June 5, 2021, 1:36 pm
Welcome to HoopBall’s fantasy awards. This season definitely had more challenges than normal given the condensed nature of the schedule and the added risk of a player/team missing significant chunks of time due to the newly instituted health and safety protocols. Those who earned the top spot in their league likely drafted several of the players that you’ll see below. Feel free to give your feedback of how you think we did in regard to our awards. What did we get right? What did we miss?
Most Valuable Player
Unlike the Oscars or the reality MVP, the Fantasy MVP category is actually one of the easiest to figure out. We are trying to find the player who was most helpful for fantasy GMs throughout the season, meaning that games played has to be in play. Without further ado, here are the candidates.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Damian Lillard, Portland Blazers;
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Sixers; Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets; Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets;
Nikola Vučević, Orlando Magic/Chicago Bulls; Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Player GP *ADP **Per-Game Value (8/9-cat) **Total Value (8/9-cat) Bradley Beal 60 17.3 12/14 9/11 Damian Lillard 67 8.7 7/9 3/3 Joel Embiid 51 14.0 5/4 15/10 Kyrie Irving 70 21.7 6/3 10/7 Nikola Jokić 72 5.3 1/1 1/1 Nikola Vučević 70 27.3 15/12 4/4 Stephen Curry 63 8.3 2/2 2/2
Nikola Jokić – Congrats are in order for The Joker as he easily ran away with the award and he’ll likely walk away with the league’s MVP this year as well. A center who can nearly average a triple-double is nothing to laugh at. He should be close to the top of draft boards for years to come, especially if he can avoid his notorious slow-starts as he did in 2020-21.
Stephen Curry – Curry nearly carried his entire roster to the playoffs thanks to another tremendous year from distance. His shooting ability is unparalleled, although the next player could be closer than many believe. Even at age 33, the Splash Brother should be near the top of fantasy boards until we see Father Time catch up to him.
Damian Lillard – Dame D.O.L.L.A. has proven to be one of the more reliable fantasy options around for several seasons and there is no reason to expect that to change. His durability is what allowed him to edge out players like Embiid and Irving. Lillard is three years younger than Curry and as such, will probably sustain his level of excellence for a longer period of time. Curry may have the per-game advantage over Lillard, but Lillard’s durability and age could be of more interest for fantasy GMs heading into next year’s drafts.
Most Valuable Rookie
It’s very difficult to evaluate rookies during draft season and 2021 was no different. Some rookies were drafted well above where they ended up finishing while others were hot waiver-wire grabs who weren’t expected to make an impact in their first season. Without further ado, let’s look at our prospective candidates before handing out the trophy!
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Wolves; Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons;
Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets; LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets;
Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons; Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets; Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic;
Facundo Campazzo, Denver Nuggets; Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls;
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies; Xavier Tillman, Memphis Grizzlies;
Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Wolves; Malachi Flynn, Toronto Raptors;
Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic
Player GP *ADP **Per-Game Value (8/9-cat) **Total Value (8/9-cat) **Per-Game Value Post All-Star Break (8/9-cat) Anthony Edwards 72 106.3 102/120 54/71 50/59 Isaiah Stewart 68 Undrafted 149/135 105/92 101/90 Jae’Sean Tate 70 Undrafted 119/118 78/77 102/109 LaMelo Ball 51 73.0 58/76 85/102 107/165 Saddiq Bey 70 Undrafted 171/157 113/99 128/113 Tyrese Haliburton 58 111.0 72/68 72/62 97/100
Tyrese Haliburton – Haliburton may not win the actual Rookie of the Year but he takes the cake when looking at the entire season from a fantasy perspective. He did miss the final eight games of the season due to a left knee injury but luckily avoided surgery. The Kings definitely got a steal in the 2020 draft with Haliburton and while his fantasy ceiling isn’t as high as others in his class, he provides a very safe floor for years to come. He should definitely be considered in next year’s drafts around the 75 mark.
Anthony Edwards – It was very tough to decide who had the edge between the No. 1 and 3 picks in the 2020 draft. Ultimately, the award goes to Edwards due to his second half surge and the durability he showed during the campaign. Edwards’ efficiency is the key to his fantasy value as he saw an astounding 18.7 FGA after the All-Star break while shooting .455. Over the entire season, his shooting percentage sat at .417 while he shot .329 from distance. He has proven to be a reliable scorer but for him to reach his ceiling, he’ll need to continue to perform like he did over the last 36 games.
LaMelo Ball – I really wanted to include Mr. Reliable (AKA Jae’Sean Tate) but couldn’t find room on the podium for the 25-year-old rookie. He was definitely one of the more reliable rookies throughout the entire season as he plodded along with late-round value, with flashes of more, throughout the season while only missing two games. However, Ball has to be included as he shined prior to suffering a wrist injury that forced him to sit out of 21 straight games.
The younger Ball brother is already one of the most creative passers in the league and should continue to grow with Terry Rozier in Charlotte. Ball could be ranked higher than Edwards in roto formats but ranks behind the top overall pick in H2H leagues due to the missed games down the stretch and the inefficiency he showed once he did return from injury. Had Ball not gotten hurt, we could very well be looking at a situation where he easily won the Most Valuable Rookie award. Those who drafted him in dynasty have to be very happy with the first year of data we now have.
