End of Season Fantasy Awards: Harden or LeBron for 2017-18 Fantasy MVP?

End of Season Fantasy Awards: Harden or LeBron for 2017-18 Fantasy MVP?

As the NBA season comes to a close, it's time to reflect on what was another crazy year of Fantasy basketball. Important players like Gordon Hayward and Mike Conley were lost very early in the season, creating some significant holes on Fantasy rosters.

Others, like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, are having arguably the best seasons of their careers, providing an unexpected boost in the drive to win a championship in Fantasy leagues.

There are several other prominent storylines that could have made the difference in many leagues, but the end of the season means it's also awards time. Let's hand out some hardware to those players who had particularly special campaigns.

Rookie of the Year

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Simmons came out firing right out of the gates, averaging 18.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals in seven games in October. At that point, he looked like the runaway favorite for the award, and while Donovan Mitchell has certainly closed the gap, the award still goes to Simmons.

Like most rookies, he's had his ups and downs this season. However, Simmons has been able to avoid prolonged stretches in which he has struggled, resulting in him averaging 15.8 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 1.7 steals for the season. He also shot a stellar 53.6% from the field, despite being a non-factor from beyond the arc.
Simmons' top-to-bottom production was great, but he did show areas where he still needs to improve. His shooting range

As the NBA season comes to a close, it's time to reflect on what was another crazy year of Fantasy basketball. Important players like Gordon Hayward and Mike Conley were lost very early in the season, creating some significant holes on Fantasy rosters.

Others, like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, are having arguably the best seasons of their careers, providing an unexpected boost in the drive to win a championship in Fantasy leagues.

There are several other prominent storylines that could have made the difference in many leagues, but the end of the season means it's also awards time. Let's hand out some hardware to those players who had particularly special campaigns.

Rookie of the Year

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Simmons came out firing right out of the gates, averaging 18.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.4 steals in seven games in October. At that point, he looked like the runaway favorite for the award, and while Donovan Mitchell has certainly closed the gap, the award still goes to Simmons.

Like most rookies, he's had his ups and downs this season. However, Simmons has been able to avoid prolonged stretches in which he has struggled, resulting in him averaging 15.8 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and 1.7 steals for the season. He also shot a stellar 53.6% from the field, despite being a non-factor from beyond the arc.
Simmons' top-to-bottom production was great, but he did show areas where he still needs to improve. His shooting range is extremely limited -- he'll likely finish the year without a made three-pointer -- and he also shot just 57% from the free-throw line. That second number is especially problematic for Fantasy owners, as you typically want to limit your players with free-throw shooting troubles to centers who will compensate with plenty of rebounds and blocks.

With that said, it shouldn't take away from the fact that Simmons has put together what could end up being one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory. Simmons' nine triple-doubles are a huge number for a rookie, and few players can offer that level of all-around production at age 21. As of Wednesday, he ranks as the 23-best player in CBS leagues for the season.

Defensive Player of the Year

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Davis has been tremendous this season and deserves to be in the discussion for Fantasy MVP, as well. He put the Pelicans on his back when DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) went down for the season and still has New Orleans in position to make the playoffs.

Davis' overall numbers are off the charts, averaging 28.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 53.9% from the field and 83.4% from the charity stripe. He's even averaging a career-high 2.3 assists per contest.
Davis stands out in a number of ways, but especially on the defensive end. He is averaging 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks per game, marking the second time he has reached at least those thresholds in a single season during his career. He is one of three players in the league to average at least two blocks per game this season, one of which was Kristaps Porzingis (knee), who has been limited to just 48 games. Davis is also one of only four players to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game this season.

While his offensive numbers have generated most of the headlines this season, it's Davis' defensive contributions that have made him the league's third-best Fantasy commodity this season.

Most Improved Player

Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were in a tough position this summer when their star player, Paul George, openly wanted to pursue other options. The trade market for an impending free agent was tough, but they managed to get Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in a deal with the Thunder.

Oladipo has been a fine player throughout his NBA career, averaging at least 15.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 three-pointers per game in each of the previous three seasons heading into this year. While he was clearly going to take on a significant role with what seemed to be a rebuilding Pacers squad, few could have imagined he would have made such a significant leap in production this season.

His numbers have increased across the board, averaging career-highs in points (23.2), rebounds (5.3), assists (4.2), steals (2.2) and three-pointers (2.1) per game. His 30.3% usage was over five percentage points higher than his previous career-best, but his shooting percentage (46.9%) didn't suffer.

Not only has Oladipo already led the Pacers to a spot in the playoffs, but his significant improvement in production likely helped many Fantasy owners have a successful season. Playing in the shadow of Russell Westbrook, Oladipo finished last season ranked outside the top 70, but as of Wednesday he ranks as the 11th-most-productive player in CBS leagues.

Most Valuable Player

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

This was not an easy choice between James, Davis and James Harden. While Davis provided stellar defensive stats, his lack of assists made him the first player to be excluded from this discussion.

Harden is having another special season and will likely cruise to the real MVP award. However, that doesn't mean he's the Fantasy MVP. Harden is leading the league in scoring at 30.7 points per game, but his rebounding (5.4 RPG) has regressed back toward his career norm this year after he averaged an uncharacteristically high 8.1 boards per game last season. He's also averaging 2.5 fewer assists per game this season than in 2016-17, which is not surprising given the addition of Chris Paul.

The Cavaliers have had an inconsistent season that required a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline, but James has been his usual, consistent self. His numbers are stellar across the board -- 27.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.8 three-pointers per contest -- and he's shooting 54.8% from the field while improving by better than five percentage points from the charity stripe. James' usage rate of 31.3% represents his 13th straight season over 30 percent.

In CBS leagues, Harden barely edges out James' for the number one spot, but James has played eight more games and is on pace to play all 82 for the first time in his career. It's difficult to knock Harden for an injury, but James' durability is as invaluable an asset in Fantasy basketball as it is to the Cavs in real life.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NBA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NBA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Barner
Mike started covering fantasy sports in 2007, joining RotoWire in 2010. In 2018, he was a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. In addition to RotoWire, Mike has written for Sportsline, Sports Illustrated, DK Live, RealTime Fantasy Sports, Lineup Lab and KFFL.com.
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Friday, February 23
NBA DFS Picks: DraftKings Plays and Strategy for Friday, February 23
NBA Picks Today: Free Best Bets for February 23
NBA Picks Today: Free Best Bets for February 23
Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Long-Term Pickups After the Break
Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Long-Term Pickups After the Break
Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Widely Available Players to Consider Adding
Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Widely Available Players to Consider Adding