2012 Fantasy Basketball Review: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kevin Love and More


Most Valuable Fantasy Player: The debate for who had a better fantasy season is pretty much the same as it was for who to take with the first pick at the beginning of the season. Obviously the choice comes down to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Unlike the start of the season, though, we now have 66 games worth of data with which to evaluate the two. According to Give Me The Rock’s Player Rater, Kevin Durant was the best fantasy basketball player of the 2011-12 season. The Player Rater is designed for Head-to-Head leagues, but for this case, it seems the results are applicable to Rotisserie leagues as well. If you look across the stats, Durant makes up for the categories where he lagged LeBron – Assists and Steals – with ones where he beat him handily (twice as many threes; 8 percentage points higher from the line; nearly a half a block per game more). He’s reliable, durable and plays a difficult position to fill. I’m sure we’ll be back to the same debate come September and October, but for now, Durant is the Most Valuable Fantasy Player. (For what it’s worth, this decision was unanimous between the three authors here)

All-NBA Fantasy First Team: If you take out Durant, the All-NBA Fantasy First Team falls nicely into place with LeBron at SF, Chris Paul, #3 on the season, at PG, followed by Kevin Love at #4 taking up the PF position. The Center position is a bit of a surprise, but at #5, according to the Player Rater is Al Jefferson. Jefferson was drafted an average of 13th, so clearly fantasy owners knew this would be a good year for him, but he came through better than I think anyone could have expected with over 19 points, nearly 10 rebounds, high percentages (including 77% from the line; very good for a big man), and a remarkably low 1.1 turnovers per game. Finally, at #6, we slot Dwyane Wade at the SG position. Even though he missed a lot more games than the five guys above him, he played enough games and racked up enough stats that he deserves a spot on the fantasy first team with them.

Fantasy NBA Rookie of the Year: Another easy choice here: Kyrie Irving, ended up as the 33nd best fantasy player available making him the clear choice for ROY with nearly 19 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds (from a point guard!), and 1 steal per game. Irving also shot nearly 47% from the field, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that he played for the Cavaliers who don’t really have a lot of guys to take the defensive heat off of him. He also shot 87% from the line, which is a very good sign of things to come. The only downside to his game was the 3.1 turnovers, but he’s a Point Guard, so high turnovers are to be expected, and consider he’s a rookie Point Guard at that, 3.1 turnovers really isn’t that bad. And yes, we all know that Erik has Irving in the GMTR Keeper League. Not sure if anyone could have possibly missed that. (And if anyone cares, my keepers are Marc Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and your choice of Jeff Teague, Mike Dunleavy, Alonzo Gee, Brandon Knight, and Kawhi Leonard. Yeah, thanks Landry Fields and Amir Johnson.)

Most Disappointing Fantasy Player: There’s a lot more room for debate when it comes to the Most Disappointing Player. Is it someone drafted high who ended up far below their average draft position? Is it someone drafted high who barely played because of injuries? Is it really fair to penalize someone just for getting injured? (Especially since owners should know who injury-prone players are and lower their expectations accordingly)

The first name that sprang to my mind was Dwight Howard, but perhaps my thoughts are overshadowed by his lengthy trade/extension controversy and his season-ending back surgery. Howard still played 54 games and ended up at #20 on the GMTR Player Rater on a per game basis. After dismissing that initial hypothesis, I moved on to Stephen Curry and forced myself to answer the question above of whether I should have known better than to draft Curry despite his first two seasons of 80 and 74 games; numbers which clearly contradicted the well-documented fragility of his ankle. Well, somebody had to draft him, but it didn’t have to be me, and to answer the question, yes, I should have known better. And anyone who drafted Curry should not be disappointed with the 26 games he played. They should be ashamed for having picked him in the first place. My cheeks are red.

So if we move on to guys who just didn’t perform and start from the top: Russell Westbrook dropped almost a full round from 12 to 23, but Monta Ellis dropped even further, going from 16 to 43. Westbrook underperformed, but still ended up as a second round player, while Ellis just couldn’t find his groove after the fairly shocking trade that sent him to Milwaukee. Maybe it was the cold weather, or maybe trying to co-exist on the court with Brandon Jennings was just too much to stomach. Either way, he still ended up only 27 spots below his average draft position and even though he played well alongside Stephen Curry in Golden State, I don’t think it’s right to fault him for something that he had no control over.

Strange how two of my top candidates are from the Warriors, because my selection for the actual Most Disappointing Fantasy Player is also from Golden State. Dorell Wright was drafted on average at #30, the middle of the third round, and ended up at 81, mid-seventh round. I was forced to tell people to keep hanging on to him week after week but things never got better. Wright managed a respectable 1.7 threes per game, but the rest of his game fell so far off the map that the Warriors were forced to cut his minutes from 38 to 27, and even that was overly generous.

