Fantasy Daily: Mid-Season Awards
Question: It’s all-star weekend, you know what that means?
Answer: You will undoubtedly be seeing a plethora of articles detailing the best performers through the first half of the season along with whining about all-star snubs.
In this great tradition of cliché articles, I find it only appropriate that I dole out my own awards. Some of the honors are in more traditionally molded while the others might just be more bizarre than the golf swing of our beloved Sir Charles. Without further ado…
MVP: LeBron James
For once, fantasy does indeed echo reality. Because Chris Paul has been (and will be) out for a long stretch of this season, the jury reached this particular verdict quite easily. We’re talking Tara Reid easy. Regardless of whether you play head to head or rotisserie, standard eight category or a more in-depth twelve-category league, LeBron’s numbers are stellar across the board. (Minus a high turnover total that inevitably comes with being your team’s primary ball handler.) It’s amazing when 29.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 8.0 rebounds don’t tell the entire story. His 50.2% field goal percentage comes on twenty attempts per game and includes 1.8 three-pointers. His 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks and very reasonable 77% free throw percentage are merely the icing on the cake. Sure, I am biased. It has been well documented that I have had a raging LeBroner since he was a sophomore in high school. I legitimately think he could have played any professional sport minus golf. He’s got the decision making of a point guard, the strength of a center (or possibly an ox), and athleticism that is unparalleled by any species in the animal kingdom. The scariest part? His career numbers after to the all-star break are even better than his numbers before. In fact, other than January, March and April are statistically LeBron’s best months. Hence, owners of LBJ can expect a King-like crowning as their leagues champion.
Biggest Bust: Michael Redd
I was debating whether or not to bestow this award upon Sheyla Hershey (google it gentlemen), but with Redd’s poor performance compounded with his season-ending injury, it was the logical choice. I feel bad adding insult to injury, as Redd’s impressive career may be over. He was a second round pick who turned himself into an NBA all-star. His career 20 point a game average made Redd a valuable commodity, despite his injury riddled past. He was ranked 52 by yahoo, and was drafted 60 in my leagues draft ahead of such productive players as Zach Randolph, Andrew Bynum, Ray Allen and many others. Before a torn ACL put his career in jeopardy, Redd was only averaging 12, 3 and 2 on an anemic 35% shooting. Adding to this anomaly was a stark decline in his free throw shooting. Any expert will tell you that your shot is the last thing to leave you as you begin to age and see your game decline. A career 84% free throw shooter, Redd was hitting on only 71% of his attempts. Many may argue that Jose Calderon and Devin Harris are bigger busts based on their draft position. Nonetheless, both have a chance to redeem themselves after their own struggles with injuries and lack of production. That book is closed on the artist formerly known as Redd Hot.
Best Realization of Potential: Kevin Durant
It was obvious Durant was good before this season. After all, he was ranked the number two player in high school, was drafted second in the 2007 draft, won rookie of the year, and averaged 25 points per game last season. His unique skill set provides him with the opportunity to get off a good shot on every position. His athleticism allows him to drive by his opposition with ease and his length and shooting touch make him a terror for defenders on the perimeter. His statistics this season are quite comparable to those of Carmelo Anthony, but with a few key differences. With averages of 29.6, 7.3, 3.0 on 48.8% shooting, Melo and Durantula show nearly identical production. But with KD you get so much more. The 1.4 steals are complimented with .9 blocks. Unlike MJ, it’s not the shoes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Abr_LU822rQ), as his barefooted block on Aaron Afflalo proves. Durant also adds 1.5 threes per game and hits at an astounding 87.5% from the charity stripe. A valuable figure for any player, but when it comes on 9.7 attempts per game, that number goes a long way in winning this category. Durant has quite literally seen his numbers improve across the board. More importantly, he has Oklahoma City firmly entrenched in the playoff picture. While his defense still leaves something to be desired, he has an extremely refined offensive game. I’d say that’s impressive considering the fact he’s only been legally drinking since September. His scoring has jumped from 25 in October to 27.7 in November, 29.7 in December to 32.1 in January. Who knows what the future may hold for Kid Delicious?
