2012-13 Fantasy Basketball Awards
With NBA Finals winding down and the playoffs nearing a formal conclusion, HOOPSWORLD looks back on the regular season and hands out the hardware for 2012-13 campaign.
Fantasy MVP: LeBron James – Miami HEAT
At the midway point of the season, Durant was ranked slightly ahead of LeBron due primarily to KD’s incredible efficiency, but then LeBron simply kicked it into another gear over the final few months of the regular season. When all was said and done, LeBron had authored one of the greatest single statistical seasons in NBA history. LBJ was the only player in the NBA to lead his team in scoring (26.8 ppg), rebounding (8.0 rpg) and assists (7.3 apg). He also became just the third player in NBA history to total at least 2,000 points, 600 rebounds, 500 assists and 100 steals during a single season, and only the second player to do so more than once (Larry Bird did it three times and Michael Jordan achieved it once). And LeBron is the first player in NBA history to ever average 26/8/7, while also shooting above 54 percent from the floor.
Simply put, LeBron did it all. Those general managers that were lucky enough to draw the No. 1 overall pick could not have asked for more.
That said, LeBron just barely edged out Durant; that’s how truly special KD’s 2012-13 season was. Durant finished second in the NBA in scoring average (28.1 ppg), while also grabbing 7.9 rebounds a night and dishing out a career high 4.6 assists per contest (his previous best was 3.5 apg). Moreover, he averaged career-highs in steals (1.4 spg) and blocks (1.3).
To help put Durant’s incredible season in perspective, consider this: He finished the season with more blocks than Tyson Chandler and Omer Asik, more steals than Kobe Bryant and Gerald Wallace, more three-pointers than Ray Allen, more rebounds than Marc Gasol or Kevin Garnett, more assists than Jason Kidd, and more points than everyone.
Amazingly, however, we have yet to discuss arguably the most impressive aspect of KD’s special season: His incredible offensive efficiency. Durant is just the second player in league history to finish a season shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point territory and 90 percent from the free-throw stripe. Those percentages make Durant so incredibly valuable in nine-category fantasy leagues.
Best Draft Day Value: Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
When the Magic traded away Dwight Howard last summer, they were hoping to get modest production from Vucevic, who looked extremely raw as a rookie in Philadelphia. However, Nikola developed into a rebounding machine and is suddenly a cornerstone of the Orlando organization.
On the season, Vucevic was one of only eight players in the league to average a double-double (13.0 ppg. and 11.9 rpg). He led the Magic in rebounding and blocked shots, and tallied a team-high 46 double-doubles (third in the NBA), including four 20-point, 20-rebound efforts (one of those was 30-20). Vucevic led (or tied) Orlando in scoring nine times, in rebounding a team-best 60 times. Over the final five months of the regular season, from December 1 onward, Vucevic ripped down 798 rebounds, more than any other player in the NBA.
He tallied back-to-back 20-20 games on Apr. 7 at Cleveland (21 points, 21 rebounds) and Apr. 10 vs. Milwaukee (30 points, 20 rebounds). Vucevic became just the third NBA player in the last 25 seasons to record back-to-back games with 20+ points, 20+ rebounds and five-plus assists. Vucevic also grabbed at least 11 boards in 14 straight games, which was the second longest such streak in the NBA this season. He joined Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in Orlando franchise history to accomplish that feat.
This from a guy that went undrafted in many leagues and was floating around many a waiver-wire in early December…
All “Draft Day Value” First Team
While these guys didn’t return quite the same value as Vucevic, they all drastically out-produced their draft position:
Guards: Steph Curry and Kemba Walker
Steph Curry was passed over frequently in drafts last fall, as general managers were scared off by a balky ankle that limited him to a total 26 games in 2011-12. However, for those of us that had the guts to roll the dice on Curry, the dividends were glorious. He became the only player in NBA history to hit at least 250 three-pointers and also dish out 500 assists in a single season. He is also the first and only player to average at least 3.0 threes and 6.0 assists for a full campaign. By the final day of the regular season, he had established a new NBA single-season three-point record by draining 272 triples, eclipsing the previous mark set by Ray Allen (269 in 2005-06), doing so on 53 less attempts than Allen did with Seattle. Curry was just the second player in league history to knock down over 200 three’s while shooting better than 45 percent from behind the arc (Glen Rice was the other). Curry ended the season as one of just four players to average at least 22 points 6 dimes, and 4 boards (the other three were LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook.) He ranked third in scoring after the All-Star Break (26.0 points)
Kemba Walker was typically drafted around the ninth or tenth round (or later) in most 12-team leagues. However, he produced like a fourth or fifth round selection. Walker led the Bobcats in scoring (17.7), assists (5.7) and steals (2.0), while also averaging 3.5 rebounds in 34.9 minutes. He was one of five players in the NBA who led their team in scoring, assists and steals (Steph Curry, Goran Dragic, Kyrie Irving and John Wall). Walker finished the season ranked fifth in the NBA in steals, 20th in steals per turnover (0.8), tied for 21st in scoring and 25th in assists. His 160 steals represented a franchise record.
Forwards: Kawhi Leonard and Larry Sanders
Kawhi Leonard is arguably the most underrated and unappreciated fantasy player in the game today. (For that reason, I suspect I’ll draft him in every league I partake in next year.) His well-rounded game is perfectly suited for nine-category leagues. He contributes across the board, and his greatest asset may be his remarkable efficiency. Consider this: Leonard finished the 2012-13 season as one of just three NBA players to shoot above 49 percent from the floor, 37 percent from three-point land and 82 percent from the free-throw stripe. The other two members of this elite club were Kevin Durant and Steve Nash. However, Kawhi continues to fly under-the-radar from a fantasy perspective – so make sure you keep this in mind on draft day next October.
After a relatively quiet first two seasons in the league, Sanders exploded onto the scene in 2013 – particularly once he started receiving consistent playing time over the second half of the season. Over the final 26 games of the year, Sanders averaged 12 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks, which are phenomenal numbers for a mostly undrafted player. It was the beasting on the boards and accumulation of blocks that helped carry many a GM to a fantasy title in 2013.
Center: Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic’s outstanding production was detailed above… If we had to tab a runner-up, Marc Gasol would likely get the nod.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
No debate here, as Lillard is the obvious choice for Rookie of the Year this season. Lillard has exceeded even the highest expectations placed upon him back in October. He led all rookies in a slew of categories: scoring (19.0 ppg), ﬁeld goals (553), free throws (185), assists (6.5 apg) and minutes (38.4 mpg).
In fact, he led the entire NBA in minutes played, making him just the third rookie in league history to ever do so – joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elvin Hayes.
Lillard was also only the fourth rookie in NBA history to win the Rookie of the Year award by a unanimous vote (Blake Griffin, David Robinson, and Ralph Sampson).
In addition, Lillard became just the third rookie in league history to score 1,500 points and dish out over 500 assists in their first season (Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson).