NBA 2K19 is the most realistic basketball sim ever made. You can’t chuck three after three with Steph Curry or muscle your way to a dunk with LeBron James on every possession. Well, technically you can, but you aren’t likely to be successful for very long with such a one-dimensional approach. 2K19 forces you to play smart, efficient basketball at every turn, to study the defense, and make the most of each opportunity they give you. If you’re struggling to score, we have a handful of tips and techniques that will have you putting the ball in the hoop more consistently.
Your best friend — the pick and roll
The most common play in the NBA, the pick and roll, creates both passing and shooting opportunities. It’s highly effective and often underutilized. If you’re going to use one advanced offensive maneuver, it should be the pick and roll. It’s much harder to blow by defenders in NBA 2K19, so in order to create open lanes, you often have to run a play. The pick and roll will quickly become your best friend.
The pick and roll play works best when the full offense is at your disposal. Let your teammates get into position around the key and when your point guard is a few strides from the three-point line (right after clearing the logo at center court), press and hold L1/LB to initiate the pick and roll. By default, the power forward or center will come up to set the screen on your defender.
Once the screen man is in motion, let go of the button. When your teammate blocks off your defender, you can step into an open jumper or, if it’s there, use the seam to drive the lane for an easy bucket. If you notice an open lane on the opposite side of the screen, you can press R2/RT to send the screen man to the other side of the defender.
You also have the option to wait for the screen man to roll off of the defender toward the hoop. This happens automatically, and if the screen doesn’t allow you to create your own offensive strike, it’s wise to let the play unfold and find the big man crashing the paint.
Customize the screen
For more control over your options, simply tap L1/LB at the top of the key to bring up button icons for each player. Here you can choose which player sets the screen. The main benefit is that it opens up the pick and pop with the fade option.
Choose a good jump shooter to set the screen, and continue to hold his icon button as he sets the screen. When he is set, move with the ball as if you are about to take it to the hole, and press R1/RB to call for the fade. The screen man will dart away from the defender, opening him up for a quick pass and quality shot attempt.
Increase your success rate
The pick and roll, while not unstoppable, is a very effective move to have in your NBA 2K19 pocket. In order to execute it with a high level of success, be mindful of your players and their positions on the court. Minimize space between you and your defender before calling the play. The less space there is between you and the screen, the more likely you are to skirt by without a hitch.
Be aware of your ball handler. If he doesn’t finish well with his left hand, don’t set a screen on the left side of the court. Conversely, use your position on the court to your advantage if your ball handler is particularly effective in certain spots. If you don’t want to worry too much about this, call for the pick as close to the center of the floor as possible to maximize your court space.
Mastering the shooting meter
Each time you shoot the ball in NBA 2K19 — whether you use stick or button shooting — a meter fills. Your job is to stop your shot directly at the top of the meter. The meter dictates your release and ultimately serves as the main determining factor for whether the ball goes in the basket or not. You can modify the meter color and location in the menu.
We think that stick shooting (with the right analog stick) feels more natural and leads to better timing. As for when to stop your shot, it’s a matter of feel. We will say that it may be tempting to stop the shot early but try and hold a bit longer than feels right. The green will reach the top with a slight delay, a sweet spot that you can hit with precision if you’re patient.
You can also look at the player’s hands. Chances are, you can recognize the high point, the ideal release angle, of a jump shot. Paying attention to both the meter and a player’s motion is important because jump shot forms vary from player to player. Some players release quickly, while others have an exaggerated follow-through.
If you keep these two things in mind, you’ll likely start receiving pretty good timing regularly (only slightly late or early), and eventually the flashing green “excellent” timing, which guarantees a successful shot.
On drives to the hoop, the timing of the shooting meter varies. Each layup animation has a different timing, so you just have to get comfortable with your players to learn the timing.
