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HoopGrids: the NBA nerd’s dream come true

HoopGrids is a fun basketball brainteaser for everyone from casual fans to the hardest of hardcore.

Remember Wordle? HoopGrids, a daily logic-based puzzle game, is taking the basketball world by storm. In essence, HoopGrids is to basketball what Wordle is to the English language.

A spin-off of the MLB “Immaculate Grid,” HoopGrids tasks players with filling in a three-by-three grid with NBA players who satisfy the criteria of each column and row. For example, if the row was Cleveland Cavaliers and the column was Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James would be a fitting answer.

There’s an optional secondary layer to the game — HoopGrids assigns each player a “rarity score” equivalent to the percentage of people who used each respective player for each answer. The lower the score, the better. So, while LeBron James works as an answer for Cavaliers/Lakers, Tierre Brown (who I had to look up) would yield a better rarity score.

Here is an example of a HoopGrid. Follow along with me while I figure this one out!

I’ll start with the Utah Jazz/All-Rookie Team square. First, I start by thinking about the best players in Jazz franchise history — John Stockton, Karl Malone, Donovan Mitchell, Pete Maravich and Rudy Gobert. Only Maravich of this list played his rookie season for a different team; for the others, I’m not exactly sure whether or not they made the All-Rookie Team, but they’re all pretty safe bets to have done so. Either way, I want to stay away from these players and instead choose someone on the more obscure side to lower my score.

This one is tricky because the Jazz are one of the most consistent franchises in the NBA and have not had many high draft picks over the years. My list of guys who I think could have made All-Rookie in Utah (other than the ones listed above) comes down to Deron Williams, Trey Lyles, Mark Eaton and Dante Exum. My guess will be Lyles.

Oh man, I guess Lyles didn’t make All-Rookie. The nice thing about HoopGrids is that you aren’t docked for guessing, so you can experiment as much as you want until you land on a right answer. This is a deviation from the original Immaculate Grid game, where you get 9 total guesses, so you have to be right, or else you can’t finish the puzzle.

Anyway, I’ll guess Deron Williams and move on.

Nice! I usually like to keep my guesses in the 1-3% range, but considering the limited number of players available to satisfy this square, 7% is really good.

Now I’ll knock out the Wizards row. I apologize in advance if I embarrass myself with some of these guesses considering I am publishing this walkthrough on a website run by the most passionate Wizards fans in the world.

For someone who played on both the Wizards and the Heat, my mind immediately jumps to Caron Butler. Remember, though — you don’t want to pick the first player that comes to mind unless you’re absolutely certain you’ve got someone obscure enough. Next, I like to throw a couple of Hail Marys and guess guys who I know played for the Wizards, but I am not sure who else they played for. Jahidi White? No. Harvey Grant? No. Rod Strickland?

Money! Here, some may question the ethics of guessing players you only know played for one of the teams. While that is a fair point, I think it’s only cheating if you look players up.

Anyway, let’s knock out the Top 10 Pick and All-Rookie Team squares. Here I’ll try and list out the Wizards’ first round picks dating back to 2018 along with what I remember their draft position to be.

2022 - Johnny Davis (9th or 10th pick)

2021 - Corey Kispert (15th pick)

2020 - Deni Avdija (9th pick)

2019 - Rui Hachimura (Between 9th and 14th pick)

2018 - Troy Brown Jr. (15th pick?)

Of these, Davis, Avdija and possibly Hachimura (I don’t remember his exact draft position) would work for the Top 10 Pick square, and Kispert, Avdija and Hachimura would all potentially work for the All-Rookie Team selection square. Recent picks are too obvious, though, and can easily bump up the score. I guessed Rip Hamilton for the All-Rookie Team square, and that didn’t work, so I followed it up by guessing his future teammate Rasheed Wallace, which ended up being a great guess!

Now, the best player to put for a Wizards Top 10 pick would be someone who was drafted but had their rights traded elsewhere. Perhaps I am missing someone obvious, but I couldn’t come up with anyone who fit the bill here. I thought about guessing Rip Hamilton again, but then I started racking my brain for Wizards old-timers. With old school players, I am not very familiar with their draft positions, but I do know that most players stuck with the team that drafted them for most of their careers. With that in mind, I guessed Gus Johnson, and...

BANG! A man who retired before the team was even in D.C. turned out to be my best guess in weeks.

Now I’ll move on to the Carmelo Anthony Teammate row. I really like the “[Insert Journeyman] Teammate” category because it allows you to get really creative. For both, I tried to think of players he would have played with in Houston or Portland, right when he was falling in and out of the league. I came up with two Trail Blazers — Zach Collins, a career backup who was picked 10th overall in 2017, and Jusuf Nurkić, who made the All-Rookie Second Team in 2015. Both turned out to be excellent guesses, and I’m on fire right now!

My final three guesses tanked my score. The Jazz are always a really tough team when they show up in the HoopGrid because they have very little roster turnover year-to-year historically, and they have not had many high draft picks over the years. Jae Crowder was the only Jazz/Heat player I could come up with, and Enes Kanter is one of only nine top-10 picks in Jazz history, including Taylor Hendricks, who was just drafted this summer.

Fun fact that I learned while researching after finishing my grid: one of those nine top-10 picks was Dominique Wilkins, who the Jazz selected third overall in 1982 and then traded before he ever played a game.

I have been having a ton of fun playing HoopGrids every day, and I hope I’ve inspired some of you to check it out. Feel free to Tweet your daily HoopGrids at me (@MarcoGacina), and I’ll be sure to respond with my own!