Most Improved Player
It’s now time to look at players who saw the biggest increase in value season over season. These are players who made significant jumps due to statistical improvement in one or more categories and we are focused on players who were able to make an impact in 12-team category leagues (Top-150 value or higher in 2020-21) We decided to exclude all players who missed the entire 2019-20 season like Kevin Durant and John Wall and we also removed players whose sample size was too few from either 2019-20 (Ex: Steph Curry) or 2020-21 (Ex: Khyri Thomas). This category has the highest number of nominees thus far and it’s been the hardest to evaluate. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the nominees.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors; Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers;
Delon Wright, Detroit Pistons/Sacramento Kings; Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics;
Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons; Julius Randle, New York Knicks;
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat/Houston Rockets; Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies;
Mason Plumlee, Detroit Pistons; Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets;
Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets; Robert Williams, Boston Celtics;
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers; Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Christian Wood, Houston Rockets; De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks;
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors; Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings;
Isaiah Roby, Oklahoma City Thunder; Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs;
Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz; Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets;
Moses Brown, Oklahoma City Thunder; Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers;
Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets; Oshae Brissett, Toronto Raptors;
P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets; R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks;
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder; Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls
Player GP *ADP **Per-Game Value (8/9-cat) **Total Value (8/9-cat) 8/9-Cat Per-Game Improvement 8/9-Cat Total Value Improvement Chris Boucher 60 138.0 64/36 60/42 +187/+174 +146/+141 Darius Garland 54 160.0 82/119 102/145 +125/+176 +97/+100 Delon Wright 63 138.0 93/83 79/70 +86/+84 +34/+32 Jaylen Brown 58 52.3 32/37 43/53 +33/+32 +33/+31 Jerami Grant 54 98.0 68/74 92/92 +97/+69 +18/-2 Julius Randle 71 66.3 28/51 11/20 +60/+89 +62/+105 Kelly Olynyk 70 Undrafted 63/64 39/37 +120/+113 +102/+102 Kyle Anderson 69 Undrafted 71/61 34/25 +147/+157 +139/+149 Mason Plumlee 56 150.0 96/99 105/113 +172/+192 +118/+124 Michael Porter Jr. 61 60.7 45/29 35/24 +153/+154 +161/+164 Nicolas Batum 67 Undrafted 127/105 88/66 +122/+135 +257/+274 Robert Williams 52 185.0 79/63 96/74 +103/+94 +184/+192 T.J. McConnell 69 Undrafted 66/71 38/40 +140/+145 +109/+115 Zion Williamson 61 24.3 46/62 45/57 +97/+136 +249/+261
Julius Randle – Randle’s year over year improvement is unparalleled when comparing him to the rest of the bunch. When the Knicks signed him, there were many who thought that he wouldn’t be able to live up to his contract and that he was a stopgap until the team was able to land a big-name free agent. However, Randle proved everyone wrong as he was even able to get some MVP buzz towards the end of the campaign. The career year that he put forth was highlighted by astounding improvements in assists, points, free throw percentage, 3-pointers and 3-point percentage.
Jaylen Brown – Brown’s improvement is not nearly as big as the leap that others made on the list. However, the higher the ranks the harder it is to improve upon, making the 30-position jump extremely impressive. His year-to-year improvements were not as eye-popping as Randle, but Brown was able to notch career-highs in points, blocks, steals, assists, 3-point percentage, 3-pointers made, field goal percentage and minutes. The odds of a player jumping from the 60s to the 30s in both 8- & 9-cat leagues are extremely slim, especially from someone who had a similar role season over season like Brown.
Kyle Anderson – It must be shocking to not see Michael Porter Jr. make this list since he had a bigger jump than Anderson and finished significantly higher than Slo-Mo in per-game value. Porter “received a lot of votes” but the deciding factor that put Anderson over the top is the projection heading into the season. It was abundantly clear that Porter Jr. was going to see his role expand in his second season as displayed by his ADP during draft season.
Anderson, on the other hand, was not ranked by any of the big sites heading into 2020-21 as he had only finished higher than the top-100 once in his previous six seasons (2017-18). He defied the odds throughout the entire season as he started every single game he played for the Grizzlies and became one of their most important players all season long. He has a well-rounded stat set that can really help in category formats, although his ceiling is what we saw this past campaign. Anyone who picked Anderson up early on in the season definitely understands how important an addition he was to a fantasy squad, and he is ranked above Porter Jr. due to the draft capital that was necessary to acquire his services.