Pay attention to coverage
The second part of making shots you can control is coverage. After each shot, next to the release timing grade, the coverage will appear at the top of the screen. From wide open, to open, to slightly contested, to heavily contested, to smothered, your position relative to the defense matters. Wide open and open shots have a higher likelihood of falling even when your timing isn’t perfect. You can be slightly early or slightly late and still knock down shots if the shooter doesn’t have hands in his face.
The point is, take quality shots and don’t force them when defenders are all over you. Even though you may make them in heavily contested coverage from time to time, there’s almost always a better look available.
Vary your shots
The standard jump shot (moving the right analog stick forward or pressing and holding Square on PS4/X on Xbox One) will suffice most of the time, but you should be aware of the different types of shots in your arsenal.
A standard shot’s best possible outcome is a swish — nothing but net. But if you’re diagonal from the basket, we prefer to try and go off the glass. We’ve found that timing isn’t as crucial off the glass, giving you more wiggle room.
To execute a bank shot off the backboard, move the right stick in the direction of the basket, instead of straight up. When near the hoop, but not close enough for a layup, a floater will give you the touch needed while in motion. Pull the right stick back first, then forward to produce a high, arcing shot.
If you lose your dribble while in the paint, you can still get a quality shot with a step-through. A step-through starts with a pump fake (tapping Square/X). Right before finishing the pump fake, commit to a shot. The ball handler will take one step and move through the coverage for a less contested shot.
Sometimes you just need to get a shot off but your coverage is too tight. A spin shot will swivel you back and away from the coverage, giving you the separation needed to get the shot off uncontested. To execute a spin shot, hold R2 on PS4 (RT on Xbox One) and tap Square/X twice.
Another way to create separation on a jump shot is by using a gather. While dribbling, point the left stick in the direction you want to go and tap Square/X. You’ll hop over to your left or right and go up for an open look.
Get in the paint as much as possible
We’re here to tell you that efficient offense in NBA 2K19 means getting in the paint as much as possible for high percentage layups and dunks. Shoot while driving near the basket, and you’ll automatically enter a layup or dunk animation.
Luckily, NBA 2K19 caters to the offense. You can muscle your way into the paint with relative ease. If the lane is blocked off, that’s OK — kick it out to one of your teammates on the perimeter for an open jumper or three. At least attempting to go into the paint creates necessary space for the looks you’ll need.
Plus, going down low is your best chance to get to the free throw line. When you barrel into the paint, AI-controlled defenders will often try and block your way to the basket. If you go up for a shot, you have a pretty decent chance of getting fouled.
Get creative with the ball
One of the best ways to create open shots on your own is to confuse defenses with your ball handlers. Sure, you can get a decent amount of separation by merely sprinting with R2/RT, but once you start implementing crossovers, between the legs, and behind the back moves, you will become less predictable on the offensive end, all the while confusing and tripping up the defense.
- In and out: Press R2/RT while moving the right stick toward the hoop. Make sure to release the right stick quickly as to not stop your dribble. This move makes it look like your going inside, only to cut it back outside. The benefit here is that you can end up either tricking the defender early or late, meaning that either an inside or outside dribbling lane can open up.
- Hesitation: Move the right stick in the direction of your dribbling hand and release quickly to perform a slow-motion move in that direction. The hesitation move can trick the defender into moving too quickly toward the ball, leaving an open lane directly in front of you. You can also go straight into a jump shot off the hesitation with your momentary separation. You can modify the hesitation with R2/RT, which has the effect of starting out slow before turning into a quick gallop away from coverage.
- Behind the back: Move the right stick away from the basket and then quickly release to dribble behind your back. By itself, a behind the back move won’t do much, but when you string it together with an in-and-out or hesitation, you can really start fooling defenders — especially computer AI.
- Crossover: One of the most effective dribble movements, the crossover is performed by rapidly moving and releasing the right stick toward your off-ball hand. String a few crossovers together with a nimble point guard, and you’re likely to leave your defender in the dust. If you’re having trouble shaking him, though, add R2/RT into the mix to execute a more forceful crossover that covers more ground.
