Commentary

Tolliver, McGee enter latest rankings

Updated: March 8, 2010, 5:39 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

With just a month and a half left in the season, it's time for owners to start preparing themselves for the stretch run. For some of you, that might mean that you'll have to take more risks than you're used to. If you are still hovering in the middle of the pack or lower this late in the season, you will have to make some drastic moves to get back into the race.

That may include dropping players who aren't getting the job done, even if you've relied on them all season. I don't know about you, but if I'm within striking distance of the leaders and still have some ground to make up, I'm not going to be waiting around for someone like Ben Gordon to get his act together, and I'm certainly not waiting around for someone like Andris Biedrins to figure out whether he's going to play again this season.

Unfortunately, the trade deadline has already passed in most fantasy leagues, so the only way you can improve your squad is through the waiver wire. With that in mind, let's take a look at some players who might be droppable, and some newcomers who might be worth a look for the stretch run.

On Thin Ice

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's Top 130 are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

RK. Name, POS (RK)
1. LeBron James, SF, CLE (1)
2. Kevin Durant, SG/SF, OKC (2)
3. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (4)
4. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (3)
5. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (5)
6. Danny Granger, SF, IND (6)
7. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (8)
8. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (7)
9. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (9)
10. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (10)
11. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (11)
12. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (12)
13. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (13)
14. Brandon Roy, SG, POR (14)
15. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (19)
16. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (16)
17. Chris Bosh, PF/C, TOR (15)
18. Amar'e Stoudemire, C/PF, PHO (20)
19. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (18)
20. David Lee, PF/C, NY (21)
21. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (24)
22. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (25)
23. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (22)
24. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (26)
25. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (27)
26. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (23)
27. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (32)
28. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (30)
29. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (17)
30. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (28)
31. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (35)
32. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (31)
33. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (29)
34. Carlos Boozer, PF, UTA (33)
35. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (36)
36. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (41)
37. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (37)
38. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (38)
39. Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, TOR (34)
40. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (43)
41. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (42)
42. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (40)
43. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (44)
44. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (39)
45. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (45)
46. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (46)
47. Jeff Green, SF/PF, OKC (47)
48. David West, PF, NO (51)
49. Troy Murphy, PF/C, IND (49)
50. Al Jefferson, C, MIN (50)
51. Caron Butler, SF, DAL (54)
52. Nene, C/PF, DEN (48)
53. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (53)
54. Chris Paul, PG, NO (58)
55. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (59)
56. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (56)
57. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (52)
58. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (55)
59. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (57)
60. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (60)
61. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (74)
62. Andre Miller, PG, POR (64)
63. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (66)
64. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (73)
65. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (67)
66. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (63)
67. Rashard Lewis, SF/PF, ORL (65)
68. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (85)
69. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (76)
70. Michael Beasley, PF/SF, MIA (62)
71. Carl Landry, PF, SAC (70)
72. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (69)
73. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (95)
74. Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, GS (78)
75. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (68)
76. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (72)
77. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (75)
78. Jason Richardson, SG/SF, PHO (77)
79. Rodney Stuckey, PG, DET (61)
80. Randy Foye, SG/PG, WAS (86)
81. Raymond Felton, PG, CHA (71)
82. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (81)
83. Taj Gibson, PF, CHI (92)
84. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, TOR (79)
85. Corey Maggette, SF, GS (91)
86. Kirk Hinrich, SG/PG, CHI (80)
87. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (88)
88. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (87)
89. Wilson Chandler, SF, NY (89)
90. Darren Collison, PG, NO (99)
91. Kenyon Martin, PF, DEN (83)
92. Brendan Haywood, C, DAL (82)
93. Richard Hamilton, SG, DET (93)
94. Tayshaun Prince, SF, DET (100)
95. Mehmet Okur, C, UTA (98)
96. Thaddeus Young, SF, PHI (94)
97. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, HOU (90)
98. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (103)
99. George Hill, PG, SA (NR)
100. Al Harrington, PF, NY (108)
101. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (102)
102. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (109)
103. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (120)
104. Peja Stojakovic, SF, NO (104)
105. Mike Miller, SG/SF, WAS (105)
106. Marcus Thornton, SG, NO (128)
107. Drew Gooden, PF/C, LAC (121)
108. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (107)
109. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (84)
110. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (110)
111. Jason Terry, SG/PG, DAL (97)
112. Samuel Dalembert, C, PHI (112)
113. Jonny Flynn, PG, MIN (114)
114. C.J. Watson, PG, GS (116)
115. Jermaine O'Neal, C, MIA (113)
116. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (111)
117. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (118)
118. Tracy McGrady, SG, NY (101)
119. Courtney Lee, SG, NJ (117)
120. Ron Artest, SF, LAL (115)
121. Corey Brewer, SF/SG, MIN (122)
122. Spencer Hawes, C, SAC (119)
123. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, TOR (124)
124. Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL (124)
125. JaVale McGee, PF/C, WAS (NR)
126. Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, GS (NR)
127. Marvin Williams, SF, ATL (NR)
128. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (NR)
129. Shane Battier, SF, HOU (129)
130. Ben Wallace, PF/C, DET (123)

