We’re just a couple weeks away from the release of NBA 2K18 on September 19th. A new feature of 2K18 will be ability to play with every NBA franchise’s all-time team (a team compiled of the best players to ever play for that franchise). It’s a new and welcome addition to NBA 2K, as it gives fans the ability to play with numerous legends from their favorite teams for the first time.
In the spirit of things, I decided to power rank each franchise’s all-time roster. Keep in mind, this is not a ranking of each team in the hypothetical real world, but how good they’ll be within the confines of NBA 2K18. There is a key difference. The Memphis Grizzlies, for instance, are a model franchise of consistency that routinely had playoff-caliber teams. In 2K, though, they were a terrible team to play with because being fundamentally sound on defense doesn’t win you games in the NBA 2K.
If you think a team is too low or too high, don’t base your judgment on the team on paper, try to imagine actually trying to play with them in 2K18.
The tier system is meant to group teams with others that are relatively close. So, if you’re playing against your buddy and want a somewhat fair match-up, check out the teams together in tiers.
The starting lineups are including with the rankings, but you can also find the entire 15-man rosters here.
30. Charlotte Hornets
Starters: Kemba Walker (86), Eddie Jones (88), Glen Rice (89), Larry Johnson (88), Alonzo Mourning (88)
Poor Charlotte. Still a relatively young franchise, they’ve seen mild success followed by abysmal years of futility. This comes through on their all-time roster. The only team without a player rated over 90 on the entire roster, I can’t imagine anyone besides the most ardent buzzers (is that what their fans are called? If not I’m going to start calling them that) wanting to use this squad.
29. Los Angeles Clippers
Starters: Chris Paul (92), Corey Maggette (86), Bob McAdoo (94), Blake Griffin (90), DeAndre Jordan (87)
Is there anything that says, “We’re the worst franchise in NBA history” more than Corey Maggette starting for your all-time team? Yeesh. Wait; hold on, yes, I’ve just been told Darius Miles (80) is also on the roster. Somehow that’s worse.
28. New Orleans Pelicans
Starters: Chris Paul (96), Baron Davis (90), Jamal Mashburn (89), David West (88), Anthony Davis (92)
You may have noticed the low ranking for both Chris Paul teams on this list. This is where the real life vs. video game distinction is most apparent. Chris Paul, the person, is a hall of fame player and the best point guard of his generation. Chris Paul, the video game player, is hampered by his height and struggles to create for himself. The Chris Paul-Anthony David duo is tempting but, them aside, there’s not much here.
27. Indiana Pacers
Starters: Mark Jackson (85), Ron Artest (88), Paul George (91), Jermaine O’Neal (90), Rik Smits (87)
Not having Reggie Miller really hurts the Pacers here (come on 2K and Reggie, give the people what they want!). Instead of having one of the greatest shooters ever, you get Ron Artest. Expect Paul George to request a trade from this team as well.
26. Washington Wizards
Starters: John Wall (90), Earl Monroe (87), Bernard King (86), Elvin Hayes (95), Wes Unseld (94)
Not too much to excite the viewer here. John Wall with Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld is nothing to sneeze at, but lack of depth and consistent shooting will likely make this team a mostly forgotten one.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Starters: Mike Conley (87), Tony Allen (85), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (86), Pau Gasol (92), Marc Gasol (93)
The intrigue of the Gasol brothers, in their prime, playing together is the main reason for this roster being even this high. If you can use Mike Conley with the Gasols correctly, this team can really have some nice potential.
24. Toronto Raptors
Starters: Kyle Lowry (88), DeMar DeRozan (89), Vince Carter (95), Chris Bosh (92), Antonio Davis (85)
If you’re using this team you’ll probably want to swap out Antonio Davis for a young Tracy McGrady (84) and move Bosh to center and Carter to power forward. That’s a pretty good athletic team if you can get them out in the open court. Otherwise, this roster doesn’t have many new and exciting players non-Toronto fans would be interested in.
23. Atlanta Hawks
Starters: Lou Hudson (91), Joe Johnson (89), Bob Pettit (95), Dominique Wilkins (94), Dikembe Mutombo (92)
There’s some promising potential, especially with the frontcourt, here. But here’s the problem with relying on Wilkins: he can’t shoot, like at all. In the half court against top defensive players he’s absolutely brutal to score with unless it’s an open dunk. You’ll probably have to rely more on Hudson and Joe Johnson instead.
22. Phoenix Suns
Starters: Steve Nash (96), Paul Westphal (88), Shawn Marion (90), Tom Chambers (89), Amar’e Stoudemire (91)
Another team hurt by not having one of its stars available (Charles Barkley), the Suns suffer from an overabundance of point guards. If that’s your game, then this might be your team. With Dennis Johnson (90), Kevin Johnson (90), Jason Kidd (88), and Goran Dragic (86) supporting Nash and Westphal, the guard spot is stacked. However, you’ll probably have to play Chambers and Stoudemire every minute because they are razor thin on big men.
