The entry draft is an extraordinarily special point on the NBA 2K League calendar.
The inaugural draft in 2018 marked the league’s emergence as a unique entity a year after its announced arrival. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick, and NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue shared the spotlight for a press conference. Media flocked to the event, brandishing a wealth of traditional sports and reporting expertise yet simultaneously sporting bemused looks. What even was this league, with unknown guys getting drafted by NBA teams and Adrian Wojnarowski breaking the first overall pick? The draft, and subsequent season, was all about answering that question.
Uncertainty also showed during the draft itself. Warriors Gaming Squad netted Alex “BSmoove” Reese and Xavier “Type” Vescovi in the second and fifth rounds, respectively; both turned into All-NBA 2K League-caliber players in their second season. Players like 2019 MVP Nidal “Mama Im Dat Man” Nasser fell to the second round, sometimes later, and the draft locked teams into drafting each position in the first five rounds, an attempt to quell uncertainty for team executives who only recently arrived on the competitive scene.
In 2019, the draft was different. Held at expansion team NetsGC’s home turf in Barclays Center, the draft was more of an assured production, with a league-veteran commentary duo and clear storylines and a little more pre-draft prognostication. After a first season marked by weekly improvement, ending in a fantastic Finals that drew strong viewership numbers, the 2019 draft augured in a more polished, more destination-tournament-type season. The draft at Barclays turned into tournaments in Las Vegas and Orlando, with big partnerships like YouTube, Tencent, and Snickers. After a season of proving itself, the league sought a more big-time, big-name experience in season two.
Big-time, big-name players found their way to the Bay. Capitalizing on a trade with Lakers Gaming for the 10th overall pick, Warriors Gaming Squad selected all-NBA 2K League Defensive Team member Sammie “Gradient” Salyers second overall and Charlie “CB13” Bostwick tenth. In the third round, WGS found a gem in former Wizards District Gaming player Jin “Jinsanity” Choe 38th overall, before making history with the 56th pick by making Chiquita “Quita” Evans the first woman ever drafted into the NBA 2K League. Like the league, things were more polished for WGS in season two: the team won two in-season tournament banners, an NBA 2K League first, and pulled off a sweep of top-seeded Blazer5 Gaming in the first round of the playoffs.
After a solid rookie year, CB13 has cemented himself as one of the premier point guards heading into the 2020 season. Warriors Gaming Squad’s semifinal exit at the hands of the eventual champions motivated CB13 to improve, which he did while leading a strong Kiss My Timbs Pro-Am team throughout the offseason.
“Based on the foundation we built last year, we’re aiming to add impact players who are ready to compete for championship out of the gate,” he said. “After keeping four of our core players from last year, we’re looking to hit the ground running and peak at the right time this season. Last year was just a glimpse of what to expect this year from Warriors Gaming, with our eyes set on the title this time around.”
What will this year’s draft hold in store? Warriors Gaming Squad holds the 20th and 65th overall selections, late in the first and fourth (final) round of the draft. The team forfeited second- and third-round picks to protect two core pieces from season two, while Quita will be taking the season off for personal reasons. After winning two banners in 2019, the team still has room to improve in search of the league’s ultimate prize, and the draft offers a moment to build on the team’s core and officially begin season three.
“We’re not necessarily looking for someone to come in and be a superstar, but be a superstar at their role and be the ultimate complement to the core we’ve already established,” Warriors Gaming Squad Team Manager Rustin Lee explained.
The draft is a moment of hope. Thousands of players qualified for and competed in the league’s third combine, with 150 players making the draft pool through the combine for the first time. The league added 10 more players through the EU and APAC Invitationals, while 22 more qualified through team-hosted tournaments, including Warriors Gaming Squad’s WGS Invitational.
“Our staff genuinely enjoyed the process of getting to know all of these prospects and hearing their stories,” Lee said. “Each of them has worked so hard to get to this point, and we appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made to pursue their dreams.”
Each player has worked extremely hard to reach this point; so too have the teams. With over 230 players in the draft pool and just 68 picks available, the draft will be a story of mixed emotions but ultimately one of dreams coming to life. The draft is such a special moment on the league calendar because from an individual to the league-wide level it is a chance to reflect the work put in beforehand and retransmit it as growth to come in the future. The draft is not simply a single moment in time. It is the culmination of innumerable hours of preparation and the creation of immeasurable moments to come.
Now, for just the third time, it is here.
TL;SC (too long, skipped cutscene): WGS holds the No. 20 and No. 65 picks in the third NBA 2K League entry draft… team enters draft with Charlie “CB13” Bostwick, Alex “BSmoove” Reese, Sammie “Gradient” Salyers, and Jin “Jinsanity” Choe rostered… three WGS draft picks made an all-NBA 2K League team in 2019, the award’s first year… WGS was the first and only team to draft a woman last season, Chiquita “Quita” Evans at 56th overall.
For more information on Warriors Gaming Squad, visit @WarriorsGaming on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The 2020 NBA 2K League entry draft will be held Saturday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. ET at Terminal 5 in New York City, and will be livestreamed on Twitch and YouTube.