Auto vs Manual Substitutions in NBA2K

I play almost exclusively 12 minute quarter games. Because it’s a regular length game, I have to use my bench. That’s one of the main reasons I like playing a 12 minute quarter game. It’s more realistic to use your bench in a 12 minute quarter game than a 5 or 6 minute quarter game. I’m not sure guys even get tired in a short game.

In this article, I want to talk about using auto vs manual subs in NBA2K. I’ll talk about some tips for each of these approaches and then go into how I use what I use in my games which is auto subs.

How to turn auto subs on or off

In the coach settings, you’ll find the option to set substitutions to “auto” or “manual.” I always check this setting prior to each game to make sure it’s how I want it to be and I recommend that you do that too.

Normally my coach settings stick just fine, it’s what I want it to be and I don’t have to change it.

Should you use manual or auto subs?

Let’s address the first question I think you should ask about substitutions. Should you take total control and manually sub your guys in and out or let the cpu do it for you.

If you are new to the game, I would set it to auto and let the cpu do it for you until you get used to how to play.

But, in a true “sim” approach, I’d agree that you should make all substitutions decisions during a game yourself. In reality though, I have a tough time navigating all of the substitution menu’s quickly during gameplay as well as getting everything done during a timeout.

While you get use to how to sub on the fly and during timeouts once you’ve done it often enough, I just haven’t done that yet. I still fumble with the controls to get who I want in and when.

It’s for that reason that I use auto subs almost exclusively instead. However, I don’t give total control to the CPU without some direction as to how I want my substitutions to work.

I think it’s a mistake just to put it on auto without some further setup which I go through a little later below.

Things to consider for manual substitutions

If you choose to sub manually, you’ll want to have a strategy for how to sub your guys in. Let’s talk about some things you’ll want to think about while subbing manually.

  • Rotations As a regular roster user, one thing I like to do is get into a subbing pattern that matches my real life Pacers. If Nate McMillan likes to bring in Sabonis off the bench first around the 5:00 minute mark, then I’d want to match that manually. Otherwise, I’d sit down and think about how I want my rotations to go. Some people like to platoon swap 5 for 5 guys but I think it’s better to bring in two maybe three guys in at a time instead. If you want to use real life rotations here’s a website that will help identify sub patterns. If you want to preplan your rotations, here’s a rotation worksheet I found you can use.
  • Fatigue Next up is fatigue. If you aren’t calling timeouts, your guys are going to get tired. This is something you want to watch for during the game as some games guys get more tired than others. Call timeouts and check out how much energy they have and consider subbing a player out sooner if they are tired. You’ll also want to keep tabs on minutes if you are playing a season with fatigue on. I always feel like that if you run a guy into the ground during the season, he’s more likely to get hurt. So play attention to fatigue not just in games but also over the course of the year.
  • Foul trouble In a 12 minute quarter game, foul trouble can happen. Keep an eye on guys that get two quick fouls early or who rack up fouls during the game. Sub them out.
  • Injury If a guy get’s hurt during a game, you’ll need to adjust your rotations. Give some thought to how you’ll replace a guy if he goes down with an injury. If you are in a MyLeague setup and an injury last several games, you might want to bring in a bench player to fill a starters slot to keep your bench unit intact.
  • Matchups This is one area that I am pretty stubborn in and that is adjusting my lineup based on the matchups I face. I think one of the reasons I don’t worry about it too much is that we are typically over matched anyway so it won’t matter. But I really should look at going small or big at times and I don’t. At the end of the game, I will put in my free throw lineup or three point shooting lineup if I need it.
  • Offense, defense, situational In late game situations, you might want a defensive unit on the floor for certain possessions that you know will be followed with a timeout and make another substitution.
  • Position I think this is important to think about from a 2K perspective. I think of each player more by their icon and try to keep each player in position based on that to cut down on mistakes. As an old guy, I might want to put Oladipo on at the point guard position or Bogdanovic at the four. But if I do that, I risk making an error when I icon pass. Because of that, I try to keep players in their natural position as much as possible.
  • First and second units I definitely play 10 guys with a first and second unit. I like to keep these units together and keep enough scoring coming off the bench.
  • Hot player I use to play a Wizards guy who once went off with Otto Porter and that guy was so hot it was crazy. If a player gets hot like that, you’ll want to let him ride from time to time to take advantage of his hot streak. On auto subs, you risk that hot player coming out – especially if you play the HOF CPU, you can count on that guy going to the bench after a timeout on auto subs.
  • Keep bench focused In a MyLeague setup, you’ll want to play your deep bench guys periodically to get them minutes so they stay involved and focused on the team. You don’t want them getting lost when you might need them at some point. I also think it will some with team chemistry.
  • Scrubs If the game is out of reach one way or the other, it’s time to get your other guys time on the floor. I also like to do this so I avoid injury to my main players during garbage time. I’ve seen it happen in league play where a guy is up 30 and his superstar gets hurt. You don’t want that to be you!
Those are just some of the things you’ll want to think about when you manually sub.
Let’s talk about some tips to make manual subbing easier.

