After the most unpredictable basketball season in recent memory, fantasy managers unsurprisingly missed the mark trying to draft this year’s 10 best players.
If you look at the list below, based on average draft position, you’ll see the public only got three of the top 10 players right. In the four previous seasons, the fantasy community was able to predict at minimum five of the top players during the first-round.
2020-21 – 3
2019-20 – 5
2018-19 – 6
2017-18 – 7
2016-17 – 5
A lot of injury turmoil dragged fantasy managers to the bottom but many blue-chip players showed father time never loses. The days of James Harden and Kevin Durant being perennial top-5 picks is coming to an end but several rising stars are making their case as the next fantasy superstar.
Without further ado, here are my fantasy basketball awards for 2020-21.
C: Nikola Jokic, DEN
The NBA MVP betting favourite was the top-ranked fantasy player from front to back this season. After a seven-steal performance on January 12, Jokic overtook Kyrie Irving as the top-performing fantasy player and never let go of the title. Having never cracked the top 10 in his career, the Serbian point centre came into 2020-21 more fit, more skilled and more aggressive. Not only did he play the most minutes and have the highest usage rate of his career, he did it with efficiency, having the most positive weighted impact on field goal and free throw percentage.
Honourable mention – PG, SG: Steph Curry, GSW
PG, SG: Terry Rozier, CHA
An afterthought in many drafts this season, Rozier went from a borderline undrafted player to a top 40, league winner. During pre-season, the LaMelo Ball buzz was off the charts and managers assumed it was a matter of time before he took over all of Charlotte’s backcourt duties. Even after Rozier opened the season with a 42-point clinic, many experts were pegging him as a sell-high. Managers incorrectly predicted Rozier to be the fall guy when it ended up being Devonte’ Graham. Scary Terry finished the year averaging career-highs in points, threes, assists, steals, blocks, and field-goal percentage.
Honourable mention – PF, C: Chris Boucher, TOR
PG: Ben Simmons, PHI
There are many ways to define what a bust is but I’m going to pick the player who was likely on the most losing rosters. A third-rounder by most experts, Simmons provided the lowest return on investment from the top 30 fantasy assets. While the coaching change to Doc Rivers yielded significant gains for Joel Embiid, Simmons went the opposite direction. He registered the lowest points, rebounds, and assists per game of his career and went from league-leader in steals last season to seventh in 2020-21.
Honourable mention – PF, C: Anthony Davis, LAL
BEST FREE AGENT PICKUP
PF, C: Kelly Olynyk, HOU
Recency bias isn’t a bad thing when it comes to this award. Selecting a player who was a matchup winner during the fantasy playoffs should carry extra value. Olynyk was the 82nd-ranked player (total value) prior to the NBA trade deadline and finished as the 10th-best fantasy asset during his time with Houston. He averaged 10.0 PPG with the Heat and then went on to score double digit points in 26-of-27 games with the Rockets. He averaged 19.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, while shooting 54.5 per cent from the field and 84.4 per cent from the line.
Honourable mention - PG, SG: T.J. McConnell, IND
TRAP PLAYER OF THE YEAR
PG, SG: Devin Booker, PHX
If you’ve watched any Phoenix games this season, it’s easy to see why Devin Booker could emerge as an eventual NBA scoring champ. He’s become such a polished decision-maker on offence and has the ability to hit shots only a handful of players in the league can. Unfortunately the arrival of Chris Paul stopped any momentum of Booker breaking into the top 20. The drop in assists wasn’t surprising (though significant) but it was the regression in shooting efficiency that dragged his value back outside the top 75. In fantasy, he’ll need to chuck up more three-pointers to up his value but judging by the Suns’ second-place finish this season, they won’t be asking him to change a thing.
Honourable mention - PG, SG: De’Aaron Fox, SAC
SF, PF: Michael Porter Jr., DEN
I’m calling it here, the 22-year-old, 6’10 sophomore has the makings of a future NBA scoring champ. He’s the closest thing to Kevin Durant amongst this new batch of rising stars. After an early-season fight with COVID-19, Porter Jr. didn’t really get going until March averaging 20.3, 23.9 and 21.0 points per game the next three months. He shot 54.2 per cent for the season and it wasn’t just dunks and layups. Two-thirds of his shot attempts came from outside of the paint and he finished as the ninth-best three-point shooter at 44.5 per cent. He’ll be a sneaky top 10 asset in 2021-22.
Honourable mention - SF, PF: OG Anunoby