Fantasy champions have been crowned; trophies have been rewarded; you’re either the Grand Poobah or just a member of the pack like everyone else. No matter what your title: There’s always next year.
Kobe Bryant’s retirement is no longer an event to anticipate, Stephen Curry’s historical regular season is a thing of the past and the San Antonio Spurs…well, they’re still the Spurs. And nobody expects that to change anytime soon.
In an NBA campaign that included everything we could have asked for, fantasy awards simply serve as a delectable dessert after the magnificent main course that was our basketball reality.
MVP: Stephen Curry, PG Golden State Warriors
The best shooter I’ve ever seen is re-defining what we perceive to be possible. They used to say that about Michael, Kobe and more recently—LeBron. Curry is in good company.
Best Early-Round Value Pick: Paul Millsap, F Atlanta Hawks
No consensus first-round picks were eligible for this prize, and we should really rename it the Paul Millsap Award moving forward. Routinely selected behind Carmelo Anthony, Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin and teammate Al Horford, the magnificent Millsap enjoyed a career season that left no doubts about his value.
Best Late-Round Value Pick: Jae Crowder, F Boston Celtics
Jae “Clam” Crowder had a lower ADP than David Lee, Meyers Leonard, Roy Hibbert and even Timofey Mozgov. We can all guarantee that will never happen again, and Crowder’s breakout was both real and spectacular. This fiery bowl of soup has solidified himself as a hearty fantasy meal, and you don’t even have to crumble any crackers into his game to make him look like a cornerstone for whatever finished product Boston winds up building.
Biggest Fantasy Surprise of the Year: Marvin Williams, F Charlotte Hornets
Everybody was waiting for the Marvin Williams drop-off that simply never came, and Steve Clifford deserves a lot of credit for finally getting something out of Marv that no NBA coach previously could: Consistency. Williams, who will be 30 in June, established career-high marks in three-point percentage (40.2), rebounds (6.4) and blocks (1.0), and there’s no question he’ll be among those with the highest rise in ADP entering 2016-17.
Breakout Player of the Year: C.J. McCollum, G Portland Trail Blazers
A strong candidate to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, C.J. McCollum did everything most people said he wouldn’t in his first full season as Damian Lillard’s starting backcourt partner. Taken after names like Terrence Jones, Ersan Ilyasova, Ty Lawson and Derrick Rose, nobody should be making any mistakes about McCollum’s new place on the fantasy totem pole. Establishing career-high marks across the board, McCollum’s improvement in field goal percentage (44.8), three-point percentage (41.7) and free throw percentage (82.7) are especially notable in a year where he played more than double the amount of minutes he saw in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Waiver Wire Gem of the Year: Nikola Jokic, F/C Denver Nuggets
This choice will likely have the most debate upon the balloting being released, but there is no denying Nikola Jokic the honor he deserves here. Although his contributions don’t explode out of the box score or jump off of the stat sheet, Jokic excelled both as Denver’s starting center (10.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks, 49.0% shooting) as well as a power forward with the first five (15.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, 60.7% shooting). The Nuggets have a muddy frontcourt situation with a lot of bodies and not enough spots, but you can bet the 21-year-old Jokic—an absolute draft steal as a second-round pick (41st overall) in 2014—will be an integral part of the future. Remember when Mike Malone said he wouldn’t trade Jokic for anyone in the world? I don’t think he was kidding.
Fantasy Bust of the Year: Danny Green, G/F San Antonio Spurs
Danny Green was regularly drafted before Karl-Anthony Towns, Kemba Walker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s a real thing that actually happened. The good news: It will never occur again, and we shall never speak of it again after this day.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C Minnesota Timberwolves
I got some solid criticism—both on and offline—when I wrote that Karl-Anthony Towns would make the Anthony Davis hype look normal, and his ascension came even earlier than I projected. After looking like a polished product before his first All-Star Weekend, Towns turned it up in the second half of the season to finish with absurd averages of 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.7 blocks on 54.2% from the field. It’s downright frightening to think of what kind of fury Towns is capable of unleashing upon the rest of the NBA before he turns 25—which is not for another four years, by the way—and there’s no need to champion for his first-round candidacy in fantasy drafts next season. He’s already done that for you.