Edwards Selected as Finalist for Coach of the Year, May for Most Improved Player, unguardable for Rookie of the Year
ORLANDO – Last season, Magic Gaming pulled off one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA 2K League history. From sitting at the bottom of the standings midway through its 2022 campaign, Orlando rallied to make the postseason in both 3v3 and 5v5 game modes.
In order for Magic Gaming to achieve such an outstanding feat, it required – in part – quality coaching, internal development and the acquisition of additional talent.
Recently, the NBA 2K League recognized all of those elements of Orlando’s impressive season as three members of the team were nominated for a series of awards. Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Jonah Edwards was named a finalist for the league’s Coach of the Year, Robbie “May” May for Most Improved Player, and Joshua “unguardable” Hunter for Rookie of the Year.
“It’s great. It shows the hard work was worth it,” said Edwards. “It’s huge for the organization. I guess you can say winning cures all because it kind of did with this one. Magic Gaming getting their first trophy is just huge for the organization. We were only one of eight teams to win a banner trophy all year. Being among the elite organizations is where we belong.”
Edwards Case for Coach of the Year
Throughout 2KL history, teams that get off to slow starts often see their players check out or watch their locker room fall into turmoil. That never happened in Orlando. Instead, Magic Gaming’s players worked diligently to turn things around.
“The first thing I think about (in terms of Edwards) is just how passionate he is about the game and learning it and watching other teams,” said May of his head coach. “I’d be surprised if you looked around the league if you (found another coach) who gave their job as much time as Jonah does. It’s something he’s natural at too. He came from playing the game competitively. So, he’s been around, and he knows what works. He tries to get better at it every year.”
When Edwards made the move that would have likely earned him GM of the Year – if such an award existed – by acquiring unguardable as part of a massive four-team deal, the team instantly found ways to utilize his skillset and help him perform at an All-Star worthy level.
Perhaps the biggest feather in Edwards’ cap is that he was able to right the ship in both game modes. Magic Gaming claimed their first banner title by winning the STEAL OPEN to secure their spot in the 3v3 playoffs and then subsequently went to THE TICKET finals to earn a postseason berth in 5v5 action.
“We kept the same mentality and energy throughout the year, and it eventually helped us get to the playoffs in both modes,” said May. “Obviously, obtaining Josh was a big part of that, because he’s an insanely great talent. In terms of Jonah, he helped keep us together. There was never any division in the team. I feel like that speaks to him as a coach and a GM.”
May’s Case for Most Improved Player
It’s difficult for those who aren’t in Magic Gaming’s locker room day in and day out to truly appreciate May’s value to the franchise. When Orlando went through its early season struggles, May was a calming voice focused on helping the team turn things around. When Magic Gaming went on their late-season surge, he helped keep the group grounded.
In a league where brashness is often rewarded with attention, May’s cool and calm approach can easily get overlooked by outsiders but is immensely valued by those who work alongside him every day.
“He’s a veteran guy who’s able to lead by example day to day,” said Edwards of the four-year pro. “He never gets too high and never gets too low. He stays neutral. He can be having his best games – and I think he did have the best games of his career later in the season, in THE TICKET and the STEAL – but you would never have known it by the way he was acting. It was just another day of business. That kind of atmosphere and environment makes it so easy for others to grow and to get better. It’s a big part of why we were able to do that over the course of the year.”
On the court, early in the season, he was tasked with playing power forward and ranked among the league’s best at 3-point shooting. Then, after Orlando’s midseason blockbuster trade, he shifted to center where his impact on both ends of the floor helped alter the course of Magic Gaming’s season.
“(It was hard at first), but when I moved to the seven-foot center that’s when it felt more natural for me,” said May. “I was regaining how to play offense like I wanted to (and) providing a mix of passing and scoring. Defensively, I was on a little faster of a (build) more similar to the power forward and I could guard pick-and-roll a little more on it. The role started to feel more natural. It was fun.”
Known as Octo-May for his ability to disrupt passing lanes and get his hands on any loose ball, Orlando’s big man recorded double-digit rebounds in 11 straight 5v5 games to close out the season and performed his best in the team’s biggest moments.
“He was big in all the big games we had this year,” said Edwards. “In terms of preparation, he helps me a lot internally with how we want to play defense. He draws up his own mini-scouting report as well, which is really beneficial to the guys. Seeing a teammate do that, putting extra time in film and stuff, makes everyone want to put in those extra hours. Of course, he had big games, and his best games were in big games. It’s because he was well prepared.”
While many players would attempt to take credit for such personal improvement, May – in his classic fashion – credits his teammates, especially for his success in 3v3.
“As we went through the season, (our team) gained a respect for each other and I feel like that was really important,” said May. “We all thought each of us were so good in the roles we were all playing. I genuinely felt like I wouldn’t rather have a different player at any of the positions. That was the team I wanted to win with and win for. That gave us such a massive advantage. Most league players would rather play with different people. I didn’t feel that way this year with the (3v3 group of unguardable and Matthew “Matty” Grant). That was a massive edge we had.”
Unguardable’s Case for Rookie of the Year
Magic Gaming’s 2022 campaign can be broken down into the tale of two seasons: pre-unguardable trade and post-unguardable trade. The No. 5 overall pick made such a huge difference in Orlando’s turnaround that you could make an MVP argument for the dynamic point guard if only the second half of the season was taken into consideration.
“He made such an immense impact,” said Edwards. “Josh surprised us greatly with his personality and his work ethic and these things that when you trade for a player who you know is very, very talented, but you know the other team who his trading him is doing so because he lacks in other areas. Instead, we got a guy who came in with work ethic and intangibles and the ability to still call the game and do these things from a position he hadn’t even played yet. What he did just blew out our expectations.”
His stellar showings in 3v3 seed week play earned him NBA 2K League Player of the Week honors, after a three-series stretch where he put up 10.5 points and 3.4 assists per contest. That momentum then ultimately led to Orlando’s success in the STEAL OPEN.
“He’s this great talent, of course, but he’s also someone you want to play with,” said May of unguardable. “That’s not always the case that a great player is also someone people want to play with. I feel like playing with him made me a better player. He’s someone I genuinely want to play with. … That was something that impressed me. … He completely exceeded my expectations. We got so lucky obtaining him.”
Going up against fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Jaiden “OTTR” Frank, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, unguardable outshined Gen.G’s floor general in their head-to-head matchup during the STEAL OPEN, leading to Magic Gaming’s 3-0 series sweep. While Gen.G would later get the best of Orlando in the 5v5 playoffs, unguardable’s impact on Magic Gaming was arguably larger than any rookie’s contributions to their respective club.
After all, he not only took an organization to the playoffs that had previously never been to the postseason, but he did so in both game modes and after joining a struggling squad via a midseason trade. And he did it after switching from shooting guard to point guard upon arriving in Orlando.
“He’s your Rookie of the Year,” said May of unguardable. “He made both playoffs. He’s just a great player. He would have led the league in scoring if he stayed at shooting guard but moved to point guard (and did what was best for our team). I think he should be Rookie of the Year.”