Box Score Heroes
DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers
For this final Category Strategy of the season, I'm going to look back and give a tip of the cap to some guys whose production for their owners exceeded the spot where they were drafted.
Each week, this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. While each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.
DeMar DeRozan, SG, Raptors
If you've been paying attention, it shouldn't come as a surprise that DeRozan put forth another very impressive year at shooting guard, but I don't think too many people would've predicted that he would finish in the top 10 in points per game this season, and that's exactly what he did. After averaging between 16.7 and 18.1 ppg over the previous two seasons, he took a leap in the 2013-14 season and is currently averaging 22.8 ppg, good for ninth best in the league, ahead of guys like Paul George and Dirk Nowitzki. He doesn't offer much help in three-point shooting, which is surprising for a shooting guard with his numbers, but the Raptors' offensive attack is built around him, as he attempts 18 shots per game. DeRozan also hits his shots at a 43.1 percent rate, which isn't elite, but for a shooting guard with his volume of shots, it's pretty acceptable. The days of DeRozan being a fifth or sixth round pick in fantasy drafts are probably over, but I don't see any reason why he can't keep this level of production up in years to come.
This is a no-brainer. Jordan leads the league in rebounding (13.8 per game) and was previously a below-average rebounder for his position. How a guy with his size and athleticism never averaged better than 8.3 boards per game before this season is beyond me, but I think the upgrade from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers as his coach was a big part of Jordan's maturation as a player. Given his lackluster numbers in past seasons, Jordan was available to grab late in drafts, and in some cases, was even available on waiver wires at the beginning of the year. Not only did he give owners a solid foundation in rebounds, but he also led the league with a 67.2 field-goal percentage. Jordan's elite production in those two categories, along with the 2.4 blocks per game he provided, which is also a career best, should lead to him being named the NBA's Most Improved Player. He will be a pricey option next season, but I think it's warranted. His role on this Clippers team, which should remain intact next season, should lead to excellent production in all the traditional center stats going forward.
Kyle Lowry, PG, Raptors
Lowry has been the 15th most valuable player in category leagues this season, which is a testament to his durability and across-the-board production, but it's also a result of him taking a big step forward this season as a distributor. He is averaging 7.6 assists per game, which isn't elite, but it is a big step forward for Lowry. He topped out at 6.7 assists per game with the Rockets in 2010-11, so there was no reason for fantasy owners to draft Lowry expecting a big jump here, but he delivered, nonetheless. Being a durable point guard this year was an accomplishment unto itself, as it seemed to be the position most ravaged by injuries. Even guys like Ty Lawson
, who amazingly will finish in the top-3 in assists per game, missed double-digit games due to injury, so he gets dinged a bit in my eyes. It's hard to bank on a player being healthy, especially one who has missed as much time as Lowry has in past years, but if he can stay on the court, he should once again be a top tier fantasy producer in 2014-15.
Thaddeus Young, PF, Sixers
The Sixers have been a train wreck, but that was to be expected. Young's production for fantasy owners, however, has been off the charts. RotoWire was one of the few places that rated him as a high-end option coming into the season, but even we couldn't have predicted that he'd be such a stud in the steals department. Young is third in the NBA in steals per game, behind just Chris Paul
and Ricky Rubio
. He averaged 1.8 per game last season, but it was such an improvement on his previous campaigns, that it was hard to see that number jump up again, and you could even make the case that it could take a dip back to his career norms of around a steal per game. But at 2.1 steals per game this season, he gave owners a supreme edge in that category, as few power forwards come close to that kind of production in the category. However, going into next season Young is probably a guy I'll be staying away from, as this was likely a career year, considering the Sixers can't possibly lean on him as much going forward, given the young talent they're likely to acquire in the draft.
Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans
What? You thought I wasn't going to find a way to talk about Davis? Until the Pelicans inevitably issue me a restraining order on behalf of AD, I will continue to keep a dangerously close eye on his prospects, as I've long thought that he has the potential to be the best player on a championship team. That team isn't currently assembled around him, or even close to being assembled, but he'll be on a championship team at some point, and he may stake a claim to being the best two-way player in the league next season. Davis led the league with 2.8 blocks per game this season and will be second on my board, just after Kevin Durant
and ahead of LeBron James
, in next season's drafts. He'll block more than three shots per game in 2014-15 and will eventually block closer to four shots per game than three at some point in his career. You heard it here first.
Kyle Korver, SG, Hawks
According to Yahoo!, Korver was the 32nd most valuable fantasy player in category leagues this year. You never have to pay that price when drafting Korver, but you know what you're going to get. He led the league with a 48.1 percent mark from behind the three-point line, which is ridiculous, and even more ridiculous when you consider he attempts almost six treys per game. He's a sharpshooter. A deadeye. A machine, if you will. Stephen Curry
leads the league in threes per game, but he'll cost you a first round pick. Korver can be had in the middle rounds as an under-the-radar one-category stud.