21. Dallas Mavericks
Starters: Derek Harper (87), Rolando Blackman (88), Mark Aguirre (88), Dirk Nowitzki (97), Shawn Bradley (82)
Why Derek Harper starts over Steve Nash (86) and Jason Kidd (86) I have no idea. Ditto for Rolando Blackman over Jason Terry (88). Make a few manual changes to the lineup and you got an offensive duo that’s nearly unstoppable with Nash/Kidd and Nowitzki. Just don’t expect much rim protection with Shawn Bradley and Tyson Chandler (82) manning the middle.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Starters: Sam Cassell (87), Andrew Wiggins (86), Wally Szczerbiak (85), Kevin Love (91), Kevin Garnett (97)
The antithesis of the Suns roster, the Timberwolves are stacked with big men while being depleted when it comes to guards and wings. I mean, Wally Szczerbiak is your best small forward in franchise history? Zach LaVine made this team? Really? Practice your post moves if you’re going to use this team because it’ll be all Love and Garnett followed by Karl-Anthony Towns (91) and Al Jefferson (88) off the bench.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers
Starters: Mark Price (91), Kyrie Irving (91), LeBron James (99), Brad Daugherty (89), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (88)
The Cavaliers are such a mess of a franchise that they have LeBron James, the second greatest player in NBA history, on their team and they’re still below average. Price and Irving make a nice scoring duo in the backcourt but you’re defense is going to suuuuuuck with those two together.
18. Brooklyn Nets
Starters: Jason Kidd (95), Drazen Petrovic (90), Julius Erving (97), Buck Williams (88), Brook Lopez (87)
Checking in surprisingly high are the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets! Bolstered by slightly generous ratings to the in-their-prime backcourt of Jason Kidd and Drazen Petrovic, the Nets have offensive firepower throughout their starting lineup. Bench is also respectable with Vince Carter (87), Derrick Coleman (87), and Joe Johnson (87).
17. Orlando Magic
Starters: Penny Hardaway (93), Tracy McGrady (95), Grant Hill (86), Dwight Howard (93), Shaquille O’Neal (93)
What you get with the Magic: length, athleticism, length, and some more length. What you don’t get with the Magic: shooting, team chemistry, and depth. I’ll let y’all decide if the pros outweigh the cons. (If this game were really realistic Shaq and Howard would kill each other before halftime.)
16. Denver Nuggets
Starters: Fat Lever (90), David Thompson (95), Alex English (93), Carmelo Anthony (94), Dan Issel (92)
Holy offense, Batman! If you can’t average like 150 points per 100 possessions with this team you gotta sell your game, fam. Check that, just sell your entire gaming console you don’t deserve it anymore.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Starters: Damian Lillard (89), Clyde Drexler (96), Jerome Kersey (87), LaMarcus Aldridge (89), Bill Walton (95)
If there’s one player I’m most excited about playing with for the first time its hands-down the mullet having, Grateful Dead-loving, hippie MVP, Bill Walton. Arguably the greatest center ever, when healthy, Walton also has a solid supporting cast around him to make the Trail Blazers a fun team here.
14. Detroit Pistons
Starters: Isiah Tomas (96), Joe Dumars (93), Grant Hill (93), Ben Wallace (89), Bob Lanier (93)
This roster is essentially the championship teams of the ‘80s fused with the Billups-lead championship teams of the early-2000s. Once again, the absence of a star player (Rasheed Wallace) is a huge bummer, but a healthy and young Grant Hill is a nice consolation. Defense will not be a problem with this team.
13. New York Knicks
Starters: Walt Frazier (95), Allan Houston (89), Carmelo Anthony (91), Willis Reed (94), Patrick Ewing (94)
If any fan base needs an escape from their current situation to enjoy the players of the glory days it’s the Knicks. This roster strikes a nice mixture of offense and defense and solid bench players to boot with Dave Debusschere (91) and Bernard King (89).
12. Utah Jazz
Starters: John Stockton (97), Pete Maravich (95), Adrian Dantley (92), Karl Malone (97), Mark Eaton (89)
The Jazz were the biggest surprise with how stacked their roster is. Good luck stopping them on defense with Stockton, Maravich, Dantley, and Malone. Kirilenko (88) and Gobert (88) off the bench give some needed defense; don’t sleep on the fighting saxophones.
11. Milwaukee Bucks
Starters: Oscar Robertson (94), Sidney Moncrief (93), Ray Allen (90), Bob Dandridge (88), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (99)
My homer bias may be showing here, but I don’t care. Swap out Giannis Antetokounmpo (90) for Dandridge and you’ve got an unstoppable lineup. They’d be even higher with better depth but, then again, there’s a reason they haven’t been past the first round of the playoffs since 1989.