- Between the legs crossover: Even more effective than the crossover, a between the legs crossover gives you momentum to make a cut toward the basket. Again, quickly move and release the right stick in the direction of your off-ball hand, but aim it toward your backside.
- Stepback: This effective for getting into open jump shots. Hold R2/RT and quickly move and release the right stick back to step back from your defender. You’ll keep your dribble, but we use the step back to get open looks with deadly jump shooters.
- Half spin and spin: Helpful in eluding and surpassing coverage, rotate the right stick in a semicircle (away from the basket motion) to spin completely. To fake the defender out and continue in the original direction, rotate the right stick from the ball hand toward the hoop and then quickly release to spin halfway around before coming back.
Get some dimes and easy buckets
Basketball is a 5-on-5 game, and while mastering your ball handling and shot timing can help you dominate the offense in isolation, all effective offenses pass the ball well. First and foremost, know that normal chest passing (X on PS4/A on Xbox One) will be your go-to passing mechanic. Thankfully, NBA 2K19 fixes the system, giving you almost total control of standard passing. If you tap X/A and move the left stick in your intended direction, the ball will be passed to your nearest teammate. If you hold down X/A and aim the pass, you’ll attempt a longer pass. This mechanism also works with bounce passes (O on PS4/B on Xbox One) and overhead passes (Triangle on PS4/Y on Xbox One).
To really make the most of the passing game, there are three moves that you should definitely be using, one of which is brand-new to the series.
- Receiver control: The new receiver control lets you take control of a player without the ball for the first time in the series. Press and hold O/B to control a nearby player. From there, you can move them wherever you like to receive the pass. We have found immense success with doing this to create open three-point looks and easy layups. Once you let go of O/B, the ball is passed to your designated spot.
- Lead to basket: Lead to basket passing may not seem as important since receiver control lets you do it yourself, but one important difference is that you can keep moving with the ball while leading a teammate to the basket. Press and hold Triangle/Y to send a player into the paint toward the hoop. Release the pass right before he enters the restricted area. Releasing any later than that will cause the pass to be flung under or even past the hoop, restricting access to an easy layup.
- Give and go: Effective at allowing your original ball handler to finish at the rim, the give and go should certainly be in your 2K19 passing toolkit. Press and hold X/A. After your teammate catches the pass, continue to hold X/A while you streak toward the hoop. Release to get the pass back and finish. Once again, release X/A just prior to entering the restricted area to ensure a good look.
Takeover the game
We mentioned in our NBA 2K19 review that Takeover is a new special move that boosts key attributes. Every player has at least one of nine Takeovers, which temporarily heighten the skills they already excel at. On offense, there are five Takeovers: Shot Creator, Sharpshooter/Stretch Big/Playmaker/Point Forward, Post Scorer, and Slasher/Athletic Finisher.
- Shot Creator: Increases shooting accuracy off the dribble
- Sharpshooter/Stretch Big: Increases long range accuracy on catch and shoot opportunities
- Playmaker/Point Forward: Increases handles and passing ability
- Post Scorer: Increases the ability to score in the paint with big men
- Slasher/Athletic Finisher: Increases your chances of getting to the rim for a dunk or flashy layup
In MyCareer mode, you activate Takeover manually, but in regular games, you’ll know it’s active when you see an on-fire icon next to a player’s name. Once activated, you will have boosts for a couple possessions. Be careful, though, as Takeover goes both ways. If you miss a few bad shots in a row, throw errant passes, or get your pocket picked repeatedly, you might see a snowflake icon next to your player. This lets you know they’re in a funk and lowers their natural abilities into you break out of it by doing something good.
When complications arise
It’s not always smooth sailing, though. Calling the pick and roll alerts the defense, and your screen man’s original defender will try to switch up and guard you. If you don’t move quickly enough or if the defense sniffs it out before you can execute properly, you should pass it to one of your other three teammates. Chances are the commotion alone has created a decent look, but if not, you can always reset the offense.