Fantasy Basketball Category Awards
Six big Roto sleepers of ’09-10.
by Dennis Velasco / @dv140
First off, congratulations to SLAMonline’s very own Mr. Fantasy, Charles Peach. He won the championship in a fantasy basketball “experts” league filled with managers who have written/write for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, Yahoo! and all the nice places on the internet where sports fans consume information like Doritos. So, who did Peach beat by five measly points? That would be me. So while I publicly display my sportsmanship to a competitor and colleague, on the inside, I hate Charles Peach. Congrats again, you bastard!
Last week, Charles handed out his fantasy basketball awards, and while I’ll touch on some players he spotlit in his excellent post, I’m going to focus more on the cumulative categories – points, rebounds, assists, three-pointers made, steals, and blocks. Yes, I know turnovers are a cumulative category, but we’re going to keep it positive here. There’s enough negative writing going on in the world – gossip sites, episodes of “The Vampire Diaries,” and people writing for dead rappers — you know this.
Anyway, let’s peep the non-superstar/sleeper-type ballers who shined in the six aforementioned categories and give them their due props. Each category will have a winner according to end-of-year value relative to pre-season expectations. Note that number of games played is taken into consideration because if a player isn’t on the court for our fantasy teams, he does as much as a pic of a bikini-clad Kim Kardashian for Ricky Martin – absolutely nothing.
David Lee, PF/C, New York Knicks – 1640 total points in 81 games (20.3 PPG)
Lee obviously played for a team that reflected the philosophy of its head coach, Mike D’Antoni, which meant Lee was going to score points. But most people didn’t expect a 20 per night performance except maybe Lee’s agent. The soon-to-be free agent reached a career-high in points per game thanks to a nice jumper added to his arsenal of hustle and put-backs. We all knew the boy could board and get after it like the rock owed him money, but the added polish to his offensive game surely priced him out of the Knicks’ plans for next season as they go after the top free agents in July. It’s too bad if that goes down, but for his ‘09-10 output, we say thank you.
Others Considered: Aaron Brooks, PG, Houston Rockets (1604 points in 82 games; 19.6 PPG) – Someone needed to pick up the scoring load for an injured Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, so why not Brooks? Despite his size, Brooks played big and was an excellent value for where he was drafted. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (1399 points in 80 games; 17.5 PPG) – Another rookie on the list whom many were not sure how he would do at the lead guard position, as well as mesh with backcourt mate, Monta Ellis. Curry did more than fine, especially with a monster post All-Star break. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, Sacramento Kings (1450 in 72 games; 20.1 PPG) – Sure he was going to basically get free reign, especially with Kevin Martin injured and eventually traded, but scoring 20 a night as a rookie is a difficult thing to do.
Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Charlotte Bobcats – 762 rebounds in 76 games; 10.0 RPG
We knew Wallace had some ups and liked to use his body almost haphazardly (hence the “Crash” nickname), but who knew it could get him to average double-digits in rebounding? This was, by far, Wallace’s best production in the boards category beating his previous highs in total rebounds (553) and average per game (7.8), both of which happened in the previous season. The trade of Emeka Okafor probably helped in Wallace’s rebounding output since Okafor’s replacement, Tyson Chandler, was softer than a roll of Charmin. It’s hard to be certain that Crash will grab 10 boards a night again next season, but it’s safe to say he’ll get more than the average small forward where he was most effective for fantasy teams.
Others Considered: Brendan Haywood, C, Dallas Mavericks (715 rebounds in 77 games; 9.3 RPG) – Before the Washington Wizards purge, Haywood averaged 10.4 boards a night. His production dipped in Dallas behind Erick Dampier, but he still warrants a degree of respect here. Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks (799 rebounds in 81 games; 9.9 RPG) – Horford is one of the top centers in the League in only his third season, making his first All-Star appearance in 2010. He should reach his double-double potential for a whole season in ‘10-11. Zach Randolph, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies (950 rebounds in 81 games; 11.7 RPG) – Randolph finished second to Dwight Howard’s 1082 and 13.2 in total rebounds (950) and average rebounds per game (11.7), which were career highs. And he actually co-existed with another player in the post (Marc Gasol), which is just as noteworthy as the career-highs.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder – 652 assists in 82 games; 8.0 APG
I almost went with Rajon Rondo here, who improved his per game average by 1.7 assists, but Westbrook had to be the call considering his jump was a lot higher at 2.7 assists per game. As much attention as Kevin Durant gets, hoops junkies know Westbrook’s performance was just as important as Durantula’s. From a fantasy perspective, one reason Westbrook probably dropped in most drafts before the season was because of his turnovers. He still turned the ball over a ton per game (3.3), but the higher assists average made that pill a bit easier to swallow. Westbrook should continue to do well from the lead guard position as he’ll have a great nucleus of young talent to drop dimes to next season – the aforementioned Durant, Jeff Green, James Harden, and an up-and-coming Serge Ibaka. Keep Westbrook near the top of your list next season when you’re looking at point guards.
