‘NBA 2K24′ ratings create wild debate for Steph Curry, other stars originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Steve Kerr and other members of the Warriors coaching staff and roster find themselves busy prepping for the FIBA World Cup right now. For the rest of us, this time of the offseason is meant for frothing at Pro-Am performances and raging over ratings in a video game.
But the slow release of “NBA 2K24” opens the gates at a time that begs for debate. The game creators see Nikola Jokić as the clear best player in basketball at this time. Jokić leading the Denver Nuggets to an NBA title, and how he did so, makes it hard to argue against that. The Nuggets superstar center is a 98 overall, the highest rating in the game, which releases Sept. 8.
Behind Jokić, there’s a group of five that round out the 1-B of basketball. Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant and LeBron James all are rated as a 96. Those six players combined make up 12 MVPs, 12 NBA titles, nine NBA Finals MVPs, seven All-Star Game MVPs, one Defensive Player of the Year, nine scoring titles, 59 All-Star Game selections, 55 All-NBA selections and 14 All-Defensive selections.
The only player of the group who hasn’t won a ring or Finals MVP, Embiid, just won his first MVP and second straight scoring title.
Nobody wants a top-six list, though. There’s one too many here. So, who should be dropped to create the top-five best players in the game? The answer might be fairly obvious, and might be another reason to stay away from social media after having this published.
Jokić is automatic. He’s the clear No. 1 overall in the game and in any real-life list as well. The next two automatic choices are either a chef who lights up the hardwood or a Greek Freak who won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season not too long ago.
Curry stands on the older side of the group. Yet during the 2022-23 NBA season, he increased his points per game by nearly four points from the Warriors’ championship season a year prior. Curry’s 42.7 3-point percentage was his best since 2018-19 (43.7 percent), and he averaged a career-best 6.1 rebounds per game while handing out 6.3 assists per game. He’s the clear top option and ultimate difference maker on a team that will boast four future Hall of Famers.
The 2023-24 season will be Curry’s 15th as a pro, and he’ll be 36 years old in March. Curry strikes as much fear in his opponent as anybody else in the league. There wasn’t any shock to him becoming the first player to score 50 points in a Game 7, and what he did in the 2022 NBA Finals hasn’t lost any of its luster. Age is part of the equation, as are some injury red flags, but not enough to put him out of this top five.
Antetokounmpo finished third in MVP voting last season and ninth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, ending a streak of four straight years in the top four. His Basketball Reference page lists four positions, and the only one missing for the 7-footer is center. Antetokounmpo just averaged a new career-high in points (31.1), along with his third-most rebounds (11.8) and third-most assists (5.7) per game. He’ll be 29 in December and is continuing to evolve as a young Shaq who strides down the court like prime Wilt and Bill Russell.
Embiid has holes; he has his flaws. Injury concerns aren’t gone, he’ll be 30 in March and Embiid’s playoff career hasn’t lasted past the second round yet. Jokić had an argument and so did Antetokounmpo for last season’s MVP. Embiid earned it. He finished second to Jokić the previous two seasons and was a force throughout the 2022-23 campaign.
Philadelphia is waiting for The Process to equal a championship. What it did bring in his MVP campaign was three games of 50 points or more, 13 of 40 points or more and 44 of dropping at least 30.
That leaves Durant and James, the two longest-tenured players in this exercise. Durant was held to 47 games last season and James played 55. The former has averaged 46 games played the last three seasons and the latter has averaged 52. They both flash Greatest Player on the Planet moments, but the sustainability is losing its legs.
The younger stars such as Jokić, Antetokounmpo and Embiid are primed to have more chances at an MVP. Golden State is going all-in this season on Curry being back in the mix. The Phoenix Suns aren’t messing around, but Durant will have adjustments to make on a top-heavy team where Chris Paul is out and Bradley Beal is in. The Los Angeles Lakers’ best path at a chance for a non-bubble championship likely is Anthony Davis being more of a candidate than James.
Watching James play all but four seconds of the Lakers’ season-ending loss to the Nuggets was his latest athletic marvel. It also coincided with James flirting at the idea of retirement. Father Time has taken its sweet time. James always will defy it, but the reality is starting to keep pace and catch up.
Now that Durant is more than three years removed from a torn Achilles that ended his Warriors tenure, he remains one of the deadliest and most efficient scorers in the NBA. Injuries limited the amount of games he played, not his offensive arsenal. He had 56.0/40.4/91.9 shooting splits in the 39 games he played for the Brooklyn Nets and eight he wore a Suns jersey.
James this past season struggled from deep, shooting 32.1 percent, and then followed that by shooting 26.4 percent on threes in the playoffs. Like the sniper shots from beyond the arc Durant drained over James in the Finals when the now Suns forward was part of the Warriors, his shot and scoring prowess gives him the advantage as someone four years younger.
While he’s done wearing No. 6 on his back, James falls to that number as a starting point in this case. And with that, it’s back to the importance of having an offseason.
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