2017-18 fantasy basketball awards

Anthony Davis' domination after DeMarcus Cousins got hurt arguably makes him the fantasy hoops MVP. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-18 fantasy basketball campaign brought out some new fantasy stars, such as Joel Embiid and Victor Oladipo, plus rookies Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, but we also saw the usual superstars shine, as James Harden, LeBron James and Anthony Davis continued to dominate.

Who reigns supreme as the fantasy MVP? How about this season's biggest bust, biggest surprise and top rookie?

Our experts cast their votes and break down the most fun fantasy player to roster, the player they'll never draft again and their top breakout baller for next season.


Fantasy MVP

André Snellings: Anthony Davis
Joe Kaiser: Anthony Davis
Jim McCormick: Anthony Davis
John Cregan: LeBron James
Kyle Soppe: Victor Oladipo

Biggest bust

André Snellings: Kawhi Leonard
Joe Kaiser: Kawhi Leonard
Jim McCormick: Andrew Wiggins
John Cregan: Russell Westbrook
Kyle Soppe: Carmelo Anthony

Biggest surprise

André Snellings: Victor Oladipo
Joe Kaiser: Donovan Mitchell
Jim McCormick: Andre Drummond
John Cregan: Andre Drummond
Kyle Soppe: DeMar DeRozan

Waiver-wire pickup of the season

André Snellings: Jamal Murray
Joe Kaiser: Lou Williams
Jim McCormick: Donovan Mitchell
John Cregan: Joe Ingles
Kyle Soppe: Bojan Bogdanovic

Rookie of the year

André Snellings: Ben Simmons
Joe Kaiser: Ben Simmons
Jim McCormick: Ben Simmons
John Cregan: Ben Simmons
Kyle Soppe: Ben Simmons

Most improved player

André Snellings: Victor Oladipo
Joe Kaiser: Jamal Murray
Jim McCormick: Victor Oladipo
John Cregan: Victor Oladipo
Kyle Soppe: Victor Oladipo

Most fun player to roster

André Snellings: The most fun player to roster this season was LeBron because a perfect storm of events made him almost inexplicably offer 2009-10 fantasy value in 2017-18. LeBron is a super-veteran who was drafted in the back half of the first round in most leagues (ADP: 8), but with all of the injuries and roster turnover on the Cavs, he ended up playing the entire season at 100 percent, something few, if any, of us expected. On top of the unexpected value, LeBron is the most Sportscenter- and internet-highlighted player in the NBA, so if you picked LeBron late, you were constantly reminded of your good fortune.

Joe Kaiser: I enjoy the overlooked players who can make a significant impact, and that's why I loved having Ingles on my team this season. In fact, I named my team "Feed Ingles." He was such a solid contributor in terms of 3-pointers and steals, and he provided a lot of assists from a forward position, which is extremely useful in category leagues such as the one I played in. Next season, when Ingles is overlooked again and available in the middle rounds, you can count on me swooping him up yet again. He saved my team with a few big games during the fantasy playoffs this season, and I'd love to have him on my squad again in the future.

Jim McCormick: Not just because I'm an ardent Sixers fan, but for my passion for defensively gifted fantasy assets dating back to Andrei Kirilenko and Shawn Marion, the most enjoyable player on my rosters this season has been Robert Covington. In an era that cherishes two-way players and the 3-and-D archetype, consider that "RoCo" leads the NBA in deflections per game (3.9) and averages the most catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts in the league (while hitting a healthy 37.8 percent of his 6.5 attempts per game). The Player Rater adores Covington's game as well -- he's 30th overall on the index by totals and 44th by averages, ahead of the likes of Blake Griffin, Mitchell and Al Horford. My definition of fantasy fun is a line that includes 4 made 3-pointers, 4 steals and 3 blocks -- aka, the "Covington special."

John Cregan: I go to a lot of Clippers games. Williams is my favorite Clipper to see live. In terms of rate of fantasy production per minute, there aren't many players who pack as much statistical punch as Williams. His sky-high usage rate (a career-high 29.8) and the fact that Williams never met a shot he didn't like all but guarantees at least three or four thrills per game. He is not only fun but also a responsible fantasy choice for your bottom line, as he has hit 88 percent of his free throws across a career-high 6.7 attempts per game.

Kyle Soppe: There is only one right answer to this question, and it's the one I give every single season: DeMarcus Cousins. Whether you are a casual fan who checks in for the highlights or a devoted NBA-er who schedules your social activities around when your fantasy players are on national TV, Boogie is a fun investment. From eye-popping stats to questionable on-court behavior, Cousins is the complete package, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Grab him at a discount next year, when he returns from his ruptured Achilles, and enjoy the ride!

I'll never draft _____ again

André Snellings: I'll never draft Kawhi again ... or at least, I'll be really irritated until he has a bounce-back season and makes it up to us. Everyone knew that he was coming into the season injured, but Tony Parker's analogy from the other day (that his injury was 1,000 times worse) was what most of us believed when the season began. This led to Leonard still having an ADP of 9 -- a clear first-rounder. Then, when the injury lingered into December, he looked like a buy-low candidate. Then, when he rested again, there was a hope he'd come back late in the season as an impact guy. I understand logically why he was careful, especially after ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell explained how his precautions make sense, but ... it still stung to miss out on him again and again all season.

