Visual Concepts has been working on basketball sims since NBA Action 98 so it's had plenty of time to perfect the sport. Sprinkling a little pinch of arcade speed on top of a rules-heavy recreation of the game, while constantly refining controls, has enabled the developer to hold its own and in some cases, topple the competition, even under the guiding hand of a variety of different publishers and branding. You can change the packaging all you like, but the core game has been keeping its head up, dribbling with the fingertips and driving the lane for some years now.
It wouldn't be a yearly update without the introduction of a new control method. The right analogue stick is the hardest working part of your Dual Shock; used for stealing the ball, players push the stick in the direction they want to strip, so in theory you can reach around a player from behind to jab the ball out of his mitts, or have a better chance of intercepting a pass. It's awkward to begin with, but only in the same way that Fight Night's analogue stick punches take some learning. The more you play, the more comfortable you become with it. After a few hours you won't be conscious of how you're doing it, just what it's achieving on the court.
Unfortunately, this right stick twiddling works much better in defence than it does offence. Re-christened the Shot Stick, tweaking it in one of four directions at the top of a jump will produce a different type of shot, or when attacking the basket, a variety of lay-ups and dunks. It's meant as a way of adding a little flair and individual style to your play, but it's too fiddly because it's being used in conjunction with other button combos and feels too demanding. It might be comfortable to a game designer who's worked on the series solidly for a couple of years, but it asks too much of a player who's already got a lot to contend with in a fast-paced game. And when you've already got dedicated shot buttons mapped to your controller, you're making it harder for yourself trying to learn the Shot Stick method. Sometimes face buttons work just fine.