Skip to Content

NBA 2K Mobile Beginner’s Guide (2021 Update): 13 Tips, Tricks & Strategies to Maximize Your Basketball Experience

2K (WWE SuperCard, Civilization Revolution 2, etc., for mobile users) is back once again with another NBA-based game for iPhones and Android devices, and it has arrived just in time for the start of the 2021-22 season — the first full 82-game season since 2018-19, and quite an interesting one if you’ve been paying attention to the trade and free agent market.

NBA 2K Mobile, just like its predecessors, features all 30 NBA teams and hundreds upon hundreds of digital recreations of current and former NBA players, all designed to play as closely as possible to their real-life counterparts. Once again, you’ll be tasked to build a winning team that can dominate opponents, human and AI alike, in a variety of modes, all while playing a game that combines classic sports simulation, card collecting, and RPG mechanics all in one.

nba 2k mobile tips

Although we can definitely say that NBA 2K Mobile is not as detailed as its console equivalent, it is quite feature-rich for a mobile game, and that means you can expect a treasure trove of features, modes, and mechanics that you’ll need to figure out in order to maximize your playing experience.

But we’re going to start with the very simplest of tips, those pointers you’ll need to guide you along as a first-time or returning player who may not be too familiar with how this year’s version works or what you should be expecting. We hope to have those tips all covered in this NBA 2K Mobile beginner’s guide — the first in a series of two, before we get the intermediate and expert tips out of the way in the second.

1. The Basics Of NBA 2K Mobile

Anyone who’s played an earlier version of NBA 2K for mobile devices should be familiar with how the game works outside of the usual console (or even PC) setting. Quarters (or more like halves) are much shorter, and the gameplay is optimized for the mobile experience.

But before all that, you’ll need to select your favorite team from the 30 real-life NBA franchises that are available in the game — there is a reason why the game says “favorite,” and that’s because you won’t get to actually control your chosen team’s 2021-22 lineup. (For Lakers fans, that means you won’t get the all-new Big 3 of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook in the same starting lineup, as a quick example!)

Instead of your team’s real-life stars, you’ll get five low-rated players from random teams — typically, these would be second-stringers and/or role players in the real world, guys who don’t get picked in the first two rounds of the average fantasy NBA draft.

After choosing your team, the game, or more like Michael Jordan giving out instructions on the upper part of the screen, will show you how to control your players. Tap on the Shoot button if you wish to take a shot, release it just when the meter is already filled up — if you release it at a good time, it should turn gold or green, but if it doesn’t, the meter will remain blue and your chances of converting won’t be as high.

nba 2k mobile favorite team

You can tap on the Pass button to pass the ball to a teammate, though you can alternately tap on the player you wish to pass to for greater control of the offense. While each half lasts two minutes instead of the usual 24, the shot clock remains at 24 seconds, and you’ll need to pay close attention to that so you don’t get called for a shot clock violation.

When playing defense, simply tap on the player you wish to control on the defensive end, then tap on Steal to attempt a steal, Block to attempt to block an opponent’s shot, and Defend to stick to your man without attempting a steal or block. We’re going to talk more about defensive tips and strategies as we move further down this guide, but for now, those are the basic controls you need to remember.

As explained in the tutorial, the Draft Board, which appears after completing one half of a game, or after successfully completing a drill, is where you can claim your rewards. Better play means more “draft picks,” or chances to claim rewards on the board, and you also have the option to pay Coins or watch videos to get additional picks — we would always suggest the latter option as it’s absolutely free.

The heart of NBA 2K Mobile is the game’s Season Mode, where, on top of the basic rewards you can earn via the Draft Board, you can win player packs and premium collectibles for completing the season. But unlike regular NBA 2K, where a season can last up to the standard 82 games, NBA 2K Mobile seasons only last a handful of games, and each season will become progressively harder; you may soon find yourself struggling to catch up in terms of your team’s talent as you face up against higher rated teams.

Related: NBA 2K Mobile Expert Guide (2021 Update): 14 Tips & Tricks to Win More Games

Each half of a game costs 4 Energy to play — you start out with 40 Energy, and this resource refreshes automatically over time, though you have the option to pay some Coins to get a full Energy refill.

