talon gc team 2

Head coach Wesley Acuff (back left) stand with the six members of Atlanta Hawks Talon GC, the Hawks' 'NBA 2K' League affiliate, in the team's training facility. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Hess Photography)

After a 3-1 start to the 2020 “NBA 2K" League season, Atlanta Hawks Talon GC has dropped seven of its last eight regular season series. With a day before the team’s play-in game for the league-wide THE TURN tournament, something has to change if Atlanta wants a shot at the $117,000 top-prize.

With a 1-3 record in pool play, Talon missed out on the purse for the first tournament this season, which ended on June 19. The team’s one win came against the 5-9 Orlando Magic Gaming, the only competitor Atlanta has beaten since. 

The trend

Lately, head coach Wesley Acuff has utilized the team’s premier scorer Michael “Bp” Diaz-Cruz as a 3-point specialist. While there’s a correlation between his best deep shooting performances and wins, the ability to retain possession of the ball best predicts Atlanta’s performance.

In its 10 total game wins this season, Atlanta gave up fewer turnovers than its opponents eight times. Only twice, against Minnesota T-Wolves Gaming on May 7 and Kings Guard Gaming on July 10, Talon won with a neutral or positive turnover differential. The first was due to the team’s only showing with three players putting up over 20 points. The second was due to a 40-point performance by Diaz-Cruz, including 70% shooting from behind the arc. 

Diaz-Cruz tends to be the team’s main turnover offender. While that’s attributable to his tendency to run the offense, Atlanta’s biggest wins this year have come when he holds onto the virtual rock. Every time Talon has won by 10 points or more, Diaz-Cruz has contributed less than 58% of the team’s turnovers. His average is 61% among its last six losses and 56% over its last six wins.

Hand-in-hand with Atlanta’s recent turnover troubles  it gave up the ball 27 more times than its opponents in its four consecutive losses this past week  are fewer productive shot attempts. Since breaking even on attempts with Jazz Gaming in game two of their June 30 series, Atlanta has taken fewer shots in each of its subsequent losses. Thus, even though Talon recorded a higher shooting percentage in game two against Wizards District Gaming on July 14, it still lost by 30 points.

The turn

Overall, Talon has a blueprint for its final four series of 2020. As with traditional basketball, the most basic keys to success are maintaining possession and maximizing scoring opportunities. But even then, Talon has proven that when it wins, it wins by committee. Only rarely, as with Diaz-Cruz’s Kings Guard performance, can he alone carry the team. 

Up against the 15th-seed Cleveland Cavs Legion GC, the 18th-seed Talon has an opportunity to break into THE TURN on Wednesday and, aptly, turn around its recent slide. 

During the tournament, the league plans to ban some archetypes  the specialized skill sets applied to players’ in-game avatars. The shake-up could be beneficial for Atlanta. 

If the league eliminates the point guard “Scoring Machine” archetype popularized by Diaz-Cruz, it would force Acuff to find points from shooting guard Mykel “Kel” Wilson, who ranks highly among secondary shooters, and defensive specialist Kwan “followTHEGOD” Niblack Jr. 

So far this season, when those two activate offensively, wins have followed. 

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