Worst Realization of Potential: Anthony Randolph
Unfortunately, I can’t exactly give this award to coach Don Nelson, but just know this man couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. (Does that make sense? No. But neither does anything this man says.) 6’11 power forwards with elite athleticism, deft shooting touch and terrific handle don’t come around every day. Randolph is almost a mixture of Tyrus Thomas and Lamar Odom. So why was he coming off the bench, losing a starters role to Mikki Moore? Moore’s offensive game is just that…offensive. His defense? There’s no defense for how poorly he played. Before Randolph’s injury, he was averaging 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds to go along with 1.5 blocks and .8 steals. Good numbers yes, until you see his playing time. He accomplished that in just 22.7 minutes per game (often times being quickly yanked without the opportunity to get into the groove.) Per 36 minutes, AR4 averaged 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.5 blocks. Oh by the way, he also shot 80% from the line and has 2.0 assists per 36. This is a team whose offensive philosophy fits Randolph to the tee. An athletic big man who can outrun his defender for easy points in a fast break offense? Why wouldn’t this player log big minutes, especially when you consider this team is clearly playing for the future? This kid is only 20 years old and has just lost almost an entire season of development between his injury and his struggles with Don Nelson. So next year, watch for Randolph. He’s the perfect post-hype sleeper. Just pray Donny Boy has been run out of town. And while you’re at it, pray that Randolph gets a new nickname. I’m only half-Jewish, but I find this German-born player’s nickname of Adolf to be half off-putting. Segway to…
Best Nickname: Corey Maggette
Bad Porn-Sure there’s penetration and scoring, but are you really happy with what you’re seeing?
It's a fitting nickname for a guy who also stuffs...hit statline. His ability to chuck shots in order to get his numbers is deplorable. Plus, he's got the ball handling skills of a lesbian.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans/Stephen Curry
What? Even as I type this, my fingers quiver. I love Evans, but Curry’s “shoot first ask questions later” approach tends to irk me. To further that, Evans line of 20, 5 and 5 is far more impressive than Curry’s 14, 4 and 5. So why are the two splitting this award? Well, while Evans is averaging only .5 threes, Curry is hitting 1.7. Evans has a very respectable 79.6 free throw percentage, but little Dell hits at an impressive 86.2 percent. Curry also averages more steals and slightly fewer turnovers. The biggest factor, however, has been Curry’s play of late. Since the start of the ’10 (or is it 010?) year, Curry has averaged 19.1, 4.4, 5.1 with 2.4 threes per game. With the possible departure of Monta Ellis, Curry could turn into an absolute stud. While Evans has adapted well to the return of Kevin Martin, it’s tough to see his numbers improve with a twenty point per game scorer next to him in the backcourt. While I imagine Evans will win the actual ROY, Curry’s shooting will make him a valuable fantasy asset for years to come.
Least Valuable Player: D.J. Augustin
People apparently still own this player. I don’t get it. With averages of 5.7 points, 1.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 36% shooting he’s about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. There are numerous NBDL call-ups including Anthony Tolliver and Sundiata Gaines, that I would be more willing to pick up than D.J. My only hope is that he is playing through an injury because numbers this lackluster don’t have a place in the NBA. After averaging 12 and 3.5 as a rookie, he’s fighting for his very livelihood. Some attribute this to coach Larry Brown’s “Play the Right Way” edict, but perhaps his struggles to shoot the three ball are merely showing the chinks in his armor. Without the outside shot going, his lack of size is magnified. And clearly this struggle has toyed with his confidence as his free throw shooting has fallen from 89.3% last year to only 74.7% this season. I can’t pinpoint Augustin’s problem, but you can’t tolerate this type of struggle. You can’t be an overprotective mother in your fantasy dealings and proceedings; eventually you have to cut the cord.
Most difficult performance to judge: Brandon Jennings/Trevor Ariza
Two extremely talented players. Two well rounded stat lines. Two glaring holes in their games. For Ariza, his 1.8 threes are impressive, but not when it comes on six attempts per game (30%) and leads to a low field goal percentage (37.8%). Likewise with Jennings. His 38.2% field goal percentage is actually lower than his 39.5% three-point shooting percentage. Surely an oddity. As are his constantly waning shooting figures. After a November when he averages 22.1 points on 42% shooting, he saw a December with 16.7 points on 37.6% shooting and an atrocious January with 14.2 points on 32.4% shooting. Since Jennings 55 point outburst, his turnovers have dropped while his assists have been on the rise. Currently he averages 6.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds with 1.9 threes. He’s been very impressive overall, but that low shooting mark that keeps falling is cause for concern. But should you consider dealing either of these players? They help you in all categories except that crippling field goal percentage. Well the problem is shot selection. Ariza might have the worst shot selection in the league, and Jennings’ ego leads him to some terrible shots as well (re: 20 foot contested fade away jumpers). With the all-star break approaching, owners may be considering making a move. For both players I tell you to hold off. They are unbelievably talented individuals who should both shoot over 40% from this point out. With the coaches having time to review game film, these borderline all-stars could achieve the all-around production they are capable of.
So there it is, you're mid-season award winners. Questions? Comments? Disagreements? Threatening paternity lawsuits? All can be answered at David@hoopsdaily.com