When you first insert NBA 2K15 into your Xbox One or PlayStation 4, the developers force you to play a full game while the software downloads in the background. It’s a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the title winner, the San Antonio Spurs, but there’s something missing… something we can’t put a finger on.
We’re acting dumb, of course. LeBron James is no longer with the Heat. The King went home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the team’s fans welcomed the NBA champ with open arms despite burning his jersey en mass just a few years ago.
As a result, the Cavs instantly became the favorite to win the Eastern Conference this upcoming season (especially with new acquisition Kevin Love), while fair weather Heat fans will forget the team exists. Well, some of them. Believe it or not, there are longtime supporters with season tickets, and here’s the interesting thing, the Miami Heat sans LeBron will contend. Sure, we expect them to get knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by the Cavs or Chicago Bulls so long as Derrick Rose remains healthy, but there’s also a decent chance they wind up in the Eastern Conference Finals. That said, don’t shy away from picking the Heat in 2K15 because of LeBron’s departure. This team has plenty of talent, and it starts with mega star Dwayne Wade.
Yes, his legs are not what they used to be, but Wade is still a ruthless assassin on the court, even the virtual one. Can you drain countless threes with the guy? No, probably not, but mid-range jumpers, dunks and layups will go through the net at a high percentage, enough that your hapless online opponent will send the double team in Wade’s direction.
Last year, this meant kicking the ball back to LeBron and letting him go to work, or even passing the rock to a wide open Ray Allen for a near guaranteed three. Now both of these players are gone, so who do you fall back on as a second option? Enter the Boshasaurus himself, forward Chris Bosh, who benefited the most from LeBron heading to the Cavs with a max contract from the Heat; he has some of the scariest looking eyes in 2K15, by the way. In the real NBA, Bosh gave up banging inside to become a three-point threat, which probably hurt the team more than it helped. In the video game, he’s a constant presence in the paint, where he grabs rebounds and puts the ball in the basket. Not only that, his soft touch lets you nail mid range jumpers and the occasional three.
Admittedly, things get a bit cloudy from there as you desperately search for a third option. Chris “Birdman” Andersen snatches offensive and defensive rebounds like a crazy person, but he’s not much of a threat. New Heat teammate Josh McRoberts, meanwhile, has a bizarre shot that’ll take some time to grow accustomed to, and we found him a bit clumsy.
Instead, swing the ball to veteran Luol Deng. While not as reliable as LeBron used to be, this guy can drill the three and dunk with authority. Most importantly, he won’t command a double team like Wade and Bosh, which means in some cases he’ll be open.
Then we have the point guard position. At times he’ll drive you crazy, but Mario Chalmers is decent, though to be fair, we’d rather put the ball in Norris Cole’s hands. Either way, don’t let their average points per game (6.4 and 4.6, respectively) fool you. Both of these guys dialed back their offense to compensate for LeBron. We expect them to score this season.
Should you feel adventurous, sub in first year point guard Shabazz Napier, who did respectably well this pre-season. You also have forward Danny Granger and guard Shannon Brown. Unless you’re up against a 2K master, average opponents will fall asleep on both of these guys. The same can also be said of aging forward Udonis Haslem. Not an offensive force by any means, but he cleans up the glass and can hit a 10-footer that’ll drive people crazy.
LeBron James? Who needs him?
Answer: Everyone except the Spurs.
NBA 2K15 is available now for multiple platforms.