Well, it’s over. Pretending to be a NBA general manager during the regular season has come and gone, so now we take a look back at the season that was.
Durant or LeBron
These two players started the preseason as the top two fantasy ballers and finish the season as such. This should go on for the next few seasons, at least.
So, who is really the top fantasy player and should be the top pick next season? Durantula. This season, he scored more points (28.1 versus 26.8), hit more treys (1.7 versus 1.4), blocked more shots (1.3 versus 0.9) and was basically a wash in rebounds (7.9 versus 8.0).
Yes, LeBron had more dimes (7.3 versus 4.6), steals (1.7 versus 1.4), and shot better from the field (56.5 percent versus 51.0 percent), but the the most overwhelming advantage for Durant is at the free throw line — 90.5 percent versus 75.3 percent. While that’s impressive enough, KD also holds a significant advantage in free throw attempts (9.3 versus 7.0). Going to the charity stripe prolifically and making them just as prolifically puts Durant over the top as the number one ranked player in most leagues for the foreseeable future. Or at the very least, 1A.
The Top Five
Recently, I was asked by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association to pick five nominees for Fantasy Basketball Player of the Year to put to a member vote. Durant and LeBron were easy. I added Chris Paul because he’s Chris Paul, but if I actually had to validate his nomination, CP3’s ability to score, shoot excellent percentages, drop dimes and steal the rock puts him in this group. Stephen Curry was fourth in my mind, especially with him seemingly putting his ankle problems behind him while hitting threes like a mad man (3.5 per game at 45.3%) and setting the single-season record for makes. Add the points (22.9), rebounds (4.0), assists (6.9), steals (1.6) and percentages (45.1 FG%; 90.0 FT%) and Curry solidifies his place in this group.
The fifth spot is where it got tricky for me as the following players were all deserving: Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden. In the end, I chose Harden because the point difference wasn’t significant enough between he and Kobe and Melo and I liked the defensive stats from Beard a lot (1.8 steals and 0.5 blocks), which led the trio. Harden led the group in triples (tied with Melo at 2.3 makes per contest) and the deciding factor, hitting shots at the line. He hit 85.1 percent versus Kobe’s 83.9 percent and Melo’s 83.0 percent, but more importantly, Harden led the league in free throw attempts (10.2 per game), which impacts the FT% category in a big way. Again, it was close, but Harden gets the call.
Let’s get the injured players that were likely drafted out of the way — Derrick Rose, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love, Danny Granger, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrew Bogut, Anderson Varejao, Andrea Bargnani, and Lou Williams.
Josh Smith was a top 10 pick in most leagues, but saw significant dips in points (18.8 to 17.5), rebounds (9.6 to 8.4), and free throw percentage (63.0 to 51.7). The numbers are still decent, but not top 10 worthy.
Marcus Thornton fell off from last season, with drops in minutes (35 to 24), points (18.7 to 12.7), field goal percentage (43.8 to 42.9), rebounds (3.7 to 2.5), assists (1.9 to 1.3) and steals (1.6 to 0.9). He was a solid early-to-mid round pick in most leagues, but the mess in Sacramento hurt that. Maybe he’ll do better in Seattle?
Gerald Wallace did very well in 16 games with the New Jersey Nets after being traded from the Portland Trail Blazers — 15.2 points, 1.3 triples, 6.8 rebounds, 41.6 percent from the floor and 85.9 from the stripe. In Brooklyn, Crash simply, well, crashed, putting up 7.7 points, 0.7 threes, 4.6 boards, 39.7 percent from the floor and 63.7 percent from the line. Wallace is likely the only person alive who loves playing in Newark more than Brooklyn.
Top Better Than Expected Players
I’ll save the likes of Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah from this list. While they did better than their preseason ranks, they have a solid sample size where their rankings aren’t too surprising. Below are three players that were likely picked up off the waiver wire and provided tremendous value to fantasy basketball teams.
All Larry Sanders needed was a chance and he came up big in Milwaukee. He was building steam throughout the season, particularly in blocks, but his post All-Star break numbers are all pretty impressive: 26 games, 31 minutes per game, 12.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Before the All-Star break, in 45 games, Sanders averaged 3.2 blocks. I guess offensive players attacking the basket got smart.
I was a big fan of Chandler Parsons coming out of college and this season, relatively, he went HAM. Parsons averaged 36 minutes per, 15.5 points, 48.6 percent from the floor, 2.0 treys, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a steal. He should be part of the Houston Rockets’ young core for the next couple of seasons and will be a top sleeper-ish pick in next season’s drafts.
Do you think the Philadelphia 76ers are regretting the trade for Andrew Bynum, who didn’t play a single second this season? Well, the salt on that wound has to be the play of Nikola Vucevic, who averaged a double-double (13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds) while shooting 51.9 percent from the field while adding a block and nearly a steal (0.8) per game for the Orlando Magic.
Others up for consideration here were Kawhi Leonard (maybe that Popovich guy knows what he’s talking about), Kemba Walker, Greivis Vasquez and Amir Johnson.
Points: Damian Lillard (19.0), Kemba Walker (17.7), Chandler Parsons (15.5).
Rebounds: Nikola Vucevic (11.9), J.J. Hickson (10.4), Larry Sanders (9.5).
Assists: Greivis Vasquez (9.0), Jrue Holiday (8.0), Steve Nash (6.7).
Three-Pointers: Carmelo Anthony (2.3), Chandler Parsons (2.0), Martell Webster (1.8).
Steals: Kemba Walker (2.0), Thaddeus Young (1.8), Kawhi Leonard (1.7).
Blocks: Larry Sanders (2.8), Brook Lopez (2.1), Derrick Favors (1.7).
- Never draft an injured player with an indefinite prognosis for return (Rose, Bynum) hoping that they’ll help you in head-to-head playoffs. It’s not worth it and will likely cost you even getting to the pretend postseason.
- Despite some very good numbers in 64 games, I feel like Anthony Davis didn’t really play and will go big next season. The same for fellow rookie Andre Drummond.
- Speaking of the Pistons, I don’t really know why, but I like Kyle Singler to do well next season, depending on how the offseason goes.
- Can we please have a healthy Kyrie Irving full season? The same goes for Nikola Pekovic.
- I think the days of Dwyane Wade being a top-dozen fantasy player are done.
- It was so nice to see Deron Williams turn his season around after he stopped sulking and just played.
- It’s crazy to think Paul George can still get better.
- Nicolas Batum has played himself into the second round of drafts next season.
- It was too early to put Shawn Marion in the fantasy basketball grave.
- It was like Andrei Kirilenko never left.
- Ryan Anderson gave all of his non-believers the “suck it” crotch chop.
- Ty Lawson disappointed a bit, didn’t he?
- While Jrue Holiday did fall off after the All-Star break, I still have egg on my face because I didn’t think he could have topped last season’s production. Oops.
Thanks for reading The Fantasy Jump Off this season! Until next season … enjoy the real NBA playoffs!
Dennis Velasco is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and recently won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival with his sketch comedy group, Temple Horses. You can follow him on Twitter @dv140.