Do NBA GMs Agree With NBA Video Games About Which Players Are the Best?

Every year, NBA GMs fill out a survey that allows them to anonymously express their feelings on many aspects of the league, from biggest off-season acquisitions to which team has the best chance to win the title. It’s a revealing (and fun) look at where the people who run teams see the season going.

One of the most interesting parts of the survey are the GMs feelings about individual position groups. Both NBA LIVE 16 and NBA 2K16 released ratings by position groups earlier this year, and now that the GM rankings are out, I thought it would be fun to see how they compare.

Point Guards

NBA GMs:

  1. Stephen Curry, Golden State — 55.2%
  2. Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers — 24.1%
  3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City — 17.2%
  4. Mike Conley, Memphis — 3.4%

NBA LIVE 16

  1. Chris Paul (95)
  2. Russell Westbrook (94)
  3. Stephen Curry (94)
  4. Kyrie Irving (90)
  5. John Wall/Damian Lillard (90)

NBA 2K16

  1. Stephen Curry (93)
  2. Chris Paul (90)
  3. Russell Westbrook (89)
  4. Kyrie Irving (87)
  5. John Wall (87)

The GMs feel as though Stephen Curry is the best point guard in the league, and by a wide margin, as he received more than half the vote. This is not reflected in NBA LIVE 16’s ratings, which I believe are due to slightly underrating Curry’s defense. NBA 2K16 seems to be more in line with what the GMs think, with Curry having a bit of a leg up over Paul and Westbrook, who are both pretty close. Both games overrate Kyrie Irving, who is nowhere to be found on the GMs list, and both underrate Mike Conley, who is fourth on the GMs list but seventh on NBA 2K16’s top ten list. He’s comparatively close to Westbrook at an 85 overall, but there are three players between them that are not considered on the GMs list.

Winner: NBA 2K16

Shooting Guards

NBA GMs:

  1. James Harden, Houston — 79.3%
  2. Klay Thompson, Golden State — 10.3%
  3. Jimmy Butler, Chicago

NBA LIVE 16

  1. James Harden (95)
  2. Klay Thompson (91)
  3. Kobe Bryant (89)
  4. Jimmy Butler (89)

NBA 2K16

  1. James Harden (92)
  2. Klay Thompson (87)
  3. Jimmy Butler (86)
  4. Dwayne Wade (86)

Again, NBA 2K16 seems to be more in agreement with NBA GMs, though it, like NBA LIVE 16, have Kobe Bryant too high (he’s not listed here but he’s an 85 overall). Both games have a large gap between Harden and Thompson, which is fair, but NBA LIVE 16’s love affair with Kobe Bryant is the eyesore here. It’s understandable that Kobe would get over-rated based on past performance, but he’s nowhere to be found at the top of any statistical categories (especially those which measure efficiency), and has had a nasty run of injuries. If Kobe was rated a few points lower in NBA LIVE 16, this would be a closer category. Alas.

Winner: NBA 2K16

Small Forwards

NBA GMs:

  1. LeBron James, Cleveland — 89.3%
  2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City — 8.9%
  3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio — 1.8%

NBA LIVE 16

  1. LeBron James (97)
  2. Kevin Durant (96)
  3. Carmelo Anthony (91)

NBA 2K16

  1. LeBron James (94)
  2. Kevin Durant (91)
  3. Carmelo Anthony (88)

Um. Huh. Carmelo Anthony is obviously wildly overrated in both games, as he didn’t even chart on the GM survey, despite having elite ratings in both NBA games. I think the ideal representation of the GM survey would be for NBA 2K16 LeBron to have NBA LIVE 16’s rating and for Kevin Durant to stay at 91, but considering one game underrates LeBron, one game overrates Durant, and both games overrate Carmelo Anthony, I’m going to call this one a tie.

Winner: Carmelo Anthony (seriously, what?)

Power Forwards

NBA GMs:

  1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans — 82.1%
  2. Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers — 7.1%
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio — 3.6% (I removed LeBron from this section since he’s represented in power forwards.)

NBA LIVE 16

  1. Blake Griffin (95)
  2. Anthony Davis (95)
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge (94)

NBA 2K16

  1. Anthony Davis (92)
  2. Blake Griffin (88)
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge (88)

NBA LIVE 16 wildly overrates Griffin, as the GMs feel that Davis is by far the best power forward in the league, with Griffin and Aldridge both further back. There should probably be an even larger spread between the three guys in both games ratings, but this one is pretty easy to call.

Winner: NBA 2K16

Centers

NBA GMs

  1. Marc Gasol, Memphis — 65.5%
  2. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento — 13.8%
  3. DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers — 6.9%

NBA LIVE 16

  1. Marc Gasol (95)
  2. DeMarcus Cousins (94)
  3. Dwight Howard (92)

NBA 2K16

  1. Marc Gasol (87)
  2. DeMarcus Cousins (87)
  3. Dwight Howard (85)

Neither game gives Marc Gasol the clear advantage the GMs see him having, and neither game places DeAndre Jordan in the top three, despite him garnering about half as many votes as DeMarcus Cousins in the GM survey. However, NBA LIVE 16 does rate Gasol slightly higher than Cousins, giving it the nod.

Winner: NBA LIVE 16

Of course, the GM rankings are not completely perfect, but it’s fun to compare how the ratings systems the two basketball video games use relates to real-life thinking around the NBA. In total, NBA 2K16 won three categories, NBA LIVE 16 won one, and there was one tie. 2K16’s new rating system seems to have paid off well on the higher levels, though digging into the middle of the NBA finds some really questionable ratings that are sure to change quickly. NBA LIVE 16 has a reputation as an offensive-minded representation of the sport, and it’s hard to disagree after doing this exercise, as, with few exceptions, LIVE underrates the defensive component of the game. Both games have their blind spots (where is Kawhi Leonard?), but NBA 2K16 was more consistently in line with the GMs’ thinking.

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