Happy New Year, fantasy fans! It’s time to get back to work with 10 fantasy awards for the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 regular season.
Most Surprising Player – Larry Sanders, Bucks
Raise your hand if you saw Sanders ranking 46th across eight categories thanks to 8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 54 percent shooting. Sanders leads the NBA in blocks per game, ahead of last year’s leader Serge Ibaka and three-time DPOY Dwight Howard.
Biggest Disappointment – Deron Williams, Nets
I’ve been disappointed by D-Will for three reasons. One, how do you play on Christmas, then take off the next night against Milwaukee, then watch your coach get fired the next day, and then immediately return to the lineup the day after that? Two, how could D-Will not come into his first season in Brooklyn in the best shape of his life? Finally, after averaging 21.0 points and 8.7 assists last season, he’s down to 16.6 and 7.8 through 33 games this year.
Mr. Headache – Pau Gasol, Lakers
Not only are Pau’s numbers way down and not only did he take two weeks off to rest tendonitis in both knees, but he has been benched in the fourth quarter several times since Mike D’Antoni took over. I didn’t think Pau was going to be a 20-10 guy this year, but I certainly predicted more than 12.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. And whereas Pau has historically been a 50-80 guy on the percentages, he is shooting 42-74.
Best Pickup – Lou Williams, Hawks
Williams was picked up in most leagues a couple weeks ago when Larry Drew promoted him to the starting lineup. Lou has been solid all season, but he has taken his game to another level in eight starts, averaging 18.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.3 threes, while shooting 49 percent, and 80 percent from the stripe. Lou is as competitive as he is talented, so there’s no end in sight to this productivity.
Best Comeback – Dwight Howard, Lakers
Dwight’s final season in Orlando was cut short by a back problem that required surgery. He returned late in the preseason and has been a beast for LA ever since, averaging 17.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks, while shooting 57 percent.
Most Improved Player – Jrue Holiday, 76ers
Holiday was a disappointment last season, averaging a pedestrian 13.5 points and 4.5 assists. But his scoring average is up to 18.4 and his assists have spiked to 8.9 — good for fourth in the NBA. With Andre Iguodala in Denver, Doug Collins has given Holiday the ball and a long leash, and he has not disappointed this time around.
Defensive MVP – Josh Smith, Hawks
My definition of Defensive MVP is the player with the best combination of blocks and steals, and Josh leads the league at 3.8 combined B/S per game. His 2.3 blocks rank sixth in the league, while his 1.5 steals rank 19th.
Best Rookie – Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
This is a two-horse race between Lillard and Anthony Davis, but Lillard is currently lapping Davis. Lillard ranks 31st across eight categories with 18.2 points, 6.4 assists, 2.2 threes, 1.0 steal, and 85 percent from the line, while Davis ranks 53rd. As a proud owner of Lillard, I can only hope the Blazers stay in the playoff hunt because that will keep him motivated to push through the rookie wall.
Most Valuable Player – James Harden, Rockets
Other candidates for Fantasy MVP include Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Tim Duncan, but Harden is my choice because he is providing first-round value despite being drafted in the second or third round. Harden has blossomed into a true 8-cat player in Houston, with 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 2 steals, 2 threes, 45 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line. He ranks fourth across eight categories, with only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant ahead of him.
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.