For those who didn’t grow up with the Pokemon Craze in the 90s, let me introduce you to Snorlax. It appears to be in a constant state of slumber, which is why I have chosen to use it for the sleeper of the year. These are players who were drafted quite low or left undrafted altogether and exceeded all expectations. As you’ll notice, most of the nominees are a subset of the candidates that were up for Most Improved Player. Let’s take a look at our nominees.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors; Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavs;
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat/Houston Rockets; Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies;
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns; Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets;
O.G. Anunoby, Toronto Raptors; Robert Williams, Boston Celtics;
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers
Player GP *ADP **Per-Game Value (8/9-cat) **Total Value (8/9-cat) 8/9-Cat Per-Game Value over ADP 8/9-Cat Total Value Over ADP Chris Boucher 60 138.0 64/36 60/42 +74/+102 +64/+36 Darius Garland 54 160.0 82/119 102/145 +78/+41 +58/+15 Kelly Olynyk 70 Undrafted 63/64 39/37 N/A N/A Kyle Anderson 69 Undrafted 71/61 34/25 N/A N/A Mikal Bridges 72 112.0 73/52 31/14 +39/+60 +81/+98 Nicolas Batum 67 Undrafted 127/105 88/66 N/A N/A O.G. Anunoby 43 109.7 53/39 116/116 +56.7/+70.7 -6.3/-6.3 Robert Williams 52 185.0 79/63 96/74 +106/+122 +89/+111 T.J. McConnell 69 Undrafted 66/71 38/40 N/A N/A
Kyle Anderson – Slo-Mo takes home the first Snorlax award. He was widely undrafted across all 12-team leagues but was able to make an impact out of the gate and never truly slowed down. His well-rounded stat set, although not spectacular in any one category, and his durability allow him to come away with two trophies! Congrats to Slo-Mo and what a fitting award for that nickname given his predilection for slow-moving play.
T.J. McConnell – Another undrafted player in almost all 12-category leagues comes away with second place. McConnell led the league in overall steals and ranked behind only Jimmy Butler in steals per game at 1.9. His increased steal numbers as well as the 6.6 assists he averaged with positive efficiency allowed McConnell to be a must-start player for almost the entire season.
Robert Williams – The final spot belongs to The Time Lord as he was finally given enough of a role where we could witness what he could deliver to a fantasy team, and he still only saw 18.9 mpg. Williams is by far the player of this trio with the highest upside and those who had him stashed away in dynasty have to be happy with the progress he made in 2020-21. If Williams can avoid major injuries and continue to improve upon his conditioning, there is no doubt that he can continue to rise up the ranks. While McConnell and Anderson had better seasons, Williams is the the most intriguing prospect heading into next year’s drafts at just 23 years old.
Most Valuable Team
One very interesting thing that I’ve been trying to keep tabs on over the last couple of years is how to determine which teams will have the most fantasy value in future seasons based on what we can draw upon from the past. If we can understand which teams/systems allow for the most fantasy value heading into the year, it can help us with our choices in the later rounds of fantasy drafts moving forward. It’s time to analyze which team provided the most fantasy value in 2020-21. Let’s take a look at our nominees.
(In the table below, we’ve got a team’s average of players in the given range in 8/9-cat formats. Two players inside top 25 in 8-cat and one player inside the top-25 in 9-cat = 1.5)
Atlanta Hawks; Brooklyn Nets; Boston Celtics; Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks; Phoenix Suns; Portland Blazers; Sacramento Kings; Toronto Raptors
Team **Top-10 Per-Game Players (8/9-cat) **Top-11-25 Per-Game Players (8/9-cat) **Top-26-50 Per-Game Players (8/9-cat) **Top-51-100 Per-Game Players (8/9-cat) **Top-10 Total Value Players (8/9-cat) **Top-11-25 Total Value Players (8/9-cat) **Top-26-50 Total Value Players (8/9-cat) **Top-51-100 Total Value Players (8/9-cat) Hawks 0 1 1.5 2 0 1 2 1 Nets 3 0 0 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 2 Celtics 0 1 1 4 1 0 1 0.5 Pacers 0 1.5 0.5 3.5 0 1 1 4 Bucks 0 1.5 1.5 0.5 0 2 1.5 2 Suns 0 1 1.5 1.5 1 1.5 1.5 0 Blazers 1 0 1 3 1 0.5 2 2 Kings 0 0 1 5 0 0 2.5 3.5 Raptors 0 1 2.5 1.5 0 0 1.5 2.5
Milwaukee Bucks –The Bucks had the best fantasy season from a team perspective as all five of their starters had productive fantasy seasons while Bobby Portis was even able to sustain quite a long run of standard league value in a bench role. The Bucks have been one of the more reliable fantasy teams to evaluate and the addition of Jrue Holiday further helped their case as the best team for fantasy value, despite not having a player inside the top-10.
Brooklyn Nets – James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are all on the same team. Do we even need to mention one of the best spot-up shooters in the league, Joe Harris? I don’t think so (but I did anyways). The Nets definitely dealt with injuries that hurt their case for the top spot on this list but having three players inside the top-10 in per-game value in both 8- and 9-cat leagues is unheard of.
Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul’s arrival helps the Suns’ case here as Devin Booker was actually a huge disappointment when evaluating where he was drafted in most spots. CP3 continues to defy age while Mikal Bridges was one of the better draft-day values. The Suns have quite a few young talented players and are in a great position to have another season with several players inside the top-75.
Be sure to keep it locked into Hoop-Ball.com, as our offseason is just getting started. Keep on the lookout for lots more content in the days and weeks to come.
*Average courtesy of FantasyPros.com
**Courtesy of BasketballMonster.com