Patrick wanted to go with Stephen Curry, but Erik seconded my motion for Dorell Wright, and so he is the winner. Or loser, I guess.

Best Fantasy Sleeper: On the opposite end of the spectrum of Dorell Wright is Ryan Anderson (another kind of unanimous choice depending on whether you think he’s the Most Improved or Biggest Sleeper). Granted, much of his success is due to the fact that he plays with Dwight Howard, who can draw five to ten players at a time on any given play. When the defense looks like a Lebanese league game it’s not hard to make a lot of three-pointers, and Anderson did, averaging a league leading 2.7 threes per game. He also grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game, made 88% of his free throws, and with so much catching and shooting, he kept his turnovers below 1 per game. All of that adds up to a place at #7 finish on the Player Rater – a full 111 spots above his average draft position. No one else in the Top 10 can claim that kind of jump, and in the Top 50, only Ersan Ilyasova even comes close. He was nominated/mentioned by both Erik and Patrick as well, but since he ended up just barely in the Top 50, I think that Ryan Anderson deserves all the praise and glory. And he also deserves Erik’s question: Is he for real? Or will he be next season’s Dorell Wright?

Speaking of Erik… He had a few additional categories and/or highlights (Patrick did as well, we’ll get to that). But first, a quick commercial break! (I mean, what kind of award show is it without a few commercials?)

Give Me The Rock now has a merchandise store where you can buy merchandises. There is only one merchandise currently available, but when Erik saw it, he immediately asked if they shipped to the Phillipines. I have ordered one of these in Bulls #SeeRed, but it’s designed to look good in Celtics Green, Laker Yellow, Nuggets Sky Blue, Hornets Turquoise, Knickerbocker Orange, Raptor Purple, Bucks Green, Timberwolves or Magic Royal Blue, Doo Doo Brown, Home Team White, Dark Gray, and Generic Gray. There’s a couple other colors too, but I’d recommend one of those.

And we’re back!

Saddest Story: Retirement due to injury of Brandon Roy, which is closely followed by waiving of Greg Oden. Poor Portland. (Ed note: Also, trading Marcus Camby… and just totally giving up. Maybe they’ll get another #1 pick to throw away.)

Three players to watch next season: Greg Monroe, Paul George, Nic Batum. You can see a little bit of George in the playoffs this season as he helped the Pacers move up to the #3 seed in the East. Hopefully they can dispatch with Orlando and then beat up on the Heat as much as they flagrantly fouled the Bulls in last year’s playoffs. Oh, sorry. The playoffs are the time for “hard” basketball and “tough” defense. That makes it okay to take off people’s heads and not get a foul call.

Pleasant Surprise of the Season: Kobe’s come back form.

Three Players Erik has tagged with “Caveat Emptor” going into next season: Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, and Blake Griffin (because Poster Child will be the most overvalued player next season). I second that.

Now for Patrick’s unrated director’s cut:

Sleeper of the Year: Ersan Ilyasova, with a nod to Nikola Pekovic. Pek ended up at #119, so I don’t think he’s up there with Ryno or Ersan, but he did step up and play well and if not for Ricky Rubio’s injury, Pekovic might have been the key to helping Kevin Love finally get to the playoffs.

Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka. I forgot about this one, but yeah, a pretty obvious choice. Ibaka averaged 3.7 blocks per game, including 4.6 blocks over the last 16 games of the season.

Waiver Wire Player of the Year (best player to spend most of the year on the wire): Brandon Rush

Biggest Injury of the Year: Eric Gordon

Most Linsane Player of the Year: Jeremy Lin (I can’t wait to see who wins this one next year!)

Biggest “we told you so” from GMTR: Spencer Hawes. He might have finished the season well ahead of our projected 199 (he was at 87), but if you didn’t at least try to sell him after the first week you were in for some major hurt and frustration.

Biggest Miss in the GMTR Preseason Rankings: Patrick says Al Jefferson, but I think he’s being a little hard on himself. We had Jefferson at #16 in our 12/23 rankings, so the fact that he ended up at #5 I don’t think makes him a big miss. Just a bit underestimated.

Surprise of the Season: Brandon Jennings, now one of the league’s best fantasy PGs? Can’t argue with #15 overall. Too bad the owner who kept him in the Keeper League also kept Stephen Curry. There’s the light and the dark side of the force right there.

Three players to watch next season: Derrick Favors, Kenneth Faried, Charles Jenkins

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