As anticipation builds for a Christmas NBA return, the league is starting to kick back into gear just weeks after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
However, as avid NBA 2K players will know, one other event is taking center stage among all the aforementioned set-piece NBA events.
Next Generation NBA 2K21 made its long-awaited bow on Xbox Series X/S on November 10 and on PlayStation 5 on November 19. What better way to bring in the new generation of consoles than to use the new 2K21 ratings to rekindle one of basketball’s perennial questions: who are the top-10 players in the league?
On October 22, 2K Games began to preview some of the new player ratings heading into Next-Gen and they certainly threw up some interesting conversations. A 98-rated LeBron James and 97 rated Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t surprise anyone, but it is the players around the top-10/15 bubble who have caused considerable debate in the 2K community.
Perhaps the most surprising entry into the top-10 was Jimmy Butler who had risen to a 93 rating from an 86 rating when 2K21 was first released on September 4, 2020. After his historically great performance in the 2020 Finals averaging 26.2 points, 9.8 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.2 steals in 43 minutes per game, many 2K fans would agree that Jimmy Buckets deserved his top-10 spot.
According to 2KRATINGS, the Next-Gen Top-10 is as follows –
- LeBron James (98)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (97)
- Kawhi Leonard (96)
- James Harden (96)
- Kevin Durant (95)
- Anthony Davis (95)
- Damian Lillard (95)
- Stephen Curry (95)
- Luka Doncic (94)
- Jimmy Butler (93)
Six players Jimmy Butler surpassed in NBA 2K21 Next-Gen ratings
Paul George – While Paul George’s rating stays the same at 88 (ninth highest in current-gen 2K21), the Los Angeles Clippers collapsed in the Western Conference Semi-Finals after leading 3-1 to leave a sour taste on PG13. In next-gen 2K, George starts as the 20th highest-ranked player.
There is no debating the elite two-way play of George when he is at his very best. But he has attracted a reputation whether fair or not, for falling away when the lights shined brightest in the playoffs in his last couple of seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Clippers.
Nikola Jokic – Nikola Jokic’s rating improved by two to 90 going into next-gen, and, rightly so, after yet another outstanding season leading an ever-improving Denver Nuggets team that reached the Western Conference Finals. Like Jimmy Butler, Jokic has climbed in rating but the Heat superstar has surpassed the Serbian directly to move into the top-10.
Statistically, it is hard to agree with Butler ranking higher than the Joker, who has claimed an All-NBA First and Second Team berth in the last two seasons alone. But with Jokic still ascending, he will soon become a perennial top-10 player if he isn’t already. It should be noted that Butler single-handily dragging his team to two wins in the Finals against LeBron James is a more than valid reason for Jokic not making the top-10.
Joel Embiid – Like many players mentioned, Joel Embiid is arguably more individually talented than Jimmy Buckets, but is he worthy of a top-10 spot after last season? He has risen by three points to 91, and like Jokic, he was just outside of the top-10 (12th highest ranked) when current-gen 2K was released in September.
After yet another frustrating season in Philadelphia blighted by injuries, the incredibly talented Cameroonian has yet to show he can lead a team to success like Butler. One Kawhi Leonard bounce away from making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019, the 76ers were heavily reliant on the leadership of Butler during that run and have stalled significantly since that point. This makes it difficult to argue against Embiid and his 11th highest rating in Next-Gen 2K21.
Karl-Anthony Towns – Another former teammate of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns has garnered the individual stats over his young career (22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game) to more than warrant top-10 consideration year-in-year-out. However, coming off an injury-ridden season that saw his team fail to make the bubble, there isn’t a realistic debate to consider KAT taking Butler’s spot here. Towns moves to 90 rating on next-gen (+3 from current-gen).
Kyrie Irving – Kyrie Irving missed large spells of last season due to injury, severely hampering his top-10 case heading into the new season. The six-time NBA All-Star is one of the most electrifying players in the league and has shown his incredible talent on the Finals stage. Nevertheless, the last couple of seasons have been difficult for Uncle Drew for several reasons, and a convincing case is hard to make in his favor. Kyrie moves to 90 on next-gen (+3 from current-gen).
Klay Thompson – Despite being a three-time NBA champion as a key part of the Golden State Warriors team that went to five straight NBA Finals, Klay Thompson missed the entire 2019-20 season and so a top-10 case on last season’s play is impossible to make. One of the league’s best two-way wings when healthy, we don’t know how Thompson will look, especially after damaging his Achilles again in November. He moves to 89 rating on next-gen (+2 from current-gen).
Jayson Tatum – Another realistic challenger to Butler’s top-10 berth, Jayson Tatum has been rewarded for an outstanding 2019-20 season with a four rating increase (86-90) from current-gen to next-gen. Holding the 12th highest rating heading into the season, Jayson Tatum is primed to take another leap this season and really put pressure on a top-10 spot.
Donovan Mitchell – Coming off his first All-Star berth in the regular season, Donovan Mitchell was sensational in the playoffs averaging 36.3 points per game on 52 percent shooting and an sensational 51.6 percent from three as his Utah Jazz team lost in seven games to the Nuggets in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Like Jimmy Butler, Mitchell was an 86 rating on current-gen 2K21, but the 24-year-old has seen his rating increased to 88 on next-gen (17th highest).
Chris Paul – Like Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum, Chris Paul was 86 rated on current-gen 2K and after an outstanding bubble, the ten-time NBA All-Star has seen his rating increased to 88 on next-gen. One of the best point guards to play the game, Paul reminded everyone that he has a lot left in the tank yet after his play in the bubble.
Russell Westbrook – The 2017 MVP also started as an 86 rating on current-gen, and like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook has had a rating increase to 88 for next-gen. The nine-time All-Star and former two-time scoring leader and assist leader has all the credentials to be in consideration for the top-10, but it is difficult to make the argument that he outperformed Butler, or a number of the players mentioned in this article last season.
Were 2K right to put Jimmy Butler in the top-10 players for next-gen 2K21? Let us know who is in your top-10 and which players you think might have been snubbed by 2K.