Fantasy Basketball: Fantasy-specific awards from MVP, to rookie of the year, booms, busts and more

There’s a good chance you’re in a fantasy league that’s started its playoffs already. One of my head-to-head leagues finished two weeks ago. So now feels like an appropriate time to hand out the Fantasy Awards.

I did this exercise at the one-third point of the season, and things have changed significantly since then, partially due to the injuries that have swept across the league landscape. Let’s see what players have defined this season in fantasy:

Most Valuable Player

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Jokic has pulled away in both the real-life MVP and fantasy-MVP discussions. He’s in the midst of a historic offensive season. Playing in all 57 of the Nuggets’ games so far, he’s averaged 26.4 points on 56.9 percent shooting from the field and 85.4 percent from the free-throw line, while also hitting 1.4 threes per game. He’s also at 11.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 2.1 combined steals-plus-blocks per contest. Considering Jokic was typically being drafted toward the end of the first round in fantasy, his play is even more impactful for those that selected him. He’s the clear-cut best player in fantasy.

Runner up: Steph Curry, Warriors

Curry was also being drafted at the end of the first round and has staked his claim as the second-best player in fantasy. He’s arguably having the second-best season of his career. The 33-year-old has averaged 31.4 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 5.2 threes and 1.2 steals. His past 11 games have been other-worldly: 40.0 points on 54/50/90 shooting, 6.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 35.0 minutes.

Rookie of the Year

Tyrese Haliburton, Kings

This could be considered a hot take when factoring in LaMelo Ball’s impressive season. However, availability matters, and I’m not giving as much leeway for fantasy as I would in real life. Haliburton has appeared in 10 more games than Ball, and that gap will only increase as Ball continues to miss time with a broken wrist. Plus, Haliburton smashed his ADP compared to Ball, who was incredibly hyped up, going 66th in the average draft, and currently ranks 73rd in total production. Haliburton’s ADP was 146, and he ranks 58th. He’s averaged 12.6 points on 47.3 percent shooting, 5.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 1.8 combined steals-plus-blocks.

Runner up: LaMelo Ball, Hornets

Despite the missed time, Ball still ranks six spots higher than Anthony Edwards in total value. And if Edwards is on your team, he’s cratered your field-goal percentage. Based on per-game stats, Ball is clearly the ROY, as he’s posted 16.0 points on 45.2 percent shooting, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 1.9 combined steals-plus-blocks.

Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Gobert is leading the league in total blocks (162), and with Myles Turner out indefinitely, Gobert should hang onto that claim. He also leads the NBA in defensive rebounds (577), which can be factored into the discussion. Generally, this award goes to the player with the most blocks, as it’s easier to be a volume shot-blocker than a volume steal-getter.

Runners up: Myles Turner, Pacers; Robert Covington, Trail Blazers

Even though Turner is out indefinitely, there’s a real chance he’ll finish the season with the second-most total blocks (159). While he won’t be helping fantasy managers in the playoffs, his contributions were so helpful in the regular season that he could still be given runner-up. Covington, the other candidate, has been the best source of both blocks and steals in the league. He ranks third in total steals (85) and 11th in total blocks (68).

Boom of the Year

Chris Boucher, Raptors

Boucher has outperformed his ADP by 134 spots, being drafted on average at 166th and he’s currently ranked 32nd overall. His statistical profile translates perfectly to fantasy, as he’s seeing just 24.2 minutes per game but still ranks this high. He’s averaged 13.8 points on 52.0 percent shooting (78.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 threes, 1.1 assists and 2.5 combined blocks-plus-steals. Boucher has had huge performances as well. Against the Bulls earlier this month, he recorded 38 points, 19 rebounds, one block, one steal and one assist.

Runner up: Julius Randle

Randle doesn’t have quite the ADP jump as guys like Boucher, Terry Rozier (+99), Richaun Holmes (+115) or Norman Powell (+121), but he’s returning the sixth-best fantasy production in the NBA, rising from an ADP of 60. Jumping into the first round from the middle of the pack can be more impactful than jumping from the final rounds to the middle of the pack. To put things into perspective, Randle has been more valuable than James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal.

Bust of the Year

Jusuf Nurkic, Trail Blazers

This award shouldn’t go to someone simply due to injury. And while Nurkic did have a significant injury that kept him out for 32 games, he was disappointing before it and after it. On a per-game basis, he’s ranked 138th — that’s 105 spots lower than his ADP. He was thought to potentially be a third-round value but is instead posting 9.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Enes Kanter continues to essentially split time with Nurkic.

Runner up: Ja Morant, Grizzlies

After winning Rookie of the Year last season, Morant’s ADP was 32 heading into his sophomore campaign. He currently sits at 115th on a per-game basis. Morant has failed to make any strides in his game and has regressed as a shooter across the board. The 19.0 points, 7.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game look good on the surface. However, he’s shooting only 44.7 percent from the field and 73.9 percent from the charity stripe while hitting 1.0 threes per game. He’s also providing just 1.1 combined steals-plus-blocks.

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