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An NBA 2K22 simulation of the Charlotte Hornets’ 2021-22 season

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2K Sports has released its yearly update to the NBA 2K series, and that means it’s time for us to run MyLeague sims

2020 NBA 2K League Draft Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

Real life basketball was taken away from us over a month ago when the Summer Hornets left Las Vegas and we’ve still got another month to go before the regular season tips off against the Indiana Pacers on October 20, but thankfully NBA 2K22 was released last week to tide basketball fans over a bit.

What’s a better alternative to real hoops than virtual hoops, right? ATHers may remember the series we did for SBNation’s “video game week” in June 2020, which saw a Hornets MyLeague sim begin just after the NBA’s hiatus and ran through the end of the virtual 2020-21 season, leaving off at the exact point in time that we’re at in the present-day. This article will be formatted similarly to those, albeit with different rosters and player ratings given that we’re now playing 2K22 instead of 2K20.

For those who are unfamiliar, here’s a rundown of what MyLeague functions as in the game; essentially, it’s a step up from the MyGM mode where the user takes control of a franchise as general manager, and instead gets control of a team as GM while also making decisions for the NBA as a whole. This gives the user (me, in this case) power to approve/veto trades between CPU teams (ones that I do not control), make/change league rules and relocate franchises, among lots of other things.

Basically, we’re gonna be playing a basketball video game, using the computer to simulate actual gameplay and pretending I’m Mitch Kupchak and Adam Silver combined into one individual. Let’s get the ball rolling!

The start of the 2021-22 season

First things first; as we’ve all discussed already, the Hornets need to make a move to bring the roster down to the league maximum of 15 players by opening night. Unfortunately, Nick Richards was cut. Vernon Carey Jr. has a higher ceiling (and 2K rating, currently) and bigger contract, it carves out room for some Kai Jones minutes, and after scanning the comment section of this website over the last month it seems moving on from Richards, as opposed to Carey Jr., Wes Iwundu, Cody Martin or Jalen McDaniels, is the majority opinion.

Next, we map out the rotation. To keep it realistic, Jones and JT Thor won’t be regular rotation members to begin the season and Miles Bridges will retain his spot in the presumed starting five. Here’s a rotation map for the start of the season;

Before the season officially began, I orchestrated a Ben Simmons trade for the Philadelphia 76ers because in all likelihood he’s not a member of the team for much longer. The offer that was the best combination of fair and realistic was sending Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz to the Sacramento Kings for Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, two future first-round picks and a future second. It felt weird playing an entire season with him there; it would’ve been akin to keeping James Harden in Houston during a sim last year.

Anyways, things started out pretty hot. LaMelo Ball recorded a 29-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double including two steals and a block on 10-19 FG, 6-10 3P and 3-3 FT in a 30-point drubbing of the Pacers in game one, which also saw Rozier drop 35 points. As usual, the luck didn’t last long, and Kelly Oubre Jr. was ruled out for 6-8 weeks with a right humerus fracture.

Unfortunately, 2K has yet to add Scottie Lewis and Arnoldas Kulboka to the game — despite them having been signed months ago and the game being released on September 10th, but I digress — so when Oubre Jr. went down, Brodric Thomas and Malik Fitts were signed to two-way deals. I also decided to use the beginning of this stretch to rotate in Jones and JT Thor for the first rotational minutes of their careers before assigning them to Greensboro.

The Hornets were 2-0 when Oubre Jr. was injured and were 9-16 when he returned on December 6. While he was out, Iwundu and Martin each got their fair share of time just so they didn’t end up with like four games and 18 total minutes played after an 82-game season. Right when he came back, LaMelo missed a week-and-a-half with a strained calf in which Ish Smith assumed the starting point guard role and Charlotte lost every game.

The second half of the season

When the New Year rolled around, the team’s record was a woeful 10-26, 14th in the Eastern Conference and 1.5 games ahead of the last-place Orlando Magic. Our Hornets put together a 12-8 stretch to limp into the trade deadline at 22-34, in 13th place and 3.5 games out of the play-in tournament.

Buying or selling at the deadline wasn’t a very difficult decision; McDaniels and Mason Plumlee were both sidelined with day-to-day injuries at the time and 2K doesn’t allow injured players to be traded (a pointless quirk that is not a rule in real life), so the only non-core player that would garner trade interest is Oubre Jr. Hayward was averaging 19.9 points per game and shooting 40.5 percent from deep and Rozier was hitting 40.6 percent of his triples, plus Miles Bridges and PJ Washington were both scoring about 13 points per game efficiently. As it seems, the injuries to Ball and Oubre tanked the record in the early-going.

On the bright side, LaMelo Ball made his first All-Star team! The second-year point guard played for Team Giannis and scored 14 points with four boards on 5-5 shooting in 12 minutes. Jonathan Kuminga made the All-Star game in his rookie season with Golden State, which I found to be very funny.

The Hornets were 25-38 on March 1, three games out of the play-in and relying on a hot stretch to close the season to recover the ground they lost in a competitive East. Sadly, it did not come to fruition and they closed the year with a mediocre 34-48 record. Giannis Antetokounmpo was named Most Valuable Player (again) and Defensive Player of the Year (again), while Coby White won Sixth Man of the Year and Lonzo Ball was the Most Improved Player. All-Star Kuminga won the Rookie of the Year and Mike Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year.

James Bouknight was selected to the All-Rookie second-team with season averages of 11.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 44.6/32.3/75.6 shooting splits with a 55.6 true shooting percentage. No other Hornets were honored with a postseason award.

The Milwaukee Bucks swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2022 NBA Finals and Antetokounmpo got his second-consecutive Finals MVP.

Since 2K was only released a few days prior to the publishing of this article, there hasn’t been many reliable draft classes created for the Xbox One version of the game yet. Once the hard-working roster creators of the 2K community release their classes for 2022 and beyond, we’ll revisit this series and do a Hornets MyLeague that spans multiple years.

Until then, we wallow in sorrow because clearly this game is not fond of our squad to simulate a middling record with horrible injury luck during the first go-round. Ball’s All-Star nod and Bouknight making All-Rookie were the only bright spots in the entire season. The injuries hurt much like they would in real life, but the numbers posted by the core members of the team — Ball, Hayward and Rozier were all scoring near 20 points per game and shooting well from deep — should’ve resulted in more wins. Ah, well, the Bugs can just collect the W’s on the actual Spectrum Center court.