NBA 2K Players tournament: Predictions for event featuring basketball’s biggest names

Amid the ongoing concerns with the novel coronavirus pandemic, NBA players will not be able to play basketball until further notice. They can still play games, though, and this one involves a joystick instead of a basketball.

The NBA and its players association will host an "NBA 2K Players tournament" featuring 16 current players competing in a single-elimination tournament on Xbox One, beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Friday on ESPN. Additional match-ups will air through April 12. The winner of the tournament will select a charity to receive a $100,000 donation from 2K, the NBA and NBPA in support of coronavirus relief efforts. 

Every player will choose from eight NBA teams, each of which can only be used once. If a mirror match is set, the away team is awarded the first choice. Rounds one and two will be single elimination, with the semifinals and finals running best of three.

The first game will feature top-seeded Kevin Durant against Derrick Jones Jr., with both players choosing a pre-selected team. Durant can choose his current team (Brooklyn), his former teams (Golden State, Oklahoma City) or others (Dallas, Houston, Utah or the Los Angeles Clippers). Jones can choose from Boston, Brooklyn, Dallas, the Clippers, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia or the Los Angeles Lakers. The players' seeding is based on the NBA 2K rating and tenure. 

Given those parameters, here are our picks for each head-to-head matchup. 

First round

Mark Medina's picks:

(1) Kevin Durant-Derrick Jones Jr. (16): Durant

Durant unleashes his pent-up energy from staying sidelined this season due to Achilles injury.

(8) Montrezl Harrell-Domantas Sabonis (9): Harrell

Just like he does on the court, Harrell relies on the pick-and-roll with Lou Williams to dominate this game.

(5) Devin Booker-Michael Porter Jr. (12): Booker

As an NBA 2K ambassador, it was already part of Booker’s job description to excel at this game.

(4) Donovan Mitchell-Rui Hachimura (13): Mitchell

After testing positive for COVID-19, Mitchell says he spent most of his time playing video games. So it’s not surprising that Mitchell breezes through the first round.

(2) Trae Young-Harrison Barnes (15): Young

Young has a quick handle both with the ball and the control stick.

(7) Zach LaVine-DeAndre Ayton (10): LaVine

LaVine knows all the button combinations to throw down a few dunks.

(6) Andre Drummond-DeMarcus Cousins (11): Cousins

After spending more time in the training room than on the court the past two seasons, Cousins keeps himself sane partly by excelling as a gamer.

(3) Hassan Whiteside-Patrick Beverley (14): Beverley

Beverley’s persistent trash-talking throws Whiteside off his game.


(1) Durant-Harrell (8): Durant

While Harrell calls too many pick-and-roll plays, Durant’s team wins by matching his versatile approach between isolation plays and ball movement.

(5) Booker-Mitchell (4): Mitchell

Mitchell wins because he relies more on facilitating, while Booker relies too much on scoring.

(2) Young-LaVine (7): Young

Just like real life, their head-to-head matchup goes into quadruple overtime. But unlike what happened on the court, Young wins this one with a game-winning shot.

(11) Cousins-Beverley (14): Beverley

Beverley’s yapping eventually prompts a frustrated Cousins to throw his controller.

Conference finals

(1) Durant-Mitchell (4): Durant

Since scoring isn't enough in this contested matchup, Durant relies on his defensive length and shot-blocking ability to win.

(2) Young-Beverley (11): Young

Young ignores Beverley’s antics, offering yet another sign this young point guard can become special.


(1) Durant-Young (2): Durant

Durant shows he still can win a young man’s game, an encouraging sign for his expected return next season.

Jeff Zillgitt's picks

First round

Durant- Jones Jr. 

Ronnie Singh, better known as Ronnie 2K, the digital marketing director for NBA 2K, once called Durant one of the NBA 2K players. That’s good enough for me.


This is a pick ‘em according to oddsmakers. I’m going with Harrell.


Devin Booker is a known gamer; we’ll find out how good he is 2K. Booker advances.


Donovan Mitchell just beat Ronnie 2K in a streamed game during Mitchell’s coronavirus quarantine. He’s the winner here.


Trae Young has been playing a lot since the NBA suspended the season. Good enough for me.


Hearing LaVine is much better as a first-person shooter in games. Go with Ayton.


After the Ronnie 2K-Cousins dust-up, go with Cousins.


Whiteside takes his 2K seriously.



Taking Durant, if as good as advertised, to reach the semifinals.


Booker is the favorite to win it all, according to BetOnline.


I’m told Ayton “is really good” at 2K.


Whiteside better be true to his word.



A Finals-worthy matchup goes to Booker.


If what I’m hearing is correct and Ayton is that good, he gets to the Finals.



In an all-Suns 2K Finals, Ayton will win the championship.

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