Basketball fans are spoiled. NBA finals and offseason last through the summer. The WNBA is going on. Still, the Twitter timeline is flooded with hot takes from mid-July till the NBA preseason. But, now we have NBA 2K20. Much like NBA 2K18, in the past, we’ll play around with reality. We get our first taste of the regular season. Not only will I do the regular season, but I’ll also do a few “what-if” scenarios. For the sake of this, I declined any trade throughout the season and left injuries on because we know that something will probably end up happening.
(This included a healthy DeMarcus Cousins. The other simulations did not include Cousins.)
The team went off to a hot start finishing with a 22-4 record. Two of those losses, the Lakers had during the first week of the season to the Clippers and the Hornets [Editor’s note: YIKES].
Things were going well before the month of December, but then the injuries struck. On December 15th, Kyle Kuzma broke his ankle and would be out for 2 months and December 21st, Troy Daniels broke his right hand. Still, they faired well only losing three games in that month, only losing to the Jazz on December 4, Clippers on Christmas day and December 29 to the Mavericks.
The team entered the all-star break with a record of 45-9 and the number 1 seed in the West. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were rightfully All-Stars.
Los Angeles would end the season 66-16, the first seed in the Western Conference. This was in large part due to the roles played by LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Davis would finish the season with 24/11/2. The team would score upwards to 160 points more than 3 times against the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Portland Trail Blazers. In 82 games, the Lakers averaged 123 points per game, first in the league in scoring offense.
LeBron James ended up winning the Most Valuable Player for the regular season. The stats are included in the image below
In the playoffs, the Lakers first matched up with the San Antonio Spurs, winning 4-1. The second round saw the Lakers dispose of the Denver Nuggets in 4 games. Things were going swimmingly until the Lakers were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the Houston Rockets in 6 games. Thanks a lot, NBA 2K20.
Keep the kids together:
Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart were sadly included in the deal to acquire Anthony Davis. There was a notion that the Lakers could probably make noise if they had kept the kids prior to the trade due to the parity after Golden State’s dynasty collapsed. How did they fare? I brought Ingram, Ball, and Hart back while keeping Danny Green.
To make this so, I traded Davis back onto the Pelicans and included our dear friend Avery Bradley. I also released DeMarcus Cousins.
In December, Danny Green got hurt and was out 6-8 weeks. The team had an 8 game losing streak from December 11th to the 28th and ended up with a 16-17.
The team sputtered throughout the season, ending with a record of 41-41. They ended up as the 9th seed, missing the playoffs by 2 games. A crushing blow as they lost to both the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings (8th seed) in back to back games to close the season.
LeBron James posted an absurd 32/8/8 to lead the Lakers. Kuzma finished second in scoring with 18.4 ppg. Ball finished with a respectable 8.7/4.6/9.7. Ingram had 13/3.1/2.2 and Hart had 6.1/2.5/1.4. Hart was buried behind Green and KCP. Ingram and Ball were 3rd and 4th in minutes respectively.
The Lakers would finish 8th in points per game and 9th in points allowed. Surprisingly the team led the league in FG% at 49% and were 13th in the league with 36% from beyond the arc. How this team missed the playoffs, I won’t understand.
Laker fans were teased during free agency. There was the possibility that they could end up with a big three of James, Davis, and Kawhi Leonard. So let’s take a look at that prospect. I sent Danny Green back to Toronto and added Kawhi to the Lakers. I let the Clippers keep Paul George because I am kind and merciful.
This has to be one of the best big three’s of all time, right? The sim started off that way. The team started the season with 17 straight wins. Their first loss was on November 27 against the New Orleans Pelicans [LOL] where they lost by 1.
Disaster struck as Kawhi sprained his ankle on December 3 in a 120-88 loss to Denver. How would the team cope? Well. extremely well. The team got Kawhi back January 18 and their record was 37-4.
Kawhi got hurt again on January 25, with a strain in his calf muscle scheduled out to be out 6-8 weeks yet again. Kawhi would come back March 6 with the record at 51-10. He would have yet ANOTHER injury on March 22. this time a bruised right shoulder (2-4 weeks recovery time). The team finished with a 66-16 record. The last game of the season against Phoenix, Kawhi sprained his elbow.
Load management is important y’all.
LeBron James ended up winning MVP in this simulation, averaging 27.4/6.8/8.3. Kawhi only played 44 games during the season due to injury.
The Lakers were first in PPG scoring 120 while only allowing 105 PPG.
Check out how the playoffs went! The Lakers had a few close calls, falling 0-2 in both the first round and WCF. They would go on to beat the 76ers in a sweep.
Back like they never left:
If you know me, you know I love D’Angelo Russell. I loved that entire core even though they struggled. There was always the talk of potential surrounding the young guys.
What if: the Lakers never got LeBron? What if they kept the entirety of the young core? NBA 2K20 lets us take a look at that. From the 2014 Draft on, let’s take a look at how the team fares. These are the players that comprise the roster:
- D’Angelo Russell
- Kyle Kuzma
- Brandon Ingram
- Lonzo Ball
- Julius Randle
- Larry Nance Jr
- Jordan Clarkson
- Ivica Zubac
- Moe Wagner
- Svi Mykhailiuk
- Alex Caruso
- Deandre Hunter
The team started off 0-6. They got their first win against the Chicago Bulls 130-98. I didn’t think they would have that much of a chance as the sim continued but they ended up battling to a 16-16 record thanks in part to a 9 game win streak in December (Dec 11-Dec 29). They were over.500 for the first time with a January 3 win against the Pelicans.
The kids figured it out as the year went on. They only lost 7 games in December and January.
The team ended up making the playoffs as the seventh seed with a 47-35 record. They would go on to face the Trail Blazers in the first round, where they were promptly swept.
Church of Caruso
Alex Caruso has built a sort of mythology around him. The Texas A&M alumnus has the opportunity to show off his ability. Caruso shot 47.7% from 3 during the last 15 games of last season. He also shared a +9.1 rating when sharing the court with LeBron.
So, what if we made him a 99 in all attributes and gave him dunk packages from LeBron James and Michael Jordan? What if he also had Allen Iverson’s dribbling form and Steph Curry’s shot? What if he was 6’9″?
Do I know what 99 miscellaneous durability means? No.
Did I give it to him anyway? Hell yeah.
Let’s see how a big three of Caruso, James, and Davis would play out.
The Lakers would go 16-2 through November 27. The problem is, at this point, both LeBron James and Anthony Davis would have injuries. James had a pinched nerve in his back and Davis would have a broken nose.
The Lakers would go on to win 7 more games and lose 2 before getting James back. They would with 7 more by the time Davis returns.
March 21st, Anthony Davis broke his right hand and would be out 2-4 weeks. He would return April 11 with the Lakers having a record of 70-10. They would tie the 1996 Bulls with a 72-10 record. The Lakers would have the 1 seed and an MVP.
The Lakers would face a 3-2 deficit to the Denver Nuggets in the first round. They would sweep the Jazz in the second round, defeat the Clippers in the WCF, and beat the Raptors in the Finals in five games.
Caruso would go on to win Finals MVP, averaging 18/13/15.
What did I learn through these simulations?
If Alex Caruso has the opportunity to play, he should play 35 minutes a night and the Lakers will win it all this year. Provided he also has a 4 inch growth spurt.