Midseason Fantasy Basketball Awards: Jae Crowder Was the Steal of the Year
With over two months left in the NBA regular season but only a few weeks before the fantasy playoffs, we are long overdue for a look at the standouts deserving of awards in fantasy.
Just as with any awards, there is always room for debate. No matter where you stand on the specific awards below, there is no denying the following players have provided a significant impact in fantasy leagues this year.
No matter if it is eight- or nine-category, dynasty or redraft, any format out there, these guys have made waves.
Without further delay, here are our Midseason Fantasy Basketball Awards.
MVP: Stephen Curry
Entering the 2015-16 fantasy season, Anthony Davis was the consensus top choice in all fantasy formats. Through the halfway point of the NBA season, the Brow has been in and out of the Pelicans lineup on his way to a top-five fantasy ranking. The player with the second best average draft position (ADP) this year was our runaway MVP winner, Stephen Curry.
Besides having the Warriors on pace for the ever-elusive 73-win season, the NBA scoring leader and reigning league MVP is on pace (221 threes in 46 games) to absolutely obliterate his record for threes (286), set just last year. In addition to points and threes, Curry gives you top-10 assists, top-five steals, and 91-plus percent free throw shooting. Where he wins the fantasy MVP award hands down is his 50.6 percent field goal shooting (top 15) on over 19 attempts per game and his 5.1 rebounds per game. Only Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo have more boards from the point guard position.
Curry's main threat to fantasy's top honor is Durant. The league's third-leading scorer, the Thunder superstar, has a better field goal percentage than Curry, ranks behind only LeBron James for assists from a small forward, and provides significant contributions in every stat category. Of the three top players in fantasy, Leonard is providing the most bang for his buck as he had an ADP of 9 in Yahoo and 13 in ESPN this season. Contributing in every category, much like Curry and Durant, the Spurs' forward bests both of his competitors by providing relief in the turnover category, a huge bonus from the top player on your squad.
Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns
Towns was one of the most highly drafted rookies in years with an average ADP of 56. He easily could have underperformed those lofty expectations, as most rookies do, at only 19-years-old. But to the surprise of most, he has returned a late first-round value (12 overall) in nine-category leagues.
A top-five rank in field goal percentage, of all qualified NBA players, is made even more impressive when you factor in his 12.7 attempts per game. No one else in the top six has averaged more 9.5 attempts per game. When we break down the rookie ranks, Towns sits near the top in virtually every category. The Timberwolves' freshman stands second in points and blocks, first in rebounds, field goal and free throw percentage. He also sits eighth in our fantasy basketball rankings.
Once a close second -- but now falling behind -- is Porzingis. The rookie leader in blocks places second in rebounds, double-doubles, and three-pointers and sits third in points. His combination of shooting and size -- only Al Horford has more than 1.0 threes and 1.5 blocks per game -- has the Knicks' phenom in the top 40 of all of fantasy. In any other year, Okafor would be a solid choice for the top rookie, as he ranks in the top 40 in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. However, with the ridiculous seasons by Towns and Porzingis, Okafor will have to settle for the bronze medal.
Best Mid-Round Pick: Kemba Walker
Taken on average in the sixth round of drafts and as the 15th point guard drafted, Kemba Walker was seen as solid guard option who would tank your field goal percentages and was underwhelming from deep. Currently sitting as the 15th ranked fantasy player in nine-category leagues, the former UConn star has provided an outstanding return on investment by dramatically improving his shooting.
A career 39.5 percent shooter on nearly 15 attempts per game before this season, Walker has managed to bump up his made shots to a 42.3 percent rate. His improved jumper has led to the Hornets' guard posting career highs of 20.5 points and 1.8 three-pointers per game. Besides the improved shooting, Walker also helps your squad out with both rebounds and steals, as he is ranked in the top seven for point guards in both categories. His low turnovers also have him ahead of the game as the fifth-best point guard in fantasy.
