NBA Fantasy Award Predictions 2022-23 - Can Jokic be Dethroned as MVP?

NBA Fantasy Award Predictions 2022-23 - Can Jokic be Dethroned as MVP?

The NBA officially tips off in less than one week, which means fantasy draft season is in full swing. As such, it's time to make some fantasy basketball awards predictions. Included are fantasy awards that mirror real-life ones, like MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, but also fantasy-specific ones like Bounce-back Player and Best Undrafted Player.

Fantasy MVP: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Doncic broke out in a big way during Dallas' 2022 Western Conference Finals run and continued his stellar play in this past summer's FIBA EuroBasket. The Mavericks have surrounded Doncic with 3-and-D wings that can space the floor, plus centers that can pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, or both. Doncic is being selected in the top five of just about every fantasy draft, so he's not being slept on, but something tells me this is the year he earns the actual MVP award behind averages of about 30 points, 10 dimes, and 10 boards per game.

He has one of the highest floors in fantasy given his league-leading usage rate over the past two seasons, and his main barrier to dominant fantasy value right now is subpar free-throw shooting (73.7% career). Even a marginal increase in that category will put him in contention for the Fantasy MVP -- Nikola Jokic's award over the past two seasons.

Fantasy Defensive Player of the Year: Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

As a 20-year-old rookie last season, Mobley averaged 2.5 blocks-plus-steals while turning Cleveland into a formidable defensive unit. He boasts elite size, speed

The NBA officially tips off in less than one week, which means fantasy draft season is in full swing. As such, it's time to make some fantasy basketball awards predictions. Included are fantasy awards that mirror real-life ones, like MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, but also fantasy-specific ones like Bounce-back Player and Best Undrafted Player.

Fantasy MVP: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Doncic broke out in a big way during Dallas' 2022 Western Conference Finals run and continued his stellar play in this past summer's FIBA EuroBasket. The Mavericks have surrounded Doncic with 3-and-D wings that can space the floor, plus centers that can pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, or both. Doncic is being selected in the top five of just about every fantasy draft, so he's not being slept on, but something tells me this is the year he earns the actual MVP award behind averages of about 30 points, 10 dimes, and 10 boards per game.

He has one of the highest floors in fantasy given his league-leading usage rate over the past two seasons, and his main barrier to dominant fantasy value right now is subpar free-throw shooting (73.7% career). Even a marginal increase in that category will put him in contention for the Fantasy MVP -- Nikola Jokic's award over the past two seasons.

Fantasy Defensive Player of the Year: Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

As a 20-year-old rookie last season, Mobley averaged 2.5 blocks-plus-steals while turning Cleveland into a formidable defensive unit. He boasts elite size, speed and length. His athleticism and anticipation should only improve. Cleveland still has Jarrett Allen clogging the paint, allowing Mobley the freedom to roam and trust his instincts in pursuit of deflections.

Don't be surprised if Mobley raises his steals-plus-blocks average to three or more in 2022-23 and challenges for the actual Defensive Player of the Year award. His presence on both sides of the ball is already crucial to the up-and-coming Cavaliers, so his workload is safe, and it's in Cleveland's interest to keep him as involved as possible.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Jalen Duren, Pistons

Paolo Banchero is the favorite and the obvious pick here. But I'm highlighting a value option—Jalen Duren—who tore up Summer League and has a path to minutes. The Pistons have a lackluster center rotation of Isaiah Stewart (undersized), Marvin Bagley (more of a power forward) and Nerlens Noel (injury-prone and doesn't fit Detroit's rebuild).

Duren is set up for immediate success, with a superb passing point guard in Cade Cunningham running the show and floor-spacing forwards in Saddiq Bey and Bojan Bogdanovic. An average of a double-double plus quality defensive stats is in the cards -- his athleticism, interior scoring and shot-blocking being his strong suits. The best part is he will be available beyond pick 100 in most drafts.

Most Improved Fantasy Player: P.J. Washington, Hornets

Opportunity knocks for Washington coming off a down year. Capable of scoring from all three levels and blessed with the size, strength, length, and speed to cover multiple positions defensively, Washington is a good bet to see a significant uptick in minutes and usage, partially due to the absence of Miles Bridges. Washington can play the four and the five, giving him a high floor for minutes.

A breakout looms. I'm predicting per-game averages of 16 points on efficient shooting with eight boards, four dimes, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals in 35 minutes. That well-rounded statline will make him a bargain, especially since he's slipping beyond pick 100 in plenty of drafts.

Bounceback Fantasy Player of the Year: Bradley Beal, Wizards

There are numerous players in the running for this award. To narrow it down, I excluded players who barely played, or didn't play at all, last season, such as Ben Simmons, Collin Sexton, and Jamal Murray.

Due to COVID-19 protocols and wrist surgery, Beal played 40 games last year and struggled by his own standards, averaging 23.2 points on poor efficiency, although he did hand out a career-best 6.6 dimes per night. He was coming off a career year in 2020-21, in which he averaged highs in scoring (31.3 PPG), field-goal percentage (48.5% FG), and free-throw percentage (88.9% FT).

I'm expecting a bounce-back season from Beal, where he efficiently bumps his scoring average back to 30 points per game while continuing to hand out a half-dozen dimes. If you can get him in the third round or later, that will look like a huge steal by season's end.

Most Valuable Undrafted Veteran Player: Bruce Brown, Nuggets

Brown enjoyed the best year of his career last season, averaging 9.0 points (50.6% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 75.8% FT), 4.8 boards, 2.1 dimes versus 0.7 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 0.5 threes in 24.6 minutes.

He isn't going to start or play heavy minutes, but he'll be a steal if he averages closer to 30 minutes for the Nuggets. The veteran has improved his outside shot tremendously and contributes meaningfully across every category. Moreover, he is an outstanding off-ball cutter and can run unique reverse pick-and-rolls with Nikola Jokic. Grab Brown in the later rounds and watch him become the player Gary Harris was supposed to be for Denver.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabriel Allen
Gabriel Allen is a tennis professional and freelance journalist whose work has been published in the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated, among other places.
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