Now that we’ve primed you on the most fundamental aspects of NBA 2K Mobile, let’s move on to some in-game tips that might help you win more games and get more rewards, especially once you’re up against tougher competition.

2. It Pays To Have Some Knowledge Of The Real NBA

Granted, all players have their own attributes that you should be reviewing whenever you’re able to squeeze in some free time in between games — all players are graded by Shoot off Dribble, Layups & Dunks, Mid-Range Shooting, 3-Point Shot, Post Scoring, Agility, Strength, Rebounding, Playmaking, and Defending, and these attributes are pretty much self-explanatory. Likewise, each player has their own basic rarity/quality (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Emerald), and there are also special tiers, such as the ongoing Halloween special, where you can expect some high-quality players with high overall ratings.

Bronze players, who are the common scrubs, are the lowest-rated and have the lowest upside, while Emerald players have high base ratings and great potential; it’s not uncommon to see solid starters with Bronze rarity and bench players with higher ratings on account of their higher quality, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as well.

nba 2k mobile player attributes

But once everything is said and done, it is highly advisable, though not exactly mandatory, that you at least have some basic knowledge of the real-world NBA so you know how to control your players without having to always refer to their attributes.

How can this help you in an in-game situation while playing NBA 2K Mobile? There are many ways, but one way we can mention right now is helping you avoid taking shots your players aren’t supposed to take. For example, you can confidently shoot a three-pointer while controlling a big man like Kristaps Porzingis because he’s known to have a good shot from beyond the arc.

However, if you’re controlling someone like Dwight Howard or Andre Drummond, those big guys have no business taking a shot from three-point range. Instead, you can rely on them for low-post scoring, rebounding, and interior defense, which is where they specialize in as real-world NBA players.

3. Playing Fast Vs. Playing Slow – Which Tempo Is Better?

One of the more recent trends in the NBA has been the increase in high-scoring games — it’s been a while since teams and players have been scoring so much. However, it’s not exclusively because of how the three-point shot has become the weapon of choice for more and more players, as teams are generally playing faster these days. So should you do the same when playing NBA 2K Mobile, or should you milk the clock and opt for a more patient approach when it comes to your team’s offense?

The answer is that it would depend on the situation. One of the daily objectives in the Stat Line section (more on that later) would require you to score a given number of points across all games played within 24 hours. So if you haven’t reached that milestone yet and you’re up against a substantially weaker team, you can run up the scoreboard and use a fast-paced offense to score as many points as possible.

nba 2k mobile tempo

The drawback here is that you won’t always be taking the best shots, so you’ll need to time your shots much better than usual in order to take full advantage of a fast game pace. And while your mileage may vary at the end of the day, you can opt to slow things down after you’ve completed the above mentioned daily objective, or if you’re facing a more powerful opponent.

Likewise, if you’re trying to hang on to a slim lead in the second half, it helps to slow things down. But just like the up-tempo approach, milking the clock also comes with its share of drawbacks. Mainly, the chances of turning the ball over (at least in the in-game world) are greater when you’re passing the ball around and trying to kill as much time as the shot clock will allow.

You can have one player hang on to the ball and/or work on their defender before attempting the shot, but that isn’t too advisable either — why call an isolation play when there are other guys on the team who may be more capable of, or in better position to take the shot?

4. Hold For The Last Shot If You’ve Got Less Than 24 Seconds In The First Half

The temptation to put up a lot of points on the board will always be there, especially if you’re aiming to complete the daily objective of scoring a certain number of cumulative points in one day. But if you’ve got the ball in your possession and there are less than 24 seconds remaining on the game clock in the first half, we would suggest doing what real-life basketball teams do and hold for the last shot.

That means waiting until the last few seconds of the period before attempting a shot, so with that in mind, it’s a good idea to set up your offense carefully to make sure the ball is in the hands of your best shooter — or anyone who’s in a good position to score.

nba 2k mobile last shot

The logic of holding for the final shot in a quarter or half is simple — it’s all about preventing the other team from having enough time to set up their offense before the buzzer sounds. And if you happened to lose the opening tip and were able to make good use of your final possession of the first half, that means two straight opportunities to score once the second half starts with your team in possession!