Joe Kaiser: I had Lonzo Ball for a time, and he made things very difficult. Although he clearly has fantasy upside, his poor shooting percentages and lack of durability made for extremely frustrating stretches. As long as I build teams with point guards who shoot at a high percentage and make 3-pointers, I am going to look elsewhere for a safer option going forward. The good news is I realized this pretty early on this season and was able to trade Ball before a lot of the injuries happened, but as we look toward next season, this is a real concern. Ball finished his rookie season shooting 36.0 percent and missed 30 games due to injury.

Jim McCormick: Given his inability to stay healthy, I'm fading Danilo Gallinari for perpetuity. His 63 games last season marked a four-year high, and he has topped 70 games just twice in his career, which is somehow already nearing decade. The Clippers are pot-committed to this gifted scorer, and I can envision him regaining some lost luster heading into next season, based on the sheer value of minutes, shots and touches predictive models will allocate for him. The fantasy hoops market can prove fairly forgiving come September. I was tempted to give up on D'Angelo Russell or even Wiggins for this nomination, but I still believe there is a good bit of upside to unleash for both of those prospects.

John Cregan: It would appear we've reached the end of the fantasy road for Marcin Gortat. Usually dependable to outperform his ADP by a couple of rounds, Gortat cratered this season. He's on pace to finish outside the top 120 on the Player Rater ... with a 90.6 ADP. You can't blame health: Gortat is on pace to play all 82 games. Instead, it seems like Gortat's decline is the byproduct of his advanced age and reduced minutes (his 25.4 minutes per game represent his lowest MPG since 2010-11).

Kyle Soppe: I feel obligated to mention Brook Lopez in this space to be consistent, and though I won't have him on another roster of mine, that isn't a new development. What is new is that I'm finished with Harrison Barnes. Not only are the Mavericks a complete bore to watch (bottom five in pace and bottom 10 in efficiency), but I haven't seen enough growth through six seasons to make me think that Barnes is ever going to be much more than what he has been the past two seasons. He consistently takes more than a quarter of his shots from 24-plus feet, and I'm just not sold on that being his path to maximizing his value. I worry that his time at a big college and status as a seventh overall pick will consistently drag his ADP far above what I am willing to pay ... and, to be honest, I'm not sad about that.

Top breakout player for 2018-19

André Snellings: My official answer for breakout player of next season is Ball. He is 46th among point guards in the Player Rater, with a score of 2.13, but that's deceptive. First, his injuries shortened his season, so he would have been closer to the top 20, based on averages, with a score of 5.43. Second, after averaging 10 PPG (34.9 FG%, 48.0 FT%, 29.7 3FG%) through the first 31 games of the season, he flirted with a more successful jump shot during a 12-game midseason stretch (11.8 PPG, 3.0 3PG, 43.1 FG%, 41.8 3FG%, 12 games). His shot deserted him again during his last 10 games (8.7 PPG, 1.0 3PG, 32.4 FG%, 17.2 3FG%), but after an offeseason of work, I expect he will return next season shooting more like that middle stretch. Add his natural affinity for the game, an extra year of strength in his 6-foot-6 body and improvements in his already Jason Kiddian supplemental game, and next year Ball breaks out and starts generating positive hype.

Joe Kaiser: Taurean Prince tends to be overlooked while playing for the lowly Hawks, but he moved into the top 50 in the Player Rater late this season after a strong finish. The second-year swingman became the Hawks' primary offensive option late this season when Dennis Schroder went down, and he looked comfortable in that role. After averaging 14.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG and 2.1 3PG this season, the durable swingman is primed for bigger and better things in his third year in the league.

Jim McCormick: I've already endorsed Gary Harris as a solid shooting guard on the ascent, but I think it's fair to say his game has already broken out to a degree (top 40 on the Player Rater by averages). That said, I'll go with Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls. This stretch big has the potential to ascend as a difference-maker in 3-point volume and efficiency in a system that appears willing to afford him rare shooting freedom (he's eighth in the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts). Assuming better guard play than the patchwork approach the team relied on this season, Markkanen could enjoy more floor spacing and better passing help. Markkanen turns 21 in May and should only improve as a rebounder and rim-protector. It should be a fun sophomore season for this gifted Finnish product.

John Cregan: After failing to deliver on his rookie hype (by fantasy standards), Buddy Hield is closing out his second campaign on a tear. He's 22nd overall on the Player Rater during the final month. Like Lou Williams, Hield is the rare fantasy producer who seems to benefit from a bench role. He has the perpetual green light, and it has translated to nearly half of his attempts coming from distance (5.1 of his 11.6 FGA attempts per game have been 3s). He's getting the usage (23.2 usage rate), but his efficiency still lags a little (his 16.03 PER is barely better than average). That shows that he still has room to grow statistically and portends mid-round value for the 2018-19 season.

Kyle Soppe: I like Kris Dunn to take another big step forward next season. He left Providence being labeled as a versatile offensive option who could be a game-changer on the defensive end, and I saw enough during his second season to make me think that the pieces of a fantasy star are in place. From the beginning of December to the end of January, Dunn was essentially a 15-point and 7.5-assist type of player, numbers that will more than get it done with his 2.0 steals per night for the season. Sure, a lot of those numbers came without Zach LaVine in the lineup, but I think the increased efficiency that figures to result from a volume threat such as LaVine more than outweighs any usage dip. If you want a hot take ... I think he is a poor man's version of Simmons, but his asking price won't come close to suggesting that.