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NBA 2K23 Preview: Gameplay enhancements, as detailed by 2K

Don't take offense at new offensive capabilities.

NBA 2K23 gameplay enhancements were detailed by 2K and Visual Concepts in a hands-off preview event held for press, and we were in attendance to give you the rundown on what to expect.

“The main pillar for us this year can be summed up with one word: Authenticity,” 2K said in a press release that accompanied the presentation. “The team worked hard to create as much parity as possible in the on-court gameplay between Current and New Gen. Below, we’ve detailed all there is to know about the updates coming in the latest iteration of the NBA 2K franchise.”

NBA 2K23 offensive gameplay

While defense was the focus of NBA 2K22, this year’s iteration is all about scoring. To help offensive players combat the newly skilled-up defenders on the court, 2K23 players will be able to take advantage of an upgraded pro stick, expanded dunking controls, finesse moves and more.

Developer Visual Concepts introduced the concept of double throws — in their own words, “flicking the Pro Stick in a direction, letting it go back to center, and then quickly moving the Pro Stick back in the same direction” alongside switchbacks, “flicking the Pro Stick in a direction, letting it center, and then quickly moving the Pro Stick in the opposite direction.” Expanded control schemes to cater to these new moves open up a bevy of new options for those on the offensive.

These new moves are combined with expanded dunking functionality will which allow players to perform an exact dunk rather than the randomness currently addorded by skill dunks. Essentially, each direction on the new pro stick control will align with a different dunk — up is for a two-handed dunk, right is for a strong-handed one, up-up is a flashy two-handed dunk, and so on.

Players on current-gen platforms will also be able to hang off the rim after a dunk.

“This is an incredibly entertaining and wonderfully complex piece of tech that’s been in development for a couple of years now,” 2K said. “It allows you to control when and how you hang on the rim after a dunk.”

To perform a rim hang, you’ll need to keep the sprint trigger held when the player character is performing the dunk. You’ll hang on to the rim as long as you hold down sprint.

“This is an amazing piece of very complex technology that’s been in development for over 2 years now,” Gameplay Director Mike Wang told Stevivor. “It allows you to hang on the rim as long as you want and swing your body with the left stick and pull up on the rim with the right stick. It’s all done through physics, not a canned animation… and it’s a lot of fun and gives you a lot of freedom to express yourself as a dunker.”

Skill moves will also be able to be performed in new gesture combos.

“Switchback gestures will now perform dedicated signature double cross and hesi (hesitation) cross combo moves that you can assign as part of the Moving Crossover signature package—which has grown from 15 options to 28,” 2K advised. “Learning the speed of your stick throws and the timing of your signature animations is especially important now.”

Players will also be able to take advantage of Adrenaline Boosts, with three available to a player with each possession. Said boosts are denoted by three small bars under a player’s stamina meter.

“Boosts are consumed every time you perform a hard go or explosive sprint launch,” said 2K. “Once your three boosts are gone, you’ll notice that your speed and acceleration decrease significantly for the remainder of the possession. As with dribble combos, it’s important to play smart basketball and be efficient with your movement rather than zig-zagging back and forth aimlessly trying to get around the defense.”

Finally, shooting itself has been upgraded to offer up “a more authentic shooting model that captures the essence of a great NBA shooter’s capabilities.”

Shooting attributes will be applied that will impact “each signature jump shot,” according to 2K. Stats include shot speed, release height, defensive immunity and timing impact. Players will also have new shot meters to choose from to help with delivery.

“There are also five new shot meters to choose from, with 15 more that can be unlocked through Seasons over the coming year,” 2K said. “Some big, some small, some above the head, some to the side, and some below the shooter. Each meter completely fills to the end, which is your ideal release point, then empties on the late side ala 2K17-2K20. The new shot meter options were a common ask from the community, so we’re sure everyone will find an option they like and then some.”

NBA 2K23 defensive gameplay

On the defensive side, players will be able to take advantage of “a system that evaluates the defensive player’s contesting hand throughout a window of the shooting motion,” 2K said, thereby addressing positioning issues that popped up in last year’s offering.

“This larger sample set provides way more accurate results and helps line up the coverage numbers to what players expect based on what they see happening on-screen,” 2K continued.

Improvements to shot blocking, ball strips and steals have also been implemented, and will differ according to the size and speed of your defending player.

“No more small guards pulling off LeBron James-level chase-down blocks like last year,” 2K advised. “You’ll also notice a distinct improvement in ball security for good dunkers.”

NBA 2K23 AI improvements

2K has also promised a bevy of improvements to AI in terms of both offensive and defensive capabilities. Of note are aggressive dribbling techniques, better ball handling, smarter defensive awareness and the ability to predict offensive actions, and more.

“You’re really gonna have to be on your toes,” said Wang, in regards to the revamped AI. “This year, they play a lot more intelligently… you [feel] like you’re playing against another human.”

NBA 2K23 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5 and Switch on 9 September.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.