With the NBA season and fantasy basketball seasons coming to close, it’s officially playoff time and awards season. Here’s my take on MVP, LVP, and ROY to go along with some other awards that I made up (see: “Biggest Bum”).
Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant
While LeBron is the clear MVP in reality, for fantasy it is a completely different story. He missed 5 of his last 9 games to end the season exactly when his owners needed him most: the championship. Durant also finished #1 on the player rater due to strong production across the board. He was the only player in the NBA to average more than 1.3 blocks and steals per game, and his 90.5% FT rate was hugely valuable. As good as LeBron was, Durant was the easy choice here.
Least Valuable Player: Austin Rivers
While he’s not the most fantasy relevant out there, Rivers posted one of the worst seasons in NBA HISTORY. He had an ADP of 107.3 on ESPN that pointed towards his upside from high school and college as a touted prospect. There remains upside to settle into kind of a Jamal Crawford/J.R. Smith “Irrational Confidence Guy,” but in 2012-2013…he was far on the other end of the spectrum. He rebounded slightly from an absolutely horrific start, but still made less than 50% of his shots around the rim — the 2nd lowest mark in the league of anybody who played as many minutes (only Shane Battier was lower). If you had the expectations to get any fantasy value from him you probably quickly dropped him, but his remarkably bad season is clearly deserving of the LVP.
Most Improved Player: James Harden
There are many players who come to mind as taking a step forward this season (Steph Curry, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, OJ Mayo), but Harden stands out as making the biggest jump of them all. While Harden was already near-elite in 2012 in Oklahoma City, Harden made a huge jump in his counting stats in 2013 that vaulted him to the #4 spot on the player rater. While his FG% dropped from 49.1% to 44.5% and his turnovers rose from 2.2 to 3.7, his points, threes, free throws, and even assists were elite for the SG position.
Least Improved Player: Tyreke Evans
When are people going to get that Evans just isn’t that good? He’s not a guy that is typically expected to develop into a superstar but he is also a guy who has declined for 4 straight years now. Evans was rated as the 42nd overall player in the preseason and finished 89th. This is largely due to his diminished role in the backcourt and playing more on the wing in the Kings’ excuse of an offense. There were a few bright spots in this, as his FG% rose and his turnovers dropped. on the other hand, his points, rebounds, and assists were all career lows. This is a guy who never shot 3s and just all around is never taking the next step. I’d advise staying away from him next year.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard
Going into the season almost everybody assumed that Anthony Davis would be the shoo-in for this award. After missing 24 games and seeing his blocks at just 1.7, it appears Davis isn’t quite as developed as scouts thought. Lillard was the guy who made the biggest jump (from Weber St. of all places!) to become a fantasy stud. He ended 15th on the player rater, ahead of huge names and 6th among all point guards. His FG% and turnovers were his downfall like many point guards, but his 3s, assists, and free throws were more than enough to compensate.
“Team Killer”: Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash (tie)
Last year Howard held this category by himself for his free throw woes, but this year he’s joined by two of his teammates with terribly high ADPs and terribly low player rater values. While Mike D’Antoni usually bumps the fantasy output of his stars, injuries and set backs hurt Gasol and Nash all season long. Gasol was ranked 13th overall in the preseason by ESPN but saw his value drop in a way similar to win Amar’e started playing next to Tyson Chandler. His points, rebounds, and blocks dropped at the same time as his efficiency and he went from a fantasy stud and top 10 option to a complete waste of a season. Nash’s assists plummeted this season and Howard continued his free throw struggles by actually dropping from his career rate 0f 58% all the way to 49%. Ouch. If you put stock in these Lakers this season, your fantasy team truly got killed.
“One-Category Stud”: Serge Ibaka
Our only 2-time winner, Ibaka held his title by dominating the blocks category for a higher player rater value than any other player in any other category. Larry Sanders got off to a hot start but tailed off towards the end of the season to give Ibaka the final edge in blocks by 35. Despite winning this category, Ibaka was productive in several other areas. He is developing a nice little mid-range game and took over 40% of his shots from more than 16 feet from the basket. He ended up 8th on the player rater overall and looks to be one of the safest picks you can make in a draft each year.
“Second Half Superstar”: John Wall, J.R. Smith (tie)
While offering two different fantasy skill sets, both of these guards turned it up a few notches in the second half. Bouncing back from injury, Wall ignited the Wizards from a 4-28 start to a 25-25 record for the rest of the year, and fantasy teams owning him probably had similar turnarounds. After the all star break Wall offered a career-best FG% of 45% to go with 20+ points and 8 dimes. While he will hurt you by not taking any 3s, Wall is a top-notch PG option for next year. Similarly at SG, JR Smith broke out in his role in New York this season. Mike Woodson’s offense was perfect for Smith to get quick shots off and rain 3s from all over the place. The biggest difference in the second half, however, was Smith’s focus getting to the basket. After averaging 3.1 trips to the line and shooting 40% before the all star break, Smith got to the line 5.1 times a game and shot 45.5% after the break. At the same time, he also raised his 3s from 1.8 to 2.2 per game. I have no clue how Smith will be valued next season, but his second half was definitely a huge jump for a player ranked as the #35 SG before the season began.
“Where the #%@& Did That Come From”: Nikola Vucevic
While he was regarded as a legit trade piece, Vucevic emerged in Orlando taking over Dwight Howard’s role in the paint by putting up big time numbers. Every single part of his game elevated from his pretty poor rookie effort. The most impressive jump was how his efficiency increased with his usage; his FT% went from an absolutely unacceptable rate of 53% to a pretty average 68% while his FG% jumped from 45% to 52%. For a guy who was rated as the 47th center before the season and 171th overall, this was a fantastic season as he solidified himself as a solid big man fantasy option.
“Biggest Bum”: Andrew Bynum
Following in the great Lamar Odom’s footsteps, Bynum is a clear pick to be this year’s biggest bum. I don’t mean to fault him for simply being injured, but the way his season went was an absolute train wreck. He was ranked as the top center in the preseason and 8th overall on ESPN. His degenerative knees and the bowling incident rolled together to create a disaster of a season and further evidence that you can’t win your draft in the first round, but you can certainly lose it.
Playoff Predictions: For the record…
- Heat in 4
- Bulls in 7
- Pacers in 5
- Knicks in 5
- Heat in 5
- Knicks in 5
- Heat in 7
- Thunder in 4
- Grizzlies in 6
- Nuggets in 5
- Spurs in 6
- Thunder in 5
- Spurs in 7
- Thunder in 6
- Heat in 7
Matt Cott is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Follow his work all year long on RotoAnalysis.com & CBSPhilly.com and follow him on Twitter @KidCotti21!
Photo Credit: http://www.thelostogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/James-Harden-Rockets.jpg