Downtown’s 2013/14 NBA Fantasy Awards

Being a GM is not easy. There is a reason so many come and go each year in the Association.

Joe Dumars is the latest casualty having resigned this week in Detroit after a horrific run since that 04 Championship. If you ask me, he got lucky that year and has been living on borrowed time ever since.

Other GMs have found success over the years but still move on due to differences in philosophies with ownership such as Masai Ujiri leaving Denver last year and Isiah Thomas in New York last decade (just kidding).

Then there are those who stay the course. They may go through ups and downs but have the full support of their ownership and understand how to ride the waves over a period of time. They typically get the most out of their rosters and know when it’s time to rebuild or retool. Mitch Kupchak is a prime example of this. Same goes for Larry Bird (although he did have a break along the way and has been criticised this year for messing with Team Chemistry) and of course R.C. Buford of the Spurs.

Managing your fantasy hoops squad also requires patience, perseverance and a little luck. Whilst the draft sets the tone for your squad’s outlook, you need to be alert at how you can improve your team throughout the year. It is true that injuries can often make or break your season (as is true in the NBA), but they can usually be overcome with some savvy free agent pick-ups or trades.

So which players should you be applauded for drafting? Who did you pick up that really gave your squad that push it needed? Who has now made it onto your do not own list going forward?

In the spirit of those great (and not so great) NBA GMs, I’m listening to the Music of the Traffic one last time this year to present the Downtown End of Season Fantasy Hoops Awards.


The Sam Hinkie Rookie of the Year Award

Sam Hinkie took over in Philadelphia and instantly showed the world his intentions by trading away his one All-Star player, Jrue Holiday, on draft night for the right to select Nerlens Noel and a 2014 1st round pick. Whilst the product he put on the floor this year has many questioning whether tanking is a problem that needs to be addressed, Hinkie stuck to his guns and now has the second worst record in the league to show for it. In the process though, it allowed Brett Brown to unleash a rookie who shocked fans and fantasy GMs alike. Taken with the 11th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, your Fantasy Rookie of the year is …..

Nominations: Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee, Tim Hardaway Jr, Pero Antc

Winner: Michael Carter-Williams.

After debuting versus Miami with one of the most ridiculous rookie lines in NBA history, MCW continued from there. He lead all rookies in points, minutes, assists, steals, double-doubles and triple-doubles, averaging 16.7pts, 6.1reb, 6.3ast and 1.9stl on his way to likely earning NBA Rookie of the Year honours too. If you were smart (lucky) enough to grab him late in your draft (ADP 110), then you probably did alright this year.


The Neil Olshey Most Improved Player Award

Neil OlsheyThe Blazers GM had one goal last off-season and one goal only. Improve the Blazers’ depth by strengthening their bench and rounding out their starting unit. He went out and added Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson. It worked. The Blazers improved their record by 20 wins from 33-49 to 53-28 (with one game to go). Way to step up and make the leap Mr Olshey.

So which fantasy player made the leap from late round value to bonafide fantasy stud this year?

Nominations: Arron Afflalo, Spencer Hawes, Anthony Davis, Trevor Ariza, Andre Drummond, Isaiah Thomas, DeAndre Jordan

Winner: Isaiah Thomas

While it was tough to go past DeAndre Jordan for this award, his FT% still lets him down in fantasy leagues unless you’re punting. There was no let down from the former second round pick who just needed a chance to play a bigger role, right? Many believed that following his first two seasons, but it took Mike Malone and Pete D’Alessandro to make it happen by trading away Greivis Vasquez.

Thomas (ADP 132) flourished playing an extra 8mpg this season and saw his numbers improve in all counting stats this year, averaging 20.6pts, 6.3ast, 3reb, 1.3stl, 1.8 3ptm, .453 FG% and ending the season ranked squarely inside the top 30 in standard 9-cat leagues. He allowed savvy GMs to trade away more highly touted PGs for other assets on their way to playoff success (like the guy that beat me in my h2h league finals). IT2 arrived amongst the fantasy elite and isn’t going anywhere.


The David Kahn Least Valuable Player Award

I know, I know; David Kahn is no longer an NBA GM. However, his legacy lives on in the Twin Cities as the Wolves have failed yet again to make the playoffs with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio as their core duo.

Such was Kahn’s imprint on this team that it will take Milt Newton and Flip Saunders a few more years and a massive stroke of luck to be able to retain Kevin Love, before the Wolves reach the post season again. If you’re counting at home, this marks the 10th straight season the Wolves have failed to make the playoffs. Their coach the last time they did? Flip Saunders.

Kahn killed them with multiple poor draft picks and the mis-handling of Kevin Love’s contract extension and for that he is still considered the least valuable GM in recent NBA History.

Speaking of providing the least value - which player let you down the most this fantasy season after you burned a high pick on them?

Nominations: Derrick Rose, Larry Sanders, Kobe Bryant, Ersan Ilyasova, Enes Kanter, OJ Mayo

Winner: Larry Sanders

Firstly, it would not have been fair to award this to Rose or Bryant whose seasons were derailed by injury. In both cases you knew the risks going in, although Rose sucked us in a little more with a strong showing in pre-season.

Secondly, how about the fact that not one, not two, but count them … three Milwaukee Bucks made this list? What exactly does that say about Larry Drew as a Coach?

In any event, the runaway winner is a player who derailed his own season. As Liam Santamaria pointed out in his 20 things column, after Sanders (ADP 28) signed a $44million extension this past off-season, he astounded us all with the following course of events. He started slowly in his first 3 games averaging 2.7pts, 3.7reb, 2 blk and .250 FG%. He then proceeded to break his hand in a bar fight costing him 6 weeks. He returned only to underwhelm us with his averages of 7.7pts, 7.2reb and 1.7blk in just 23 games. Sanders then fractured his orbital bone after getting poked in the eye (not his fault but cost him the remainder of the season). Finally, he put the icing on the cake with a 5 game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program by smoking marijuana and then advocating its use: “It’s a banned substance in my league, but I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it … I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived.”

The only ones who’ve been deprived are those of you who spent a 3rd round pick on Sanders this year. Is he on your “Do Not Own” list yet?


The Larry Bird Defensive Player of the Year Award

What? A defensive award named after one of the best offensive players of all-time? Relax people. This one is named after Bird the Executive, not the player.

Bird, with help from Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard, has assembled the best defensive team in the NBA. Whilst they have undoubtedly struggled the past two months, they still rank #1 overall this season in Defensive Rating (96.8) and Opposition FG% (42.0), and 2nd in Opposition Points (92.4). That is what has many believing they can still have post-season success this year and is clearly the foundation upon which that roster was constructed.

Defense only accounts for 3 categories in fantasy hoops (if you count D-Rebs separately), but those categories can be major factors in how your team performs and how a player is ranked overall. Who had the biggest fantasy impact with defensive stats this season?

Nominations: DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Ricky Rubio, Thaddeus Young, Michael-Carter Williams, Paul Millsap

Winner: DeAndre Jordan

I really wanted to give this to Anthony Davis who led the NBA in blocks (2.8) while also averaging 1.3spg and 7.0 D-Rebs, but could not go past the much improved Clippers center.

Jordan finished 3rd in blocks (2.5), swiped 1.0spg and led the NBA in Defensive Rebounds (9.7) and Total Rebounds (13.7) whilst anchoring a much improved Clippers Defense that ranked 7th in Defensive Rating this year. They ranked 9th last year and 18th the year before and Jordan was a major part of that.

He improved across the board this year defensively averaging an extra 1.1blk, 0.4stl and 5.0dreb per game this season. If you drafted him near his ADP (124), you got a steal (pun intended).


The Ryan McDonough Waiver Wire Pick Up of the Year Award

The 33 year old McDonough took over the rebuilding Suns last May from outgoing General Manager Lance Blanks who was best known for trading away Steve Nash, drafting Markieff Morris and trading away Goran Dragic before re-acquiring him less than 18 months later.

McDonough inherited a team that had just completed the second worst season in franchise history. He quickly hired former Sun Jeff Hornacek as Head Coach (which has worked out great so far) and then set about making some changes to the roster.

McDonough made 3 major trades last off-season, trading away Marcin Gortat to let 1st round pick Alex Len develop and acquiring 3 players in two separate trades who all had struggled to make a permanent impact on their previous rosters; Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee. All 3 would start for the Suns at various points in the season with Green and Plumlee providing much more production than was expected of them.

The results speak for themselves as rather than “tanking”, the Suns competed for the entire regular season, narrowly missing out on the playoffs with a record well above .500 and improving by more than 20 wins over last season.

Which fantasy player produced much more than expected this season after you grabbed him off the waiver wire?

Nominations: DeMarre Carroll, Gerald Green, Terrence Jones, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, D.J. Augustin

Winner: Gerald Green

It is only fitting that one of McDonough’s success stories earns this honour. Green has bounced around the NBA for the better part of 9 years (with a couple of years out of the league along the way), and despite signing a 3 year deal with Pacers in 2012, he struggled to produce consistently until landing in the Valley of the Sun.

Green went undrafted in standard 10 team leagues this year and bounced around the waiver wire early on showing glimpses of talent in November before struggling with consistency in December. He started to put it together in January and has increased his scoring average each month since then finishing the season averaging 15.8pts, 3.4reb, 0.9stl and an impressive 2.5 3ptm. Post all-star break he averaged 18.7pts and 2.7 3ptm at .429 3FG%.