Others Considered: Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (472 in 80 games; 5.9 APG) – Who said he couldn’t play the point guard position in the pros? LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (651 assists in 76 games; 8.6 APG) – OK, so I’m breaking a rule by listing a superstar here, but 8.6 dimes from the three position? Something like this deserves to be mentioned, plus it’s a career-high by 1.3 assists for LeBron. Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics (794 assists in 81 games; 9.8 APG) – Rondo stepped up his game once again this season and made many fantasy hoops owners happy with his output. He finished third in total assists and fourth in assists per game.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Houston Rockets – 208 3PTM in 82 games; 2.6 3PTMPG
Brooks led the NBA in three-pointers made, while shooting the trey at a 6.4 per game clip, hitting 39.8 percent of them. Imagine if Brooks had an inside presence like Yao Ming to take away the defense’s attention? Imagine how much space Yao would have to move in the post on Brooks’ side? Well, the reality is Yao wasn’t around, but Brooks still performed at a high level. He should continue to do well next season as he’s now proven he can put the rock through the net from all over the court, especially behind the three-point arch. Brooks’ value next season will come at a high cost for fantasy teams, but he should prove a valuable commodity.
Others Considered: Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (166 3PTM in 80 games; 2.1 3PTMPG) – Curry finished sixth in total three-pointers made and tied for fourth in per game trey output. Doesn’t Curry seem to be everywhere in this post? It’s all warranted. Look for him one more time. Channing Frye, PF/C, Phoenix Suns (172 3PTM in 81 games; 2.1 3PTMPG) – Frye had a career-high in this category, beating his previous number by 161 threes. It’s good to play for the Phoenix Suns. Ask Quentin Richardson. Danilo Gallinari, SF, New York Knicks (186 3PTM in 81 games; 2.3 3PTMPG) – I was very close to choosing Gallinari here, but Brooks’ trey production came out of nowhere as much as Gallo’s. Plus the opportunity to heave shots from behind the three-point line is easier for a D’Antoni-run team.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics – 189 steals in 81 games; 2.3 SPG
Rondo was always a good ball thief thanks to his Kevin McHale length type of arms, quickness, and ability to play the passing lanes. Straight off the bat in his rookie year, Rondo averaged an impressive 1.6 steals per game. In ‘09-10, Rondo took his rock-ripping to a career-high level. He looks to be improving every season and only needs to improve his shooting from the charity stripe. But you can always bank on his steals if you draft him for your fantasy squad. Only a healthy Chris Paul could challenge Rondo for being the League’s top ball pilferer.
Others Considered: Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (126 steals in 72 games; 1.8 SPG) – Ariza reached a career-high in steals per game average and continued to be a defensive presence as he was with the Los Angeles Lakers on his new team in Houston. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (152 steals in 80 games; 1.9 SPG) – Told you he’d be back, but c’mon, the boy finished second in both total steals and steals average per game. Are you getting the message that this kid can ball? Josh Smith, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks (130 steals in 81 games; 1.6 SPG) – Smith finished eighth in total steals and achieved a career-high in this defensive category. Smith changed his offensive game up this season, but thankfully for his owners, not his defensive ability.
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks – 175 blocks in 69 games; 2.5 BPG
Bogut suffered one of the worst injuries ever seen on a basketball court at the end of the season, but you can’t discount how well he played before that. Fantasy-wise, he was one of the best center values for the season and achieved career-highs in total blocks and blocks per game, finishing behind, who else, Dwight Howard. Next season, a healthy Bogut should garner a higher draft spot than before the season, but once again, his durability will be questioned. The former first-overall pick should be able to duplicate the numbers he put up this season in ‘10-11 if he just stays away from Amar’e Stoudemire.
Others Considered: Brendan Haywood, C, Dallas Mavericks (209 blocks in 77 games; 2.1 BPG) – Haywood averaged a career-high qualifying number of rejections per game, but saw his production drop a bit once traded to the Mavs. Damn you, Dampier! Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers (131 blocks in 81 games; 1.6 BPG) – If Hibbert continues to work on his conditioning and can more than two quarters of burn on the floor, it’s possible he could finish in the top three in blocks every season. Josh Smith, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks (172 blocks in 81 games; 2.1 BPG) – Didn’t I say thank goodness J-Smoove didn’t change his defensive game? His athletic ability and instincts makes Smith a defensive fantasy monster.
Dennis Velasco is the fantasy sports writer for Fanway and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. If you don’t mind offensive tweets, you can follow him on Twitter @dv140. And, if you didn’t know, he doesn’t really hate Charles Peach, but Mr. Fantasy isn’t high on his list of favorite people.