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Breaking down the virtual Boston Celtics in NBA 2K24

Let’s take a look at how the Celtics stack up in the latest edition of the NBA’s flagship video game franchise

Boston Celtics (104) Vs. Miami Heat (103) At Kaseya Center Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Another season of NBA basketball is upon us, and with it comes the latest entry of Visual Concepts’ long running video game franchise, NBA 2K24. That may not be as welcome as it was in years past, as the franchise has fallen into controversy in recent years due to concerns over heavy monetization and a relative lack of innovation. Sometimes, 2K feels a bit more like an online casino than a basketball game. Just over a week into its existence, NBA 2K24 sports an “Overwhelmingly Negative” user rating on Steam.

What makes the 2K franchise’s problems sting a bit worse is when you consider that they’re layered on top of what is otherwise a perfectly cromulent sports game. These games have always featured strong gameplay (the occasional odd tuning decision aside), the long-neglected franchise mode remains among the genre’s best, and some new features like the fully incorporated WNBA have been well-received.

People want to like NBA 2K, in other words, and so do we here at CelticsBlog. Despite its problems, we’re right back here talking about it once again. There’s a new band of Virtual Celtics to play with, after all. Let’s take a look at how they stack up this time around.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Tatum: 95 overall

Unsurprisingly, Tatum leads the way for this roster as far and away the team’s highest rated player. A 95 overall rating puts him in a tie for the third-best rating in the NBA, and to be honest, that feels pretty fair. Each of the six names above him — Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant — have reasonable-to-strong cases for outranking him, and his contemporaries at 95 — Luka Doncic and Jimmy Butler — feel like they belong in the ballpark.

Outside shooting (90 overall) is obviously the strong point here, with inside scoring (84) and defense (83). The game still doesn’t quite seem to be on board with Tatum as a playmaker, assigning him just a 79 overall in the category with some weaker passing stats, including just a 70 in passing vision. He’s being sold short here, though that’s not necessarily surprising. Tatum has come a long way as a playmaker, but he’s not the kind of heliocentric initiator that these ratings like to award. If he gets some more run as a point guard this season, we could see his score start to rise.

Jaylen Brown: 89 overall

Some may bristle at Brown falling short of the magical 90 overall threshold, but he’s landed at the seventh-best rating in basketball, in a tie with some pretty good company: Trae Young, James Harden, and Paul George. That seems alright to me.

Brown looks like one of the most fun players this edition of 2k has to offer. His combination of scoring chops and athleticism will be hard to beat, with an 87 overall in outside scoring categories and an 83 in athletic traits. The game doesn’t subscribe to his purported ball-handling issues either, handing him a whopping 86 overall in that category (along with 46 other NBA players, for some reason). He should be one of the most complete scorers in the game this year. It might even be a bit of an overrating, if we’re being honest.

Curiously, Tatum and Brown carry the exact same rating (89) in dunking ability. Tatum can throw it down, to be sure, but Brown has always been on another level as a vertical athlete. Has his reputation as an explosive dunker begun to decline? Perhaps a dunk contest appearance is in order.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis: 86 overall

I lean a bit to the side of skepticism when it comes to players coming off of big contract years, so this rating feels just a touch too high for me. This rating puts Porzingis in the neighborhood of Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis (both 87s), as well as Jaren Jackson Jr and Pascal Siakam (86), and I’m not quite sure he’s at that level. Knocking him down a point or two would feel more appropriate.

That said, we don’t have to worry about injuries when discussing these ratings, and Porzingis’ production when healthy at least gives him a case. He’s one of the league’s true 20 PPG threats from the frontcourt, and he does it behind bona fide high-volume three-point shooting. It’s an outstanding skillset for 2K in particular, and should be a phenominal fit for the virtual version of this team. These Celtics will be problematic to match up with in-game.

One thing 2K particularly hates: Porzingis’ defense. He grades out as just a 66 overall defensively, despite an 80 in shot-blocking and an 82 in help defense. The game just doesn’t think he can move, with a 62 in lateral quickness. This feels like it's definitely underselling what he can bring to the Celtics on the defensive end of the court.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Brogdon: 83 overall

Derrick White: 82 overall

Pairing off the remainder of the primary rotation, we come first to the guards. Frankly, 2K just got this one wrong. Brogdon had a nice season last year, shooting the leather off the ball and earning Sixth Man of the Year for his trouble, but there’s not really a case to be made that he was the better player of these two. White was an invaluable glue piece to this roster, while Brogdon was a useful-but-situational bench player. It should be White with the 83 rating here, and Brogdon should probably sit closer to a 79 or 80.

