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Could the Sixers beat Kentucky? NBA 2K15 gives us the long-awaited answer

What better way to resolve a stupid debate than with video games?

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Every year, sports Internet finds an unanswerable, ludicrous question to get riled up about. Usually, it's "can very good team in (lesser league) beat very bad team in (superior league)." In the last few years we've had all of the following:

  • Could Kentucky beat the Bobcats?
  • Could the 2012 US Olympic basketball team beat the Dream Team?
  • Could Alabama beat the Jaguars?

They're fun questions, because we'll never know the answers, and no matter how absurd your argument is, you can't truly be proven wrong. This year, we have "Can Kentucky beat the Sixers." This is a dumb question, as well. It's not like Kentucky couldn't steal a game from the Sixers every once in awhile, because the Sixers are a truly terrible NBA team and Kentucky is a truly great college team.

But the spirit of the question is whether Kentucky is BETTER than the Sixers. Or more accurately, that Kentucky would win a seven-game series against the Sixers. And it seems that a majority of Americans believe that's the case.

While these teams won't ever play in real life, we are lucky to have access to the next best thing to real life: NBA 2K15. Thanks to 2K, even the unanswerable is answerable, and we put Kentucky in the NBA to simulate a seven- game playoff series against the Sixers.

There are obviously some roadblocks to this analysis, the most obvious one being that we would have to create Kentucky, since the Wildcats aren't in the game. But thanks to a UK/2K enthusiast, the roster was already updated, meaning all we had to do was come up with ratings.

There's going to be some subjectivity anytime you rate someone, so if you think our ratings are off, so be it. We came up with ratings by comparing NBA draft projections for the Wildcats players to the ratings of others drafted in those spots. These were the results.

Player Rating
Marcus Lee 69
Devin Booker 65
Aaron Harrison 70
Tyler Ulis 67
Andrew Harrison 69
Karl-Anthony Towns 76
Willie Cauley-Stein 74
Alex Poythress 71
Trey Lyles 71
Dakari Johnson 71

The Sixers' roster was also adjusted to make sure injured players Joel Embiid and Jerami Grant weren't active. With Embiid, this would probably be a lost cause. But without him, could the Kentucky frontcourt dominate? Here's how the series played out.

Game 1

Kentucky 74
Sixers 85

Game 2

Kentucky 86
Sixers 101

Game 3

Sixers 84
Kentucky 85

Game 4

Sixers 100
Kentucky 62

Game 5

Kentucky 81
Sixers 118

So Kentucky got a game! As we expected, Kentucky could, theoretically, beat the Sixers. This makes sense, as Kentucky's ceiling is higher than the Sixers' floor. But it would take a truly remarkable performance, as it did in the one simulated Wildcats win, when the Sixers shot 0-for-12 from beyond the arc. Overall, though, Kentucky was 20 points per game worse than a team that has a chance to be historically bad.

Kentucky average 77.6
Sixers average 97.6

While the series was somewhat anti-climactic, the highlights (lowlights?) were impeccable. We knew it would be something special when Aaron Harrison started it all off with an airballed three.


Kentucky's offensive plan seemed to be a lot like it is in college: just out-talent everyone. The problem is, they couldn't do that against the Sixers, and thus they tended to just stand around beyond the three-point line and jack up a last-second shot. This Alex Ploythress "play" happened a good 75 percent of the time.


That led to a lot of plays like this:


There will undoubtedly be some claims from UK fans that we rigged this — that the Sixers can't possibly be that much better than their latest "team of the century." But the tape confirms that we didn't.


The Wildcats looked disappointed with the loss, but at least Aaron Harrison was chill about it.


All in all the stats were as bad as the tape would suggest, as Tony Wroten and the Sixers went off on a Kentucky team that got a poor performance from its star player, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Kentucky Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Assists Per Game Minutes Per Game
Dakari Johnson 11.6 7.4 0.6 26
Aaron Harrison 10 2.6 1.4 26
Willie Cauley-Stein 8.2 6.6 0.4 26
Andrew Harrison 7.6 3.2 5.6 26
Alex Poythress 7.4 5.2 0 26
Marcus Lee 7.2 5.2 0.2 22
Tyler Ulis 7.2 2.6 4.8 22
Devin Booker 6.8 2.8 1.8 22
Karl-Anthony Towns 6.8 5.4 0.4 22
Trey Lyles 4.8 4.2 1.6 22
Sixers Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Assists Per Game
Tony Wroten 20 3.6 4.8
Michael Carter-Williams 15.6 5 5
KJ McDaniels 10.4 3.4 0.4
Henry Sims 10.4 5 2.2
Nerlens Noel 10.2 6 0.8
Hollis Thompson 10 3.2 2.8
Luc Mbah a Moute 7.8 9 0.8
Brandon Davies 7.2 3.8 0.4
Drew Gordon 3.6 3 1.4
JaKarr Sampson 2.4 2.4 0.6

After all this failure, we decided to take it a step further: How would Kentucky do in an entire NBA season? We gave them the Sixers' schedule and hoped they could not be complete failures in the terrible Atlantic Division. But the stage was too big for the Wildcats, who finished the season 7-75 (with two wins against the Celtics and one each against the Knicks, Suns, Mavericks, Nets and Nuggets).

As it turns out, Kentucky would be the worst team in NBA history.

Team Wins Losses Win Percentage
2015 Kentucky 7 75 .085
2012 Charlotte Bobcats 7 59 .106
1973 Philadelphia 76ers 9 73 .110
1948 Providence Steam Rollers 6 42 .125
1993 Dallas Mavericks/1998 Denver Nuggets 11 71 .134

Kentucky is a great college basketball team, but as we all expected, the Wildcats would be a terrible NBA team — far worse than even the worst team in the NBA. So let's just enjoy UK for what it is: An awesome team that will dominate inferior competition. And we can enjoy the Sixers for what they are: A really, really bad NBA team. Who knew it was all that simple?

Shoutout to Cameron Songer, Gram Bowsher and Jasen Pinkerton for also wasting their Friday nights and helping me write about virtual basketball.


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