With the super-short quarters and low scores, it’s imperative to make the most out of every possession, and holding for the final shot of the first half is one way to do this.

5. Play It Safe And Don’t Throw Too Many Risky Passes!

While going through the first few seasons, games should be much easier to win, and much of that is because the AI defense isn’t quite up to speed yet. A team with a PWR (total power) rating of 400 or less will typically play sloppy defense, which is why you can afford to throw those long outlet passes — baseball passes, in other words — to someone who’s already in the opposing half of the court without turning the ball over.

nba 2k mobile turn over

That, however, changes once you’re in Season 3 and beyond, as opposing, AI-controlled players are more alert with the interceptions and are more likely to steal the ball after an errant baseball pass to the low post.

WIth that in mind, it’s better to focus on shorter, safer passes so you can be more assured of hanging on to the ball and not committing the costly turnover. We can’t stress it enough that quarters are shorter and scores are lower, so every possession counts more than ever. And if you consider that momentum seems to play a part in in each game you play in NBA 2K Mobile, turning the ball over can sometimes lead to the opposing team putting up a furious rally that you can’t come back from!

6. Be Careful When Attempting Steals Against Better Teams

During the first couple seasons or so, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem against the creampuff opponents you’ll be facing — that means you’ll likely get a ton of steals that can easily be converted into fastbreak opportunities. That’s how it works oftentimes in the real world — if you’re up against an especially weak opponent, you’ll have no problem scoring against them.

nba 2k mobile reach-in foul

But as we mentioned above, the degree of difficulty increases in Season Mode as you move on to the next one, and stealing the ball won’t be anywhere as easy as it was in the early goings. You’ll have to defend smarter instead of gambling for the steal on every opportunity, because if you aren’t positioned properly, there’s a good chance you will be called for a reach-in foul. Due to how short each period is in NBA 2K Mobile, a second foul will put you in penalty, and that means two free throws for the player you fouled.

If you get called for a foul (whether it’s a reach or not) twice in a half, you shouldn’t have much to worry about if it turns out you fouled a poor free throw shooter. But if you fouled a good one, then that’s two easy points and what could be momentum for the opponent, so be careful when playing defense and make sure you’re positioned properly when going for the steal against opponents with similar or higher talent!

7. When Should You Turn Autoplay On?

As you’ll notice when playing games in any NBA 2K Mobile mode, there is an Auto button on the upper right of the screen, which allows you to toggle between manual gameplay and automatic. Going on autoplay does indeed sound like a good way to save some time, as it frees up your hands to take care of other things while the game does the work for you on both ends of the floor.

If you’re watching an important scene during a movie or television show or trying to get a report done for work or for school, Auto can be a real life-saver. But generally speaking, when should you use Auto, and when should you go with good old Manual gameplay?

nba 2k mobile auto play

As has always been the case in this game, it’s best to use Manual when you’re playing against a team whose PWR is similar to, or higher than yours. This is especially true on the defensive end — based on our observations, our team generally played well on offense while on Auto, but on defense and on the boards, it wasn’t uncommon for our players, while controlled by the AI, to just stand there and let the opposing team grab an easy rebound, or let an opposing player score easy, almost uncontested buckets. (On both ends of the floor, three-second violations are also common when on Auto — you’d think players should have basic awareness of whether they’re camping too long in the paint,

So if the game is crucial and both teams are on a fairly level playing field (or if the opponent is actually better than your team), you should ideally be going Manual. Otherwise, when dealing with a considerably weaker opponent, you can switch to Auto and sit back and relax — unless, of course, you’re trying to pile on the points due to how a scoring objective has appeared in the Stat Line.

8. You Just Might Get Lucky With The Draft Board

As we explained above, the Draft Board is essentially your prize wall in NBA 2K Mobile, just as it has been in previous versions of the game. Depending on how well you do in a game or a drill, you’ll get at least one crack at the board, though you’ll likely have three or four draft picks on most occasions if you win consistently/complete the drills with flying colors.

