Having peered deep into the depths of my crystal (basket)ball, I'm here to share what I've seen. Maybe it was all a mirage, a heavily-contested long two mistaken for an easy layup, if you will, but what's the point of making predictions if you're not going to take a few swings.
Looking through a Fantasy lens, let's take a look at how four of the major season-long awards, as well as two more bonus awards, could shake out in 2021-22:
Fantasy MVP: Joel Embiid
Embiid will fall further than he should in Fantasy drafts due to concerns about how many games he'll play. However, this could be the year that his stats most closely resemble those of prime Shaquille O'Neal. And even though he closed last season with yet another lower-body injury, I have a funny feeling it's also going to be the year he finally plays 70-plus games.
Just so we're clear: I'm predicting averages of about 30 points, 15 boards, a handful of assists and close to 2.0 blocks per game. I fully expect Embiid to enter the season like a man on a mission, and with no back-to-backs through the team's first eight games, he's set up to take the league by storm early on.
Defensive Fantasy Player of the Year: Jrue Holiday
If Embiid stays healthy and remains motivated on both ends, he'll undoubtedly be in the discussion for this award, as well. However, Holiday has been an elite defender for the last decade. Moreover, the officiating alterations aimed to eliminate some of the sketchy forms of foul-hunting bode well for an on-ball stopper such as Holiday, who likely gained even greater self-confidence from his defensive dominance in the NBA Playoffs and the Olympics.
Having to worry less about avoiding offensive tomfoolery, he might be emboldened to gamble for even more steals and blocks than before. Behind averages of two steals and one block per game, this is the season where the 25-year drought for guards winning the actual Defensive Player of the Year award could finally come to an end.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Alperen Sengun
Evan Mobley will be the most valuable rookie for category formats, while Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs and Cade Cunningham will contend for the top spot in points leagues. Nevertheless, if we're talking strictly value, none of those players are a lock to significantly exceed their average draft slots -- although Mobley (ADP 112.7) is the most likely.
This is where Sengun (ADP 188.0) comes in, as he appears set to play a sizable role off the bench for the Rockets this season. Even after his stellar showing in Summer League, Sengun is still being slept on in Fantasy drafts, going undrafted more often than not. He'll be one of the hottest pickups in the opening weeks of the season thanks to his ability to stuff the stat sheet across multiple categories. I wouldn't be that surprised if he ends up as a top two or three Fantasy rookie, draft slot notwithstanding.
Most Improved Fantasy Player: Michael Porter Jr.
With Jamal Murray likely out for most (if not all) of 2021-22, Denver needs Porter to fill it up as a scorer—and rest assured, nobody will have to ask him once, let alone twice. For as phenomenal a scorer as reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is, he still enjoys dropping dimes more than getting buckets. All I'm saying is, don't be shocked if Porter ends up leading not just the Nuggets, but the entire NBA, in points per game.
Bounceback Fantasy Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
It sounds as though Davis will finally bite the bullet and accept the burden of playing more minutes at center, even throughout the regular season. If that proves to be true, the floor will be more open for him offensively, and he'll be in better position to rack up blocks and rebounds.
Davis has always been at his best finishing plays, rather than initiating offense for both himself and others. The fact that one of his co-stars (LeBron James, Russell Westbrook) has led the league in assists per game in each of the last four seasons should help Davis bounce back from what was a massively disappointing 2020-21 campaign.
Most Valuable Undrafted Veteran: Monte Morris
Having developed excellent chemistry with Nikola Jokic over the years, the highly efficient point guard could soon be a full-time starter playing 30-plus minutes per game. Morris boasts a five-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio for his career (3.5 APG, 0.7 TPG) and he has superb career shooting percentages from the field (47.9% FG), beyond the arc (39.3% 3PT) and the charity stripe (81.6% FT). Morris was an excellent fill-in for Jamal Murray in the postseason, accumulating per-36-minute averages of 17.2 points, 6.9 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 1.3 steals across 10 contests.