Apr 25, 2017 Last Updated 4:00 AM, Apr 26, 2017

Pro Basketball Manager 2017 Review

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Pro Basketball Manager 2017 is a real globetrotter.

Take control of nearly any major professional basketball club in many of the major leagues of the world, such as the NBA or EuroBasket, or build and coach an all-star national team of your choice. This basketball sim transports the player from the armchair to the courtside: as the general manager of your club, you must manage finances, sell tickets, upgrade stadiums, hire staff members, and of course pick the squad you put on the floor. You can also create plays and playbooks, manage the playing time for each player, set the training focus of your team or your individual players… really, anything that you could imagine a pro basketball coach doing, this sim has available for you.

After a few choices over my physical appearance, setting my birth date and name, and selecting a team, I was on my way. Say hello to the first Afghan head coach in the NBA (I totally forgot to change my nationality in the start menu – whoops)! The original language of the game is French (the developers, Umix Studios and Cyanide, are both based out of France), so many of the words, especially team and player names, have minor translation issues (Such as Kemba Walkar instead of Walker, or Williems instead of Williams), but nothing was so problematic that it kept me from understanding instructions or menu items.

For my first game, I took control of the Charlotte Hornets – or simply “Charlotte,” as the sim labels them. My first season began just after the draft, and I did a lot of simming between then and when my team showed up to train for the regular season. It wasn’t until much later in my first playthrough that I discovered where I could find free agents; originally, I thought that I was forced to use my scouts to find players to sign but, just like in real life, there is a free agency pool in your league.

If you are anything like the first Afghan head coach in the NBA, you will be pleased to know that you can delegate a lot of the nitty-gritty coaching choices to your assistant coaches. That way, you are free to strategize the overall coaching-style and minute-allocations, and sim the games instead of coaching each one. In this sense, PBM 2017 handles not unlike Madden's franchise mode, allowing you to focus on general management tasks, such as scouting and working the draft and trade market. This high-level management was always my favorite activity – I tend to leave most of the actual coaching to my digital assistants, only stepping in to establish the basic team playing style and building the perfect team to perform it.

To get a feel for how deep the ‘coaching’ aspect goes, I stepped onto the courtside for one game. Boy, is it in-depth. Not only can you select which player you would like to feed the ball to for each possession, but you can also select what type of bucket you want that player to give you. You can call plays, timeouts, change defensive schemes, you name it. The catch is that, naturally, this level of involvement consumes a lot of time, so I ended up simming most of my games. But, it was nice to know that I could step in as a professional coach and test my mettle against any team in the league. You can also choose between no graphics, 2-D sprites, or a basic 3-D game presentation. The flexibility provided by the developers is great if your computer is, ahem, a little lacking in the GPU department.

About five games into my first season, one of my scouts found an American player playing in Russia. He was better than my backup Point Guard, so a contract went out. Two weeks later, he was in the starting lineup, filling in for an injured Kemba Walkar. At the time, we were a borderline playoff team, so losing Kemba was huge. But, the ‘Russian’ filled in admirably for the eight games or so that Kemba had to miss; in fact, he ended up saving our season. Actually, there were a ton of injuries on my team, and this drew out the season quite a bit; every time someone in your rotation is hurt, the simulation will automatically stop and force you to adjust your minute-allocations. This is good, though, as I wouldn't want my Power Forward to play through a broken leg. Ultimately, I led my team up to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and into the playoffs. Success! Or, so I thought.

PBM 2017 was once again true to life, as it seems that team executives in this sim, like their real-life counterparts, also have unrealistic expectations. A first-round playoff exit – even with a team lacking in talent, like the one I had – ended with a season-ending dismissal for the first Afghan head coach of the NBA. It was a little frustrating. Considering that my team out-performed expectations, I was fully expecting another year to draft, train, sign a few free agents, and then try once more to break through the first round. Alas, management had other plans.

After the draft, I got an offer to coach Philadelphia, and I took it over an offer from Toronto because of the potential I saw for the players to grow and improve. After free agency, I ended up with what I thought was an awesome team on paper: my starting five were Ben Simmons, Dennis Schroder, Bradley Beal, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid. I quickly learned that my assistants know more about how players gel than I do. after losing six straight games out of the gate, I finally let my assistant allocate playing time in our rotation, and what do you know, he immediately breaks our losing streak. It turns out I am no Phil Jackson...

Honey, if you're reading this, there is no need to worry about me switching careers anytime soon.

After trying, and failing, to dump Jahlil Okafor to three teams for a draft pick, I gave up and made him a pseudo-sixth man for the rest of the season. His morale suffered heartily, but I honestly didn't care, considering I didn't plan on keeping him past the season. Morale effects contract demands and (I think) on-court performance. It is affected by playing time, wins, contracts, training hours, fatigue, and numerous other factors. When re-up time came in the offseason, or when I was attempting to lure players to my squad, morale was a very influential metric.


The Verdict

Overall, I loved it! If you are a sports sim nut like me, you will feel right at home. Whether you want to manage every aspect of your team, like NFL Head Coach, or you just want to sit back, build a team for play style, and sim games straight-through to the offseason, Pro Basketball Manager 2017 has your back. Developers Umix Studios and Cyanide have successfully created an experience that is as intense, or as moderate, as you would like. There is definitely a learning curve to understand the game mechanics and various menu trees – like I wrote earlier, it took about half an hour for me to figure out that there was a free agent pool – but, if you can push through that initial learning process, you won’t find a better sports simulation game out there that allows you to play it nearly any way you want, no matter how deep you want to go.

Michael Hatcher

Michael is an NC State University graduate with a degree in Biological Engineering. Starting with his first console (a Sega Genesis), he has had a gaming system from every generation since, finally jumping to PC in 2015 when he decided to build his own. When he's not hiking or grabbing a beer in downtown Wilmington, NC, Michael is exploring the wilderness in one of his favorite RPG games or building an empire or business in one of the latest strategy titles. Although relatively new to PC gaming, he has dived right in and loves the larger, multi-generational community that PC gaming provides a little better than the PlayStation world he left behind.

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