What can you expect from your draft picks? Most of the time, you will end up with Bronze players — the common scrubs that make up most of your starting five during your first few Season games in NBA 2K Mobile. You may also end up with Collectibles, which are essentially crafting materials that you can use to “craft” new, higher-end players via the Catalog menu.

nba 2k mobile draft board

These are the two main types of items you can receive when making picks on the Draft Board, but sometimes, you might get lucky and end up with a rare item or a rare card; after claiming these, the board will automatically reset and re-populate regardless of how many picks are left to take. And it’s not just Silver cards (not common, but still rather underwhelming in the grand scheme of things) that could pop up while you’re using your picks on the Draft Board.

You might end up with some even rarer cards — we ended up with one Halloween card while using our picks, and while this will happen very rarely, it does happen, and it is possible to get extremely lucky while redeeming your rewards via the Draft Board!

9. Optimizing Your Team – It’s Very Easy, But There Are Some Restrictions!

The MyTeam section is where you can select your starting five, and while you’ll definitely have more than just the standard 14-15 players on your team in no time, the much quicker gameplay means you can only play five individuals at any given time — you cannot make substitutions, and there’s no fatigue or injury mechanic either that would force you to sub players in and out.

nba 2k mobile myteam

It’s simply the best five players you’ve got at any given time, and the game will make it even easier for you to choose them. While you can manually switch one player for another, tapping on Auto Update allows you to automatically pick your best five based on their rating. You can choose to have up to five different starting lineup combinations, but if you’re thinking about addressing your weakness at one position by playing someone on your team outside of their usual position, NBA 2K Mobile does not allow for that.

All players have only one position, which is different from how things work in the real world — in the actual NBA, you can have someone like Anthony Davis qualifying as a power forward or a center, but in NBA 2K Mobile, he’s strictly a power forward and can’t be slotted in the middle if you’ve got a weakness at center. Similarly, Luka Doncic can only be utilized as a point guard in the game, as opposed to the real world, where he can also play shooting guard or small forward.

10. Use Unneeded Players To Level Up Your Best Starters

The operative word here is “best,” and you’ll soon find out why this is the case. At this point, we have yet to discuss what you can do with all those players you’ve been stockpiling through draft picks and a few other means. Surely you won’t need that 300-PWR Bronze point guard when you’ve got a 450-PWR Silver point guard, right?

And you’ll eventually see that it’s very easy to end up with duplicates of an existing player — we can’t count how many times we’ve gotten the likes of T.J. McConnell, Kevon Looney, and Gary Trent Jr. at Bronze rarity. All those guys are decent real-life players or better, but in the NBA 2K Mobile universe, they’re basically roster filler.

leveling up players in nba 2k mobile

Regardless whether they’re dupes or not, the main purpose of those Bronze, and later Silver players is leveling up your players. You can use player cards, equipment (Pump-Ups, especially, which can be won via the Draft Board), or a combination of both to level them up and increase their rating, but most of the time, you’ll likely be using those Bronze and Silver player cards and sacrificing them so you can make your best players even better. (We don’t recommend leveling up a Bronze player in any case — they’re meant to be eventually replaced in the starting lineup!)

Just be careful not to use Auto Fill without double-checking, because tapping on that button will automatically lineup all the players on your bench and make them eligible to be used as level-up material for the player you selected!

Another thing to remember when leveling up players is that the higher the PWR of the player you’re using as level-up material, the better the effect on the target player when you’re leveling up.

11. Earn More Coins By Completing Tasks In The Stat Line

It’s a rather unusual name for a feature that’s essentially NBA 2K Mobile’s version of a Quests menu, but it is what it is, and it’s known as the Stat Line. Tap on the first button on the left-side menu under Stat Line and you’ll see your Daily Login progress — rewards for daily logins reset at the end of each month, and if you’re able to log in for 28 out of 30/31 days, you’ll be rewarded with an Emerald player pack! That’s something to look forward to as we prepare for November at the time of this guide’s writing, but if you miss a day, we did say 28 out of 30/31 days — your progress won’t reset, though you still don’t have much leeway to miss more than a day or two of daily logins.

