to win the tournament. Ayton is another known gamer in the NBA community, most famously using Fortnite as an outlet to keep his mind busy the night leading up to the NBA Draft.
As for LaVine, he's taken his gaming up a notch since the start of the hiatus, preaching to Bulls.com's Sam Smith about it earlier this week.
"I play a lot of video games and obviously the big thing now is people are getting into the video game community. I'm starting to do that as well," LaVine said. "I'm creating my own Twitch account because I play video games so much anyway, and I have a pretty big following with that."
Even though LaVine is the higher seed - despite him and Ayton each owning an 85 overall rating - he could be a good upset pick in terms of Vegas odds!
Montrezl Harrell (8) vs. Domantas Sabonis (9)
Odds to win the tournament: Harrell (+2200), Sabonis (+2200)
In the final first round matchup, we have two physical bigs ready to go at it.
In their only meeting on the actual court this season, it was a duel as Harrell went for 26 points and seven rebounds while Sabonis had a monster double-double of 18 points and 22 rebounds. Even though Sabonis has had a better season in real life, being nominated as a first-time All-Star, surface-level research tells me Harrell has the advantage in this meeting.
While Sabonis, like a number of other NBA players, has taken to Tik Tok to pass time during this hiatus, Harrell appears to have been grinding on the sticks as evidence of this Twitter reply to his teammate Beverley and Luka Doncic:
Facts https://t.co/yXTpKGM9sF- Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) March 14, 2020
Should we see both of these players select their real teams, it'll probably turn into a game of 1-on-1 post-ups between their virtual players with identical 85 overall ratings. Alternatively, they should just let these two duke it out on the blacktop with their characters to see who moves on.
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