Green finished the year ranked 60th overall in standard 9-cat leagues and is certainly not going to go undrafted next year.

Honourable mention goes to D.J. Augustin who resurrected his playing and fantasy career in Chicago this season.


The Pat Riley All Fantasy 1st Team

After assembling Miami’s Big Three leading to 3 straight Finals appearances and 2 straight Titles, it is only fitting that we name the All-Fantasy 1st Team after the great Pat Riley. Riley has now orchestrated 3 Miami Championship teams and is as good as any Executive at constructing rosters filled with talented players who can mesh together to succeed.

Without further ado, the nominees for the All-Fantasy 1st Team are;

Nominations: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul George, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joakim Noah and Al Jefferson

Winners: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Stephen Curry

Firstly, an honourable mention to Chris Paul who finished ranked 3rd based on averages in most formats, but missed too many games to make the final cut. His absence in over 20 games hurt a lot of Fantasy GMs and had to be factored in.

James Harden was also unlucky to miss out, finishing 4th on the ESPN Player Rater but outside the top 5 by both averages and totals in Yahoo rankings.

The All-Fantasy 1st team is led by the undisputed #1 ranked player in all formats this season and likely NBA MVP, Kevin Durant who delighted owners with 31.9pts, 6.7reb, 5.5ast, 1.3stl, 2.4 3ptm, .504 FG%, .873 FT% and a better than 1.5:1 A/T ratio whilst playing nearly every game.

Anthony Davis broke out in his second year and rewarded owners who took him late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd by ranking as a top 3 player all season.

Kevin Love had a career year with 26.2pts, 12.5reb, 4.4ast and 2.5 3ptm and staying healthy for the first time in 3 years.

LeBron James was … well … LeBron James. He started off at a ridiculous pace shooting 61% from the field in November (nearly 50% on 3s) and then carried the Heat post the All-Star break by upping his scoring to over 28ppg whilst still contributing across the board. All in all, while his boards and dimes were down slightly from last season, he continues to be ridiculously consistent from year to year and did not disappoint any GMs who had him atop their draft boards.

Finally, rounding out the team is All-Star Warriors guard Stephen Curry who like Love, rewarded his owners not only with career best production, but with health for the second straight year. He set career marks in scoring (24.0) and assists (8.5) and flirted with a 50/40/90 line before falling a little short. A top 5 season deserving of a spot in the 1st team.


The R.C. Buford MVP Award

An easy choice to name this award after, Buford has set the standard for GMs by constructing squads (along with Gregg Popovich) that have now made 17 straight and 24 of the past 25 post-seasons (including this season). During that run his Spurs teams have captured 4 titles, 5 Western Conference crowns and only failed to make it out of the first round on 6 occasions.

He has set the tone for success with international players and has also found a way to get the most out of players that other teams have discarded. That is no coincidence. A lot of work goes into creating a culture that fosters that kind of success, where every player buys in, knows their role and is selfless in the way they contribute to the team. While Popovich gets the public credit, Buford is the man behind the man and in many ways, the architect of it all.

He has new success stories this year in guys like Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli and again his team has the best record in the NBA. He is the MVP of all GMs and even though he likely won’t be, he should be named Executive of the Year – an award that shockingly, he has never won.

Who is the MVP of all Fantasy Players this year? Who carried more teams to more titles than anyone else and continued to deliver all the way to the end of the season?

Nominations: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul

Winner: Kevin Durant.

Was there ever any doubt? He will likely be named the NBA MVP next month and that doesn’t happen by chance. Those numbers translate to Fantasy.

Durant is the #1 ranked player in basically every standard fantasy basketball format. In fact, outside of rookie leagues, you’d be hard pressed to find a format this year where he wasn’t ranked #1.

Not only did KD average 31.9pts, 6.7reb, 5.5ast, 1.3stl, 2.4 3ptm, .504 FG%, .873 FT%, and .636 TS%, not only were his points and assist numbers career highs, not only did he lead the NBA in PER with a 29.94 (also a career high),  not only was his ESPN Player Rater score (21.34) nearly 4pts higher than his nearest rival, but most importantly he justified his #1 Average Draft Position and rewarded those Fantasy GMs who took him over LeBron on draft day.

Durant led from go to whoa, often without the help of team-mate Russell Westbrook, missing only one game all season and for all of that, he is crowned the 2013/14 Downtown Fantasy Hoops Most Valuable Player.


From the whole team at, we hope you’ve enjoyed listening to the Music of the Traffic this season. Stay tuned for some Dynasty League Player Rankings due out soon to assist with your end-of-season keeper choices.


Follow me on twitter @tomhersz

Follow Downtown @downtownball


Article written by

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball

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