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Category Strategy: Obvious MVP

James Anderson

James Anderson

James Anderson is a University of Minnesota graduate, with allegiances to the Packers, Brewers, Bucks (sigh) and Gophers (double sigh). He is an editor and scribe at Rotowire.com, primarily focused on basketball and baseball. In 2013 he was a FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year.

So, who is the MVP this season? Apparently it's a pretty wide-open race between at least five candidates, and possibly more. For instance, I was watching a Knicks game last week, and the announcers decided amongst themselves that Carmelo Anthony should be in the MVP conversation. As ESPN was promoting an upcoming Spurs game in a promo that ran Friday night, they heralded Tony Parker (prior to news that he'll be on the shelf for four weeks) as, MVP candidate Tony Parker. In a similar spot over the weekend, the Worldwide Leader promoted Sunday night's Clippers/Thunder matchup by stating that Chris Paul is having an MVP season.

This needs to stop.

To take it a step further, I'm sure there are plenty of people in Los Angeles who would make a case that Kobe Bryant is having an MVP-caliber season, and I'm sure by the end of the season, I'll hear someone on TV say that James Harden is a dark horse MVP candidate.

I haven't even mentioned Kevin Durant, who is widely assumed to be one of the MVP frontrunners by just about everyone.

Every human being who watches and pays attention to professional basketball on any level, knows that LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. They know that he's having an unprecedented season as a ridiculously efficient scorer, one of the best distributors in the league, and a defensive force who can guard anyone his team needs him to.

He's had the MVP locked up ever since that stretch in early February where he scored 30 points while shooting 60 percent or better in six-straight games. James put an exclamation point on his already bulletproof MVP case with Miami's current 14-game win streak, and yet, there are at least four other players who are "in the conversation" for the league's top individual accolade this season.

Unless "in the conversation" means that they are unequivocally fighting for third place behind Kevin Durant and have zero chance of finishing with the actual hardware, then this rhetoric needs to end.

I know the NBA and their partners want to pump up these matchups, and saying: "This Sunday, watch Carmelo Anthony, who you could make a case is a top-five player in the league, and the Knicks take on inevitable MVP, LeBron James, and the Heat; and later, watch as the best point guard in the league, Chris Paul, leads the Clippers against the second best player in the league, Kevin Durant, and the Thunder" doesn't have the same ring to it as just declaring that everyone is having an MVP season, but it also wouldn't insult my intelligence.

It would be like hyping a Bucks/Rockets game as a possible preview of the NBA Finals. Those teams have no chance of actually making the Finals, but they both might make the playoffs, and saying that they could make the Finals will draw in viewers, right? Wrong. Nobody would buy that. Just like nobody is buying that there's an MVP conversation that doesn't go like this: LeBron James is the MVP. Done. End of conversation.

Now, with some fantasy basketball playoffs starting this week, here's some Category Strategy that could help you win your league.

CATEGORY STRATEGY

Each week, this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.

MINUTES

Tobias Harris, SF, Magic - Yahoo!: 36% ESPN: 57.7%
As a Bucks fan, I and most of the other Bucks fans I know were calling for calling for Tobias Harris to start at small forward this season. Former Bucks coach Scott Skiles started him in all 14 November games, and then essentially stopped playing him altogether for the rest of his tenure. Now, it's not like the November experiment was a bust. Harris shot 50.6 percent from the field and coughed up less than a turnover per game. The problem, was that Skiles played him just 18.4 minutes per game as a starter. It was almost as if Skiles was being told to start Harris, but thought better of the idea, and planned on it failing from the get go. In those limited minutes, Harris still averaged 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds, and when you factor in how efficient he was offensively, that's not bad considering this was basically his first opportunity to start since being drafted in 2011. Now he's tearing it up in Orlando, averaging 20 points on 69.6 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 three-pointers, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block in 29.5 minutes per game in four contests. He should be scooped up in most formats and can help in every category except assists and free-throw percentage.

Derrick Williams, PF, Timberwolves - Yahoo!: 41% ESPN: 71.5%
Over his last four games, Williams is averaging 20.5 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 39.3 minutes per game. He could be finally living up to the promise he showed in college. It seems crazy to think now, but there was actually some debate as to whether Williams should have been drafted number one over Kyrie Irving. Clearly that matter is settled, but whenever Williams has gotten playing time, he's proved that he can be a productive NBA forward. He should be the number one fantasy pickup in all formats as the Timberwolves play four games each week for the rest of the fantasy playoffs. Williams can help in all the key forward categories and is starting to develop some legitimate value in keeper formats.

POINTS

Wilson Chandler, SF, Nuggets - Yahoo!: 46% ESPN: 8.1%
He's not the model of consistency, but he does have three games with 20-plus points over his last five contests, one of those being a 35-point outburst against the Thunder. Danilo Gallinari missing time aided Chandler's stats, but he's proven to be worthy of significant run and shots even now that all the Nuggets are healthy.

REBOUNDS

Jermaine O'Neal, C, Suns - Yahoo!: 14% ESPN: 13.4%
He's not a very appealing option, being that he's on the Suns and he's Jermaine O'Neal, but other options include Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson, so pick your unsexy poison. Ideally, adding Williams or Harris would help fill a rebounding void, but in deeper leagues, O'Neal could be worth a look, as he has a couple 13-rebound games over his last three tilts. Robin Lopez and Al-Farouq Aminu are also fantastic options if they're available now that Anthony Davis is on the shelf and Jason Smith is out for the season.

ASSISTS

Kirk Hinrich, PG, Bulls - Yahoo!: 38% ESPN: 42.7%
Now that he's healthy, he's the top option for assists on the waiver wire, dishing 11 dimes in his first game back from injury. He's averaged 7.8 assists in three games since returning, which should dip a bit and settle closer to 5.5 per game, but that's still better than anything else that's out there in most leagues. Even with Tony Parker sidelined for a month, I don't see one Spurs player emerging as a great assists provider, rather I'd expect everyone to chip in a little, leaving no low-hanging fruit for fantasy owners.

STEALS

Corey Brewer, SG, Nuggets - Yahoo!: 14% ESPN: 1.6%
Over his last two weeks, Brewer is averaging 2.2 steals per game. He's pretty streaky in other categories, but he can usually be counted on for one or two thefts per night.

BLOCKS

Previously mentioned, Lopez, Aminu and O'Neal are all solid plays here, with Bismack Biyombo always out there as an option for the desperate.

THREE-POINTERS

Carlos Delfino, SF, Rockets - Yahoo!: 30% ESPN: 42.9%
Shane Battier, SF, Heat - Yahoo! 12% ESPN: 1.5%
Both players have been cold blooded from beyond the arc of late, each averaging over three treys per game over the past two weeks, with Delfino the better option in standard leagues because of his ability to help more across the board as Battier is strictly a spot-up marksman.

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