Every year there is a group of players who do not normally get the spotlight, but certainly deserve it. In fantasy basketball, there were certain players whose stats surprisingly helped you week after week. These players were not necessarily your early fantasy basketball draft picks or draft picks at all. Some of these players you picked up off of your waiver wire. That is why you should always be searching your waiver wire. Here are the five players who made All Fantasy Basketball Surprise First Team (access second and third teams) and hopefully helped your team win a fantasy basketball championship.
Greg Monroe is one of the few bright spots for the Pistons
Point Guard - Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzles
Conley stepped up his game and drew attention as one of the NBA's better point guards. He averaged 2.2 steals per game ranking him second among league leaders. Conley also shot over 43 percent from the floor scoring 12.7 points per game and averaged 6.5 assists per game showing that between steals and assists, he was a good late draft option that helped your point guard void.
Next season, with Memphis beginning to have a consistent core to further the team's development, Conley is the executer and the offense will go through him. He will keep the Grizzles organized just as he will keep you out in front, primarily in your steals and assists categories. Look to draft Conley inside the first half of your draft next season.
Shooting Guard - James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
How doesn't the 2012 NBA sixth man of the year not make this list? Before this season, Harden was a recognizable player and not just because of his thick beard and Mohawk, but because of his aggressiveness while on the court. This season, he elevated his game further. Harden scored nearly 17 points per game from the bench while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. He stole the ball at least once per game and he even grabbed 4.5 rebounds per game.
Being one of the best shooters in the league, Harden will be targeted early next season so make sure you don't reach too much, but if you get to the fourth round of your draft and you have either a top tier shooting guard or small forward, definitely take a flier on him. I still do not believe he is in that top-tier talent of NBA players, but he certainly is a front man in the second-tier of players.
Small Forward - Marcus Thornton, Sacramento Kings
Since this is an all "surprise" team, I have to include at least one lesser-named player who dominated at his position. If you check out all the stats, you would see that Thornton was a great commodity to have especially because small forward is the scarcest position in fantasy basketball. Thornton ranked second to Steve Novak among small forwards in making threes, as he hit at least two shots from downtown per game.
Thornton averaged 18.7 points per game for the Kings and shot almost 44 percent from the field. While a bunch of you were drafting players such as Andre Iguodola early, Thornton gave you similar productivity and you could have taken him with one of your last picks in the draft. He also averaged 1.4 steals per game.
You should look to draft Thornton towards the middle of the draft next season, as I believe the Kings poor performance this year kept him out of the spotlight. If you have to make a decision between drafting Tyreke Evans early or waiting a couple of rounds and grabbing Thornton, I would choose the latter.
Power Forward - Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic
This article appreciates those who hustle and bolster multiple categories on your fantasy team. I would even argue that Anderson was a top-five power forward this season. Anderson scored over 16 points per game and grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game. Of all of the power forward eligible players (including notoriously three-point threat Novak), Anderson averaged more makes from downtown that any other power forward by hitting nearly three three's per game on average.
Anderson was also one of the top free throw shooters of power forwards, shooting nearly 88 percent from the line. To be able to draft a player that helps this much in the middle of your draft is an ultimate steal. Look to draft Anderson early next year, especially if Dwight Howard is traded before the 2012-13 season begins.
Center - Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons have not had a lot to be proud of in the last few seasons; but, if there is something for them to take away from the 2012 season, they are all set at the center position. Now I understand if you are confused as to why I did not put a double-double machine (in points an rebounds) in this particular spot. It is more the little things that Monroe did that gave him this spot.
While dominant centers average at least 10 points and 10 rebounds per game, when Monroe shot he was over 52 percent from the field. Monroe also ranked top-five among centers in steals, as he averaged 1.3 per game. If I were to give Dwight Howard this spot, it would not be an all-surprise team.
Monroe did also average 15.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds, still making him a very useful center. He seems to be the only positive that Detroit has at the moment, so go and draft him on the earlier side, especially if your strategy is more guard dominated early. Monroe would be a great number two center on any fantasy basketball team.
That wraps up the review of last year and the surprise players who stood out. We'll be kicking off our upcoming fantasy basketball coverage soon, as the free-agent market is right around the corner. Our 2012-13 fantasy basketball draft guide will have the player rankings, sleepers and analysis you need to dominate your fantasy baseball league this season. Stay tuned, it'll be coming mid-summer!
About Justin "Fensty" Fensterman
Fensterman covers fantasy basketball for KFFL and joined the team in 2012. He is a Sports Radio Producer on SiriusXM's Fantasy Sports Radio channel, the first channel dedicated solely to fantasy sports. An avid fantasy basketball player, Fensty's biggest accomplishment in the fantasy sports world was in 2004 when he had an undefeated season in a Yahoo! Sports Fantasy NBA league and was ranked in the top 30 among all players in the world.
A native from Oyster Bay, NY, Fensty left New York to study Broadcast Journalism at American University in Washington D.C. in 2005. Fensty has previously worked for MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, MTV and News 12: Long Island.
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