The second button directs you to your Objectives, which are the game’s equivalent of tasks or quests. Obviously, you’ll have only 24 hours to complete your Daily Objectives, and these could run the gamut of things you can do organically while playing more Season games and other modes.

the stat line in nba 2k mobile

For instance, you may be asked to register so many points, rebounds, assists, or blocks across all the games you play in one day, train a certain position’s players so many times in the day, or complete a given number of games in a certain mode, e.g. Seasons or Head to Head. You will earn Coins and Stat Points for each completed Objective, and if you complete all your dailies, you’ll get a bigger Coin/Stat Point reward than you would for completing individual Objectives.

The Weekly and Monthly Objectives are similar, but instead of 24 hours, you get seven days and 30 days respectively to reach the milestones stated. The Objectives in Weekly and Monthly are similar to the ones available in Daily, but since the game will be requiring more out of you, you’ll also be getting bigger Coins/Stat Points rewards for single Objectives. (This time, though, completing all Weekly and Monthly Objectives gives you the same reward as the ones you’ll get for individual Objectives in these two categories!)

Last, but not least, the Stat Line has objectives that pertain to your performance and participation in The Gauntlet. This is a game mode that gets unlocked once your team has 500 PWR, but we’re not going to talk about that just yet — we will, however, be covering The Gauntlet and Head to Head in our second guide, so do watch out for that one in the coming days!

12. Complete Your Drills For More Player Packs

The Drills section is where you will be strongly advised to go to once per day in order to get player packs — actually, one per day — as a reward for acing all four of them. These Drills are a series of mini-games that tend to vary from day to day — different types of Drills are cycled from one day to the next, but you’ll need to finish four of them in any case, not just getting the minimum required points for completion, but the minimum required points for mastery.

What types of mini-games can you expect under Drills? Box Jump requires you to tap at just the right time so that the moving line stops right within the highlighted zone; with each jump the line will move faster and the zone will get smaller. Reaction will have you tapping the red dot as it appears as quickly as possible within a minute, and Bench Press is all about alternately tapping on the left and right buttons as quickly as possible so that your player is able to lift the barbell. Next, you’ll also have a shooting drill where you need to move as quickly and precisely as possible within a minute’s time and shoot the ball while in the highlighted hot spot on the court.

Lastly, there are 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills, where the first team to score 10 points wins — you’ll need to win by more than 2 points in order to master this drill! (One important thing about the latter two drills — per halfcourt basketball rules, a team retains possession as long as they keep scoring, which means the opponent can only gain possession if you miss a shot or turn the ball over.)

nba 2k mobile drills

Depending on your performance in each drill, you’ll get some picks for the Draft Board — mere completion will typically get you two, while mastery is worth four. And you will always need to master the drill in order to unlock the next one, so keep that in mind as well — it only costs 1 Energy per drill, but that can add up if you aren’t able to refine your technique toward mastery!

Finally, once you’ve completed and mastered all four Drills for the day, you’ll get to open a player pack, with the quality of the players inside improving along with your team PWR.

Can’t wait till the next day before performing another set of Drills? You can watch a video to get a fresh set of Drills, though this option will only be available to you once a day. You can also pay 15 Coins to reset the type of drills, should you be having trouble with any one of the day’s available drills, though there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to skip that troublesome drill with the reset!

13. Don’t Forget To Clear The Ball In 2-On-2 Or 3-On-3 Drills!

We’re going to include just one drill-specific tip in this guide, and it’s because we believe it’s something that most players might neglect when playing those halfcourt drills — the 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 games where you need to score 10 points to win. When grabbing a rebound off an opponent’s miss, you’ll notice a green shaded area outside the three-point line — you will need to cross that area in order to clear the ball, as per the rules of halfcourt basketball games.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be fair if you grab a rebound and lay it in for an easy two points — you’ll need to reset the possession even if it costs you a bit of that 24-second shot clock, and the only way to do this is by crossing the shaded area and clearing the ball.

nba 2k mobile 3-on-3 drill

So what happens if you fail to clear the ball during a 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 drill, then successfully convert any kind of shot? Unfortunately, that’s going to count as a turnover, and that will automatically switch possession to your opponent, gifting them with a bit of momentum and making it harder for you to guard them in the process.

That’s all for now as far as our NBA 2K Mobile tips, tricks and strategies are concerned. Stay tuned, as we will be back with more tips for the game in the near future!