NBA 2K18 is another step forward on the court, improving on the series' already great gameplay. You're rewarded for smart, controlled basketball when dribbling, driving, and playing defense in ways that make sense for the players you're controlling. In the side modes, results are mixed: the new fusion of Career mode elements into The Neighborhood gives it some new life, but the same can't be said for the meaningless story elements within MyGM, and microtransactions now have too much of an impact on gameplay. There's far more good than bad, though, and NBA 2K18 deserves credit for taking chances.
NBA Playgrounds isn't as deep as NBA Street or as beautifully simple as NBA Jam, but the gameplay is still well paced and the controls are still tight. It mixes this gameplay with cartoonish qualities and a retro style that fits an arcade basketball game, and earning new packs of random players is always rewarding. That said, I've taken some bad beats from the random power-ups system, and the online options are slimmer than I'd like. But as long as Saber Interactive delivers on its post-release updates, Playgrounds will have enough going for it to keep me coming back for more.
NBA 2K17 is another rock-solid game in the franchise. It features worthwhile updates to the dribbling and shooting mechanics, and backs up those improvements off the court in ways that make me care about managing my team. All in all, I know NBA 2K17 will be in my gaming rotation for many months to come.