White was the best shot-blocking guard in basketball last season, but his 67 overall in that category actually places him second among true backcourt players (behind another Celtic we’ll discuss shortly). I would argue that 2K ratings should be weighted by the position the player plays rather than overall — similar to how the 20-80 scale functions in baseball — but such as it is, it’s hard to complain about White being one of just two guards in the top 100 for shot-blocking. Why Brogdon outpaces him in steal rating, 41 to 38, is beyond me.

That said, in a video game context, Brogdon is going to be the guy that helps you win more games this year. His ability to shoot and drive — including a 96 from the mid-range! — is miles beyond what White can do, and his poor defense can be mitigated with player control. If you’re playing online, he’s the one you’re going to see a lot more of.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Williams III: 82 overall

Al Horford: 82 overall

Entering his sixth NBA season, Robert Williams III feels appropriately rated at an 82 overall. Horford, however, always feels a touch undersold in the realm of 2K. He just doesn’t have the kind of game that video games really appreciate; he’s never been a major stat-compiler, by star-caliber player standards, so the game has seldom actually ranked him as such. He’s about to enter his age-37 season, so accounting for some age-related decline would make sense, but he’s more valuable to these Celtics than this rating indicates.

Williams, on the other hand, should continue to be an absolute riot in this game. His skillset plays perfectly on the virtual court, vacuuming up rebounds and finishing everything at the rim out of the pick-and-roll. In franchise mode, he may not be as attainable as he once was, but he’s the kind of guy I’ll plug in as my starting center without question.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk: 74 overall

Mykhailiuk somehow ranks as the best player on the team’s bench outside of last year’s core rotation. That’s pretty silly. He’s an interesting three-point shooter and a reasonable addition from a real-life depth standpoint, but he feels like he should be the platonic ideal of a 70 overall, at best. I assume he was put in the game at this rating back when he was with the Lakers and just hasn’t been changed at all since.

Dalano Banton: 73 overall

Ladies and gentlemen, the best shot-blocking guard in the NBA, I guess?

Similar to Mykhailiuk, while I think Banton is an interesting piece, I don’t yet see what 2K is seeing here. Outranking White as a shot-blocker is strange — outranking him by 15 points is downright bizarre. Is it just because he’s 6-foot-7? It doesn’t make sense, and his overall doesn’t need to be this high just yet.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Miami Heat v Boston Celtics Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Payton Pritchard: 73 overall

Sam Hauser: 73 overall

Luke Kornet: 73 overall

We’re now fully in the “well, he’s a bench player, I guess,” tier. Pritchard, Hauser and Kornet all come away with identical ratings to start this year, and I’m not sure it feels correct for any of them. Hauser gets a particularly raw deal, having turned himself into a very playable NBA wing last season but receiving little credit for it. Despite looking more or less perfectly average last season, the game doesn’t believe in his defensive ability at all, scoring him at just a 50 overall. His 84 three-point rating — too low! — isn’t enough to make up for it.

I’m less bullish on Pritchard, and his down year and lack of playing time make it hard to justify too big of a ratings increase. He’s not worse than Mykhailiuk or Banton, though, and we’ve seen him string together some nice performances. They couldn’t have tossed him a 75 for his trouble.

Luke Kornet is Luke Kornet. He might be the most “73 overall” player alive.

Oshae Brissett: 72 overall

A lot of athleticism, but not much else for Brissett here. That seems fair enough. Brissett is an interesting jumble of tools, but we haven’t seen them come together into something coherent just yet. This could be an interesting rating to keep an eye on — if he catches on in this Boston rotation, he could be due to rise very fast.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Boston Celtics v New York Knicks Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Jordan Walsh: 70 overall

Defense! Walsh has it, and 2K can tell. If you like to control wing players on defense, Walsh could be a sneaky good option for you. He starts his NBA career as a 68 overall on the defensive end of the floor, with a nice blend of defensive skills and physical attributes. Don’t expect him to score just yet, but I think this is a better player than a 70 overall would suggest. As someone who believes Walsh will crack the real-life Celtics rotation before the end of the year, that sounds good to me.

JD Davison: 69 overall

Jay Scrubb: 67 overall

Bringing up the rear are the two-way players. There’s not much to say here. JD Davison has 85 speed and 85 driving dunk — always a fun combination. Scrubb, meanwhile, doesn’t do much of anything. It’s hard to expect much more of interest from 2K for players at this level, unfortunately.

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