Centers of Attention: Fantasy Awards
Centers of Attention: Fantasy Awards

This article is part of our Centers of Attention series.

The long grind of the NBA regular season has come to an end. Hopefully you finished as a winner in your fantasy basketball league and can spend the summer months basking in the glory of victory.

As we get ready to start the playoffs, let's take a moment to reflect on the season that was and hand out some hardware for the 2018-19 Centers of Attention Awards. These awards are based on solely on fantasy production.

Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets had a spectacular regular season that actually saw them push the Warriors for the top seed in the West all the way into April. Not only was Jokic the key to their success, but he was also the focal point of many winning fantasy squads. He set career-highs pretty much across the board, including points (20.1), rebounds (10.8), assists (7.3) and steals (1.4) per game.

He also was an asset with his percentages by shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 82.1 percent from the charity stripe. His three-point shooting percentage did decline, but he still averaged one three-pointer per contest. Despite his lack of blocks, his abnormally high amount of assists for a center more than makes up for his deficiencies in that category. He finished the season ranked seventh overall on Yahoo in terms of total stats and should once again be a first-round selection next year.

Breakout Player: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

Vucevic was neck-and-neck with Jokic for MVP. He's had some good seasons during his career, but nothing like he produced this year. He was the focal point of the Magic's offense with his 28 percent usage rate, which helped him average a career-high 20.8 points. The added shot attempts didn't hurt his efficiency, either, since he finished shooting 51.8 percent from the field. He was a monster on the boards with 12 rebounds a night and also averaged at least one steal and one block for the third-straight season.

To add a cherry on top, he also averaged 3.8 assists a night in large part because of the Magic's lack of depth at point guard. He actually finished higher in the rankings at fifth overall in terms of total stats, but I gave the slight edge to Jokic based on his assists. Vucevic will still take home some hardware, though, and should see his ADP skyrocket next season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

When you think of the top defensive centers in the league, the first name that jumps out is Rudy Gobert, and rightfully so. He's a shot blocking machine who makes it extremely difficult for opposing teams to be productive in the paint. However, he only averaged 0.8 steals to go along with his 2.3 blocks per game.

Drummond, on the other hand, averaged 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks. In fact, Drummond was one of only two players in the league at any position who averaged at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The other was Anthony Davis. Gobert clearly has the edge in shot-blocking, but Drummond's overall defensive prowess makes him the winner in this category.

Rookie of the Year: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

The top pick in the 2018 draft wasted no time making his mark in fantasy. The Suns had an awful year, but Ayton showed why he was so highly thought of coming out of college. He was a double-double machine with averages of 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and shot a sparkling 58.5 percent from the field. While his defensive numbers weren't off the charts, he didn't kill you in either category with averages of 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks a night. It was a bit disappointing that an ankle injury held him out the last five games of the season, but he finished ranked 37th overall. He'll be flying off the board in the early rounds of fantasy drafts next year.

Biggest Disappointment: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

While this isn't exactly an award, someone has to "win" it. Davis was among the top few players taken in drafts before the season, if not the top choice in some leagues. He got off to a roaring start and was mostly healthy, so he looked like he was going to take those who selected him to the promise land. However, after the Pelicans started to struggle, his desire to be traded came out. 

That's when Davis began to torpedo fantasy seasons.  He went through a nine-game stretch in which he didn't play at all leading up to the trade deadline. While the league forced him to play after he remained with the Pelicans, his minutes took a nose dive. He only averaged 22 minutes a game after the trade deadline and sat out 11 more games. For those who played in a head-to-head league, Davis not being at his peak, or even on the floor at all, when it counted the most in the fantasy playoffs is the reason why he receives this dubious honor.

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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.
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