Fantasy Basketball Awards: 2013-14 Most Improved Player

Kevin Love Miles Plumlee
2013-14 NBA regular season is now in the rear-view mirror. And that means that fantasy leagues, with the exception of daily leagues and NBA.com’s Drive to the Finals, are done and dusted.

Now’s the time to look back on what transpired over the last five and a half months and reminisce on all the great performances from a fantasy basketball perspective.

Without further ado, I present to you, the Red Rock Fantasy Basketball Awards Spectacular.

Previous awards:

2013-14 Most Improved Player

And the nominees are:

Most Improved Player is a strange award. It’s strange in the sense that the criteria never feel fully defined. Do you give it to a star who’s taken the next step to superstardom? Or does it go to a youngster who’s elevated his game, even though that’s what’s expected of young players? How about players who get a chance to increase their playing time?

From a fantasy perspective, it’s a little bit more straight forward. I’m looking at players who increased their per-game value from last season to this season by the greatest amount.

Fifth place — DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers

2012-13
8.8 points,7.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.4 blocks, 64.3 FG%, 38.6 FT%, 1.2 turnovers in 82 games.

2013-14
10.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.5 blocks, 67.6 FG%, 42.8 FT%, 1.5 turnovers in 82 games.

What a difference a new coach makes! When the Clippers transitioned from Vinny Del Negro in the offseason to Doc Rivers in a somewhat controversial trade, most NBA analysts deemed it as a big upgrade for the historically underachieving franchise.

Truer words have been rarely been written as the Clippers looked like a legitimate NBA title contender throughout the regular season and now find themselves as the number three seed in the Western Conference.

From his time in Boston, Rivers was known as a great tactical coach, who possessed the necessary smarts to turn a team into a defensive force. He was also renowned as a leader who relied heavily on his starters to get the job done.

That approach sure did benefit Jordan, who increased his minutes played from 24.5 to 35.0 this season, as Rivers trusted the big man to play crunch time minutes.

The response from the sixth-year pro was astounding, posting career highs in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He was also the NBA’s leading rebounder for the first time.

Fantasy owners are all too aware of Jordan’s shortcomings in the free throw department, but his immense production in boards, blocks and field goal percentage tip the scales in his favour, and if you were punting free throws, Jordan was an elite top 20 player.

As it was, Jordan ended the season as the 23rd best fantasy player for nine category leagues, an astounding achievement. I owned him in a number of leagues and Jordan helped me to a number of championships and the Clippers will now be hoping he can help steer them to playoff success.

Fourth place — Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

2012-13
13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks, 51.5 FG%, 75.1 FT%, 1.4 turnovers in 64 games.

2013-14
20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.8 blocks, 51.9 FG%, 79.1 FT%, 1.6 turnovers in 67 games.

There probably aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe how I feel about Anthony Davis as a future NBA star. His game is like one we have barely seen. A big man with handles, who scores rebounds, steals and blocks while simultaneously shooting great percentages from both the line and field.

The only question mark on Davis is his health at this stage. He has missed 33 games over his first two NBA seasons.

He improved in every statistical category, barring turnovers and the scaring thing is, he could easily do the same again next season. When he adds a three-point shot to his arsenal, look out!

On a per game basis, Davis was the number two player in all of fantasy basketball. In the preseason, he was touted as a late second round pick. I was a lot higher on Davis and snuck him into the end of the first round. Next season, he won’t be escaping the top five picks.

Third place — Miles Plumlee, PF/C, Phoenix Suns

2012-13
0.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 23.8 FG%, 75.0 FT%, 0.2 turnovers

2013-14
8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, 51.7 FG%, 56.1 FT%, 1.4 turnovers

Considered a throw-away in the Luis Scola trade with the Pacers, Plumlee was the Suns’ starting centre all season, even with a top five draft pick waiting in the wings. Alex Len couldn’t make a dent in Plumlee’s playing time and the second-year man helped the Suns’ on their extraordinary run toward, what turned out to be a failed, playoff run.