10. Miami Heat
Starters: Tim Hardaway (88), Dwyane Wade (97), LeBron James (99), Chris Bosh (88), Alonzo Mourning (94)
So, imagine the Heat championship teams of James-Wade-Bosh except with a hall-of-fame point guard and center around them. White-hot indeed.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Starters: Allen Iverson (97), Hal Greer (90), Julius Erving (94), Billy Cunningham (91), Wilt Chamberlain (93)
The obvious big three for Philly was Iverson-Erving-Chamberlain, but don’t sleep on the other starters. Greer and Cunningham are a couple of studs that only die-hard NBA historians will probably know but can light up a scoreboard regardless. Philly could have been even higher if they’d gotten Moses Malone and Charles Barkley. Shaking my head.
8. Sacramento Kings
Starters: Oscar Robertson (97), Mitch Richmond (94), Peja Stojakovic (88), Chris Webber (93), Jerry Lucas (94)
Check out the Kings! Likely the worst run franchise in professional sports today is flexing its historical muscles. The Big O running pick-and-roll offense through Webber and Lucas is deadly. Richmond is a scoring machine and, of course, there’s the Serbian Sharpshooter Peja Stojaković. Mix in Nate “Tiny” Archibald (93) and Boogie Cousins (90) off the bench and you got a potent squad.
7. Houston Rockets
Starters: James Harden (94), Tracy McGrady (91), Clyde Drexler (91), Hakeem Olajuwon (98), Yao Ming (92)
Best part about this Houston team is that Dwight Howard didn’t make the roster. Otis Thorpe (85) and Robert Horry (81) made it before Howard. Terrific. Anyway, there are no weaknesses on this team (besides maybe Harden’s defense) and a whole lot of strengths. Perimeter shooting might be a bit tricky but Yao and Olajuwon are practically guaranteed two points in the post so I can’t imagine scoring being any trouble. Defense might be tricky if you’re going against a smaller lineup, probably best to have Yao come off the bench to anchor the second unit.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Starters: Gary Payton (94), Russell Westbrook (94), Ray Allen (95), Kevin Durant (97), Shawn Kemp (89)
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant reunited! (Kind of) Russell Westbrook and Shawn Kemp dunking on everybody! Kevin Durant and Ray Allen scorching the nets from downtown! Yeah, this will probably be your favorite team to play with.
5. San Antonio Spurs
Starters: Tony Parker (94), George Gervin (96), Kawhi Leonard (94), Tim Duncan (98), David Robinson (96)
What a frontcourt. What a starting lineup. What a team. This is a team that you can do whatever you want with. Slow it down and work the post? No problem, The Big Fundamental and The Admiral are there waiting. Speed it up with flashy offense and shooting? Tony Parker and George “The Iceman” Gervin at your service. Oh yeah, there’s Kawhi Leonard, the cornrows-having defensive genius. Lord.
4. Chicago Bulls
Starters: Derrick Rose (94), Michael Jordan (99), Scottie Pippen (96), Dennis Rodman (93), Artis Gilmore (93)
The sneaky important player for Chicago is center Artis Gilmore. Yes, you’ve got Jordan and Rose and Pippen, but so many of these teams have dominant centers, and if you can’t match up you could be in trouble in the post and on the boards. The massive Gilmore (7’2, 240 lbs.) will handle all the dirty work down low so you can focus on balling out with Rose and M.J.
3. Golden State Warriors
Starters: Steph Curry (96), Klay Thompson (90), Chris Mullin (94), Rick Barry (95), Wilt Chamberlain (98)
Man, just looking at that lineup makes me sweat. And the bench is probably even more impressive! Kevin Durant (96), Nate Thurmond (92), Tim Hardaway (90), Baron Davis (89), and Draymond Green (89) are here to murder your second-unit.
2. Boston Celtics
Starters: Bob Cousy (95), John Havlicek (96), Paul Pierce (94), Larry Bird (98), Bill Russell (98).
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Starters: Magic Johnson (99), Jerry West (97), Kobe Bryant (98), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (96), Shaquille O’Neal (98)
I mean, of course it was going to come down to these two franchises. There’s a reason they have 33 championships between them: they have the best players. If you really want to argue that one is so much better than the other you can go ahead. But lets be honest, you’re splitting hairs with these two teams. They both have such a ridiculous amount of hall of famers that their only problem is how to divvy up minutes between all of them. Lakers have a little more size, speed, and athleticism and that’s why I’m going with them. These two teams playing each other is practically NBA pornography. Bill Russell guarding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while Kobe Bryant checks Larry Bird is very much NSFW.
NBA 2K18 is out on September 19th, 2017. Pre-order and get it by September 15th.