Just as the 2016-17 NBA regular season comes to an end, so does the fantasy basketball season. It’s been quite a run, and hopefully, those of you who have been reading this column were able to take home the title in your league.
Today, we are going to finish off the season by handing out our final awards. The categories will mimic the ones that the NBA passes out (MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Sixth Man of the Year) but will also add in Surprise of the Year, since fantasy championships are often won by teams that land players who greatly out-perform their draft position.
MVP: James Harden, Houston Rockets- The fantasy MVP award, just like the real-life one, is an extremely tight race between Harden and Russell Westbrook. The two both had epic seasons, but in both real-life and fantasy basketball, I give the nod to Harden. In Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense, Harden’s assists skyrocketed from 7.5 per game last season to 11.2 this year. He also increased his rebounds by two per game and is a wizard at getting to the free throw line. Harden was a fantasy monster this season, contributing positively in almost every category and dropping insane lines all year long. Westbrook was equally great, but Harden wins this one by a hair.
DPOY: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz- I was high on Gobert coming into the season due to some evidence that he had improved his free throw shooting. That did happen, but he was still a big drain on that particular category. What I didn’t anticipate was that he would be so insanely good on the boards, blocking shots, and finishing at the rim that his free throws wouldn’t matter as much. Gobert was the fourth-best rebounder in fantasy basketball this season, he was second in positive impact from the field, and he stands alone as the blocks king by a large margin. The scary part is that the 24-year-old Gobert hasn’t even entered his prime yet. He should be a major fantasy asset for years to come as long as the Jazz keep tossing lobs his way.
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers- Frankly, it’s been a disappointing year for rookies. Top overall pick Ben Simmons didn’t play a single game, Brandon Ingram took some time to get his legs under him, and while Dario Saric heated up down the stretch, it’s not clear if he can do that in the future when he has to share the ball with a healthy Simmons and Joel Embiid. Bucks second-round pick Malcolm Brogdon may have the best shot at the real ROY award, which is an indication of both how good Brogdon has been and how poor this year’s rookie crop has performed. While Brogdon has proven himself to be an intriguing all-around fantasy option, I’m going with Joel Embiid for the fantasy award. The oft-injured big man may not have played as much as we would have liked this season, but when he did, he showcased elite shot blocking, rebounding, and shooting. If (HUGE if) he can stay healthy he’s a top-10 fantasy player and gives Karl-Anthony Towns a serious run for his money as the best big in the league.
Sixth Man Of The Year: Lou Williams, Houston Rockets- In real life, the award is probably going to go to teammate Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets, but for fantasy basketball, the Sixth Man of the Year has to go to Lou Williams. He spent half the season scorching the nets for the Los Angeles Lakers, emerging as their best player before being traded to the Rockets just days before the trade deadline. Williams has cooled off a bit in Houston partly because he is no longer the focal point, but he’s still providing fantasy owners with plenty of threes, points, and assists while doing a ton of damage from the free throw line.
Surprise Of The Year: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers- Like Gobert, I was very high on Myles Turner on draft day, but never would have guessed that he would soar quite this high. He didn’t quite match Gobert’s value, but he’s a full four years younger and could eventually eclipse the Frenchman in terms of production. The key is that, while many bigs see their value weighed down by sub-par free throw shooting, Turner not only blocks a lot of shots but he also converts 80 percent of his free throws. Post players who can get rebounds, blocks, points, field goal percentage AND free throw percentage have an opportunity for high fantasy value. Of course, Turner also tosses in a three every once in awhile as well. Aside from Towns and a healthy Embiid, there simply isn’t a better young big man out there than Turner, and I expect to see him go in the second round of drafts next year.
Til next season…