Making the All-Star squad for the first time in his career, Thomas has enjoyed his first full year in Boston as he has posted a career-high in points, threes, and assists. For only a modest seventh-round pick in Yahoo leagues (75 ADP), the diminutive guard has returned a third round value this year as a top-10 point guard and a top-35 fantasy option. Besides nearly averaging a double-double, Towns is providing a free-throw percentage unheard of for a big man. Only Dirk Nowitzki and Ryan Anderson have a better rate from the power forward or center spot.
Best Late-Round Pick: Jae Crowder
Not dominant in any one category, Crowder has a combination of production that ranks him as the 27th-best player in fantasy hoops, a far cry from the 124 ADP he sported back in October. A real jack-of-all-trades, Crowder contributes impactful numbers in seven of nine categories. The Celtics small forward is one of only four players to average more than 1.5 threes, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game this year. The other three (Curry, Leonard, and Kyle Lowry) are top-five fantasy options this season.
While most of the counting stats can not be considered a surprise, if you look at Crowder's career per 36 numbers, his shooting has been a revelation. A career 31 percent shooter from three, Crowder is hitting 36 percent this year. Through his first three seasons, he shot 41.4 percent from the field and 73.5 from the line in only 17.9 minutes per game. This year, while playing over 32 minutes, the former Maverick has provided solid shooting stats providing his lift up the charts.
After the mass exodus in Portland, McCollum was left behind to help Damian Lillard pick up the scoring slack. One of only 21 players averaging more than 20 points per game, the shooting guard also sits in the top 10 in three-pointers. Currently, the 43rd-ranked fantasy player, McCollum was routinely drafted in the ninth round or later in fantasy drafts. Not much was expected from Porzingis in his rookie season, plummeting his draft stock to a 137 ADP. His top-10 ranking in blocks, in combination with his scoring and rebounding, has the rising Knicks star sitting as the 37th-best fantasy player.
Best Waiver Wire Pickup: Will Barton
Throughout the first three seasons of Barton's career, the shooting guard has averaged only 13.2 minutes per game, rendering him useless in fantasy. His per-36 numbers have always been respectable, despite his 40 percent shooting percentage, but without the opportunity to play heavy minutes, Barton went widely undrafted. Finally getting a chance to play in Denver, even if it is off the bench, the 25-year old has taken off. In 39 of his 49 games played, he has reached double-digit scoring. His 6.0 rebounds per game have him ranked third for shooting guards, behind Nicolas Batum and James Harden.
Despite playing only 28.9 minutes per game, Barton is in the top 25 for scoring and three-pointers for guards. His overall ranking as the 52nd-best player in fantasy has fantasy owners who picked him up off the wire feeling like they stole something.
Charged with replacing DeMarre Carroll in Atlanta, Bazemore was ignored in drafts due to his possible time splitting with Thabo Sefolosha. Averaging more than 17 minutes per game for the first time in his career, the Hawks' wing player ranks in the top 15 for shooting percentage among guard eligible players on his way to being the 61st-ranked fantasy player. Casspi is one of four players with at least 1.9 threes and 6.5 rebounds per game this season: Durant, Kevin Love, and Paul George being the others. The Sacramento forward has returned a seventh-round value as he sets career-highs in points, rebounds, threes, and field goal percentage.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Danny Green
Last season, Green was a candidate for late-round pick of the year as he finished with the 23rd-ranked season in fantasy by providing solid contributions across the board. Entering this season, the 28-year-old left fantasy owners thinking they got a steal with Green's average ADP of 58. After averaging 2.4 threes per game on 43.6 percent shooting from the field last season, the Spurs' guard has shot only 35 percent from deep this season. He currently ranks 161, barely rosterable, in nine-category fantasy leagues.
Inexplicably drafted on average in the sixth round, mostly due to name recognition, Bryant has been an anchor to fantasy teams with his less than 35 percent shooting on an average of 15.9 shot attempts per game. Despite his occasional big game, the Black Mamba has missed 10 games and played the fewest minutes per game in 18 seasons. A top-70 player the last four seasons, Lawson was expected to continue to thrive in the fast-paced Houston offense. Reduced to being a back-up, starting only 12 games, the point guard has plummeted to a 270 ranking after having a 76 ADP this season.