Tips to make manually subbing easier during games

Here are a few things I would do if I was a manual subber or wanted to become one.
  • Plot out rotations Before the game starts, plot out how you want to sub and when.
  • Practice the manual subbing controls Get used to how to sub in game situations. I’d go into a play now game vs the CPU and in the settings turn the shot clock off. Then during the game, I’d work on learning the inputs you need to know to sub while play is taking place. I would also call timeouts and work on the controls to sub guys in timeouts. Once you’ve committed these inputs to memory, you’ll be able to do it on the fly in the game, during free throws, breaks in play, between quarter and during timeouts quickly and easily.
  • Set up the on the fly coaching lineups One great feature of the MyLeague’s is the on the fly coaching options. You can preset bench, quick, tall, 3 point, free throw, defense as well as an additional custom on the fly lineup you can use for whatever you want. But keep in mind that just because an on the fly lineup says “quick” for example, doesn’t mean you have to use it that way. You could set up the quick on the fly lineup to be your first substitution pattern, tall to be your next and then the bench. I know I have used the custom one to be my third string when the game is out of reach and I want to sit my main guys.
  • Call timeout when you need to sub Nothing is more annoying than playing an opponent and right in the middle of a possession they pause to make adjustments in settings or put in subs. If you have trouble subbing on the fly, call timeout when you need to make subs. At the very least, if you have to pause, pause during a timeout or between quarters to make those changes.
Those are some things that I think are helpful in terms of manual subs.
Now let’s talk about auto subs and what I recommend there if you are going to let the CPU take care of it for you.

How to set up your auto subs properly

Now if you are new to the game, certainly start with auto subs until you get use to playing. Once you get used to how to play, you’ll have to decide whether you want to sub manually or use auto subs.
When it comes to auto subs, you don’t just want to set it on auto and forget it. There are few other steps you want to take to make it work better for you.
Here are the three areas you’ll need to also go in and set up:
Coach settings
  • Adaptive coach engine OFF
  • Timeout AUTO
  • Substitution AUTO
  • Substitution Method ROTATION
  • Before I play, I set the rotations up. I establish who my starters will be, who will play off the bench and assign minutes for those players. For tips on how to assign minutes, check out Schnaidt1’s MyLeague slider post here on Operation Sports. All credit goes to him for how I approach auto subbing. He has since updated how he sets up auto subs in this video although I still use his old method.
  • EXCEPTION: If I am following what I call the “box score rule”, I’ll just set the rotations to the number of real life minutes each player received. If they didn’t play, no minutes are assigned.
Coach sliders
There are three settings you will want to change under the coaching sliders.
  • Bench utilization 100
  • Lineup performance factor 0
These settings have worked really well. Although Oladipo sits more in the first quarter than I’d like, he still gets his share of minutes. The minutes balance out well, I don’t have platoon subs and guys who get hot tend to play a little more to take advantage of it.

Drawback to auto subs

You’ll want to keep in mind that even with auto subs on, there will still be times when you’ll need take control of who is in the game. I often turn off auto subs when the game is out of reach and just play my bench.
When a player gets into foul trouble, I sometimes have to sub him out manually because the game seems oblivious to foul trouble at times.
The other main issue is dealing with matchup problems. With auto subs, you’ll be somewhat at the mercy of your rotations. That can hurt.
Another issue is that if you have timeouts to manual and you don’t call timeout (or your opponent if they are on auto subs), there’s more likely to be a foul called on the floor to stop play so guys can get in.

Do you manually sub or are you an auto subber?

I personally am an auto subber so I can focus on playing.  Let me know in the comments how you approach subbing your players. I’m interested in any tips you might have about subbing.


Coach2K is a fictional NBA2K player. C2K has been playing video basketball games since the Mattel handheld basketball game was released way back in 1980. You can contact Coach2K on Twitter by clicking here.

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