Fantasy: MVP and Other Mid-Season Awards
With half the 2012-13 campaign in the books, HOOPSWORLD is here to hand out the hardware…
First-Half Fantasy MVP: Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
Just as in real-life hoops, there are truly only two names to consider for this award: LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Both of these superstars are having incredibly prolific seasons.
LeBron – the league’s best all-around player – is once again (just as we all expected) putting up mind-boggling numbers. Just how impressive are his statistics thus far? James is on pace to become the first player ever in NBA history to average over 26 points (while shooting above 54 percent from the floor), eight rebounds and seven assists. There have obviously been plenty of great players to play this game. The fact that James has a chance to make that kind of history speaks directly to his incredible all-around skill set.
As alluded to above, LeBron is shooting a career-high from the floor, but he’s also above 40 percent from behind-the-arc for the first time in his career as well. Furthermore, he’s averaging fewer than three turnovers per contest for the first time.
Yet, out in OKC, just when it seems Durant might have reached the apex of his talent, it appears that in years past he was just scratching the surface of what he is actually capable of. KD is leading the league in scoring (29.6 ppg), while also grabbing 7.4 rebounds a night and dishing out a career high 4.5 assists per contest (his previous best was 3.5 apg). Moreover, he is averaging career-highs in steals (1.6 spg) and blocks (1.2).
To help put Durant’s incredible season in perspective, consider this: He is averaging more blocks than Tyson Chandler and Omer Asik, more steals than Andrei Kirilenko and Dwyane Wade, more three-pointers than Ray Allen and Jamal Crawford, more rebounds than Chris Bosh or Kevin Garnett, more assists than Jason Kidd and more points than anybody on the planet!
Amazingly, however, we have yet to discuss arguably the most impressive aspect of KD’s special season: His incredible offensive efficiency. Durant is on pace to become just the second player in league history to finish a season shooting over 50 percent from the field, over 40 percent from three-point territory, and 90 percent from the free-throw stripe. We know how valuable those percentages are in fantasy leagues, and that is what gives Durant the slight edge over James for MVP at this point.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
No debate here, as Lillard is the obvious choice for ROY this season. Damian has exceeded even the highest expectations placed upon him back in October. He leads all rookies in a slew of categories: scoring (18.1 ppg), ﬁeld goals (288), free throws (137), assists (6.5 apg) and minutes (38.4 mpg). Lillard also ranks second in steals (1.04 spg), second in free throw percentage (84 percent) and sixth in 3-point percentage (35.8 percent). In fact, he’s recorded at least seven assists in 23 games, while all other rookies have reached that mark a combined 21 times. He’s had three games with at least 20 points and 10 dimes – no other rookie has one such game.
However, Lillard stacks up favorably not only against fellow rookies, but established stars as well. Lillard has eight games of at least 20 points and eight assists, while only six NBA players have more (R. Westbrook, L. James, J. Holiday, S. Curry, G. Vasquez)
Most Improved Fantasy Player: Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
When the Magic traded away Dwight Howard over the summer, they were hoping to get modest production from Vucevic, who looked extremely raw as a rookie last season in Philadelphia. However, Nikola has emerged as a rebounding machine and is suddenly a cornerstone of the Orlando organization.
Shockingly, Vucevic has been a Top-10 overall fantasy producer since the calendar flipped to 2013. Over the last month (15 games), he’s averaging a jaw-dropping 14.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks; while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor. Yes, he scored more points and grabbed more rebounds in 2013 than Dwight Howard (just as we all assumed). This from a guy that was floating around many a league’s waiver wire as recently as early December…
First Team All-Fantasy:
Guards: Chirs Paul and Kobe Bryant
CP3 hasn’t quite been on the “Durant and LeBron level,” but he isn’t all that far off. Paul leads the league in steals. He is second in assists (9.7 apg), yet amazingly averages just 2.2 turnovers a night.
Kobe has somehow fended off Father Time and is authoring another incredible statistical season. No player in NBA history has averaged over 15 points per game at 34 years of age or older, yet Kobe is poring on over 28 per contest (he hasn’t averaged over 28 ppg since 2007-2008). In addition, Kobe has been garnering attention with his dishing of late as well; Bryant is averaging 12 assists per game over the Lakers last four contests.
Forwards: LeBron James and Kevin Durant
We detailed these superstar’s respective exploits above.
Center: Tim Duncan
This is obviously the biggest surprise on the list. Coming into this season, many fantasy leaguers were understandably skeptical of Timmy D. Although Duncan had continued to put up solid and relatively impressive numbers during the truncated 2011-2012 campaign, how much tread did the former MVP have on his tires? After 16 arduous seasons, was Duncan finally running out of gas? The answer is an emphatic “No.” In fact, the brilliant big man is posting (considering his age) some of the most awe-inspiring stat lines of his entire career. His efficacy on both offense and defense has been phenomenal. Consider this: During the 2000-2001 season, when Duncan was 24 years old and finished second in MVP voting, he averaged 20.6 points (49.9 FG percent & 61.8 FT percent), 11.3 rebs and 2.2 blocks per-36 minutes. Here are his per-36 minute averages thus far this season: 20.8 points (50.5 FG percent & 82.6 FT percent), 11.7 rebs, 3.3 blocks. Those are just jaw-dropping numbers. Despite the fact that he will turn 37 later this season, Timmy D is somehow just as effective/efficient as he’s ever been…