Thirty games into the season, you’ve probably got a pretty good sense of which teams in your fantasy basketball league are for real and which are probably another loss away from trading away their best players for draft picks.
Chances are, though, that there are a handful of players on a lot of these league-leading teams, including several of the following. Each player mentioned here has provided top-25 value and was likely chosen over other players so that their success makes their owners look like geniuses.
Here are this year’s fantasy hoops MVPs:
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans – While it’s not a huge surprise that a player everybody thought could be the No. 1 overall guy in fantasy this year is, in fact, the No. 1 overall guy in fantasy this year, there was a pretty solid debate before the season as to whether Davis or LeBron James should have been the top overall pick. Anybody who made the right call is reaping the massive benefits of owning The Unibrow and his insane stat line (24.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 1.7 spg, 556 fg%, .795 ft%, and 1.3 to). James hasn’t been awful (14th overall), but with his struggles in Cleveland and Kevin Durant’s injury issues, Davis has proven to the best player in fantasy this year. On a list full of fantasy MVPs, he is the MVP.
James Harden, Houston Rockets – If you’ve got Harden in a league where turnovers don’t count, he’s been just as valuable as Davis across the board. He’s leading the league in scoring with 27.2 PPG (among qualifying players; Russell Westbrook is at 28.6 ppg), but he’s also chipping in 7.3 apg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 apg and 1.1 bpg, while shooting just shy of 10 free throws a game at an 89 percent clip. His four turnovers on average are so very, very bad, but that’s a category a lot of owners punt anyway. I got him at pick No. 6 in two leagues and am doing well in both. If he slipped to you anywhere after pick No. 4, you’re likely doing pretty well, too.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls – Easily the year’s biggest sustained surprise, Butler has transformed into a star in Chicago, playing a ton of minutes and filling up the stat sheet across the board. His 22.0 ppg obviously is a career-high, and he’s shooting an impressive .491 from the field and .833 from the free-throw line. With 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg and 1.5 spg, as well, Butler has been the sixth best player in fantasy this year despite having been the 72nd rated player before the season started. While there are some other players in the top 25 that also made a huge leap, none has been as elite as Butler. He’s a star, and those who snagged him in the fifth or sixth round this fall got themselves the bargain of the year.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors – Before the year, we all thought that Thompson would be an elite three-point shooter and scorer, and so far he has been precisely that with his career-high 21.3 ppg and 2.9 3pt, but we also thought that would be all he was good at, like in years past. His 3.3 APG and 1.3 spg, however, have been pleasant surprises, and he’s scoring more efficiently than he ever has at .470. He’s made himself a top-ten fantasy player so far this year despite being projected as a third-round value, and as hot as the Warriors have been, there’s little reason to think that will change.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies – While it’s plausible to pluck points and rebounds from the waiver heap, Gasol’s 20.2 ppg and 8.2 rpg are upper-crust numbers that, alone, would make him valuable as a fantasy asset. His .503 fg%, 1.6 bpg and 0.9 spg are what really have made him a first-round value. Memphis has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA this season and Gasol has been a major reason why. He’s also a major why somebody in your league is gloating about their amazing third-round pick.
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls – With such a loaded frontcourt, it would have been easy to see the elder Gasol hover around last season’s numbers, but he has looked rejuvenated by actually playing for something again. His scoring is right around where it always has been, but his 11.4 rpg are a career-high, as are his 2.1 bpg, and those are the numbers that have made him one of the most valuable big men in the game. He’s been a second-round value out of a #61 preseason rank. Those who thought he was washed-up were wrong. Gasol has been nothing short of amazing this season, and barring injury there hasn’t been anything to suggest that will change.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs – Green has always been a three-point specialist, and still is with his 2.6 3pt this season, however he has broken out in some other categories, averaging 12.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.2 bpg and only 1.4 to this year. He’s put up some massive games, which means after a disappointing season he’s fully back on the radar as a top-25 player. His #100 preseason rating looks silly at this point.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors – There was a big fear that Green would lose value once David Lee returned, but that hasn’t really been the case as Green continues to find ways to fill up the stat sheet a whole lot more often than not. There are nights when he’s a double-double guy, but also nights where he scores and rebounds a little less but ends up with a couple of steals and a couple of blocks. He’s the 24th-rated player in fantasy this season despite a 105 preseason ranking, and were it not for Butler he’d probably be the runaway winner of this season’s Most Improved Player.
There have, of course, been other surprise players this year, but these have been the ones that have contributed most often to early-season fantasy success. We’re a little past a third of the way through the season, and at this point the contenders in your league have more or less rounded out. Cross-check this article with those teams, and there’s a good chance a lot of these names are going to line up.
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