As you can see, Plumlee was coming off a base of pretty nothing. In his rookie season in Indiana, he played only 3.9 minutes a game, so that increase in playing time was always going to result in more production.

In the season’s infancy, Plumlee had two straight double-doubles and was a player every one was rushing to grab of the wire. He cooled off considerably and ended up as only the 125th ranked player for the season, but that’s still good enough to be rostered in most leagues.

For all of the improvement that Plumlee showed this season, he’s not guaranteed to replicate it next season. The Suns didn’t pick Len in the draft to never play him and could easily groom him for the starting centre job as early as next season.

Regardless of what happens next season, Plumlee’s form in the Suns’ almost fairytale run pleased NBA fans and fantasy owners alike.

And now, with only two player remaining — can I get a drum roll please?

Second-place — Gerald Green, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns

2012-13
7.0 points, 1.0 three-pointers, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.4 blocks, 36.6 FG%, 80.0 FT%, 0.9 turnovers in 60 games.

2013-14
15.8 points, 2.5 three-pointers, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, 44.5 FG%, 84.8 FT%, 1.8 turnovers in 82 games.

Winner — Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

2012-13
18.3 points, 1.1 three-pointers, 14.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 35.2 FG%, 70.4 FT%, 2.2 turnovers in 18 games.

2013-14
26.1 points, 2.5 three-pointers, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 45.7 FG%, 82.1 FT%, 2.5 turnovers in 77 games.

I’m sure plenty of people will take umbrage at my decision to go with Love as my most improved player, but as you can see the numbers should speak for themselves.

Firstly, a little on the runner-up, Gerald Green.

Green came to Phoenix, along with Miles Plumlee and a first-round draft pick from Indiana in exchange for Luis Scola and it’s safe to say that both teams would be pleased with what they got out of the deal. Although, I’d imagine Ryan McDonough would be a little bit happier than Larry Bird.

After bouncing around the league, and other leagues, Green looks to have finally cemented himself into a role in the NBA. He excelled starting in the backcourt next to either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe and at the end of the season, when both guys were healthy, Green showed an ability to come off the bench in a sixth-man role.

This was his best season in terms of PER (16.5) and Win Shares (6.1), as well as points, assists and three-pointers. He finished the season as a top 50 fantasy player and will be drafted in pretty much all fantasy leagues next season.

For a guy who has entertained us so much with his acrobatic dunks, it’s great to see him entertaining us now as a fundamental basketball player — with a mix of crazy high-flying added in.

Now, Kevin Love.

I can almost hear the naysayers from here.

“But he was injured last year”

“His rebounds decreased this year”

“He was always great”

All those things are true. But based on his per-game fantasy value, Kevin Love improved the most out of any player in the league this season based on last season. Yes, he was a top five player in 2011-12. But, his forgettable 2012-13 season, which was derailed by injuries, was horrendous.

I’m basing his value on a per-game basis and last season, Love was the 149th ranked player. Per-game, not total. Seems unfathomable right. But that’s exactly how the numbers played out. And numbers are what fantasy basketball is based on.

Love was drafted around the turn in most leagues — maybe end of the first round, maybe start of the second, but that was based on the hope that he was fully healthy and not likely to suffer any sort of recurrence.

He finished this season as fantasy basketball’s number six player and if you compare that to what he did last season, the difference is laughable. He increased his scoring by almost eight points, hit an extra 1.5 threes a game, handed out 2.1 more assists as well as a 10 percent boost in his field goal percentage and a 12 percent rise in his conversion from the line. Those are big numbers and fantasy owners were grateful to have the old Kevin Love back.

There’s no way you will be able to grab Love anywhere after pick seven next season, so if you started a dynasty league this season and nabbed Love, you most likely got him for under market value.

A couple of guys who will be red-hot favourites for this award next season are Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose. Like Love, both guys played severely shortened seasons due to injury, but their form in the games they played was not up to scratch. Rose (ranked 321st per game) and Bryant (291st) will be back next season and should comfortably reside in the top 50. Will I be taking them in the top 30? Probably not, but I can almost guarantee you won’t see them slide further than that.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the awards over the coming days and weeks and enjoy the playoffs!