Joakim Noah, PF/C, Chicago Bulls: Now, I know I still have Noah slotted 109th in my Top 130 rankings, but rankings at this point in the season are fairly relative depending on your situation. For some owners (like those in H2H leagues) it might be worthwhile to hold on to Noah in case he can return for the fantasy playoffs. Remember, he was a top-50 player prior to the injury, so the payoff for being patient could be big dividends. But for others, it might be time to cut bait and look for a more reliable option. His timetable for a return from a painful plantar fasciitis injury is still somewhat up in the air, but most are projecting him to be back just before April begins. That would give him a little more than two weeks to produce for fantasy owners, which might not be enough time for those in roto formats.

Jason Terry, SG/PG, Dallas Mavericks: Terry owners lucked out when the original timetable for his return from a fractured orbital bone turned out to be vastly overstated. The new timetable suggests that he'll be back within 10-14 days and will likely wear a protective mask upon his return. Now Terry owners have a tough decision to make. Do they wait it out and hope that he's effective when he returns, or go with a hot pickup? Terry averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.9 3-pointers in February, so he can certainly still help fantasy owners when he gets back. I'd recommend holding on to him for now, but keep a very close eye on his timetable.

Jose Calderon, PG, Toronto Raptors: For as bad as Calderon has been this season, he's still been a useful commodity for those in need of assists. With 5.8 assists per game on the season (and 6.5 assists in his past five games), Calderon can still be valuable for some owners. Unfortunately, that's about the only category he's contributing to at the moment and if you aren't in need of his assists, you can certainly trade him in for a player who's going to provide more value across the board. The same can be said for any of the categorical specialists at this point in the season. Owners in roto formats should be calculating which categories they can realistically gain or lose points in, and start cutting anyone who doesn't help in the areas that are most needed.

Droppable

Andris Biedrins, C, Golden State Warriors: I thought that most folks gave up on Biedrins a few weeks ago, but after receiving a few e-mails about him, it turns out that there are a bunch of people still holding out hope that he'll return and be productive this season. Don't hold your breath. There is still no timetable on his return from a groin injury, and it's not like Biedrins was putting up Joakim Noah-type numbers when healthy anyway. Averaging only 3.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and a block in February before succumbing to the injury, Biedrins can now be dropped in all fantasy formats.

Ben Gordon, SG, Detroit Pistons: As promised last week, I gave Gordon one more attempt to stay in the top 130, and he's still not cutting it for fantasy owners. Some might think that he'll be the one to step up after Rodney Stuckey's scary collapse on Friday night, but I'd rather take my chances with Will Bynum (who will receive a larger increase in minutes) if Stuckey needs to miss considerable time. Gordon averaged just 9.7 points, 0.5 steals and 0.9 3-pointers in February and only 8.4 points, 0.8 steals and 0.6 3-pointers in his past five games. There's still a possibility that he'll get it going again at some point, but at this stage in the season, it might not be worth the wait.

Robin Lopez, C, Phoenix Suns: A popular pickup in February when he averaged 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, Lopez has slumped as of late with just 5.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks through four games in March. With Channing Frye heating up again, Lopez's minutes have been on the decline (22.0 minutes in his past five games) and while there is a chance that he could get his playing time back, I'm not waiting around to find out. There are plenty of rebounding and shot-blocking specialists available who are producing at a much more consistent level right now, so it doesn't make sense to waste your time on Lopez while he's not performing.

High-Risk/High-Reward Targets

As mentioned in the intro, this is the time of year for risk-taking. Unless you're sitting in first place, there's little to lose by taking a chance on a hot pickup with considerable upside. I highly recommend reading through some of Josh Whitling's Working the Wire articles to get pickup ideas (like George Hill and Marvin Williams), but I'm going to focus on some of the more risky investments that could pay major dividends for the stretch run. The following players might not pan out, but if you need a boost in the standings, it won't hurt to gamble on their upside>

JaVale McGee, PF/C, Washington Wizards: Somewhat overshadowed by Andray Blatche's breakout, McGee has quietly put up some nice fantasy numbers as of late with 11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in his past five games. After showing glimpses of promise in his first professional season, McGee is just now getting a chance to show us what he can do with increased minutes. I should note that McGee is one of the league's best pure shot-blockers on a per-minute basis with 5.8 blocks per 48 minutes. His recent increase in minutes will mean big things for his shot-blocking numbers, and since blocks are the rarest fantasy category, he could single-handedly help you gain a few spots in the standings.

Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers: Holiday makes for an intriguing gamble now that the Sixers have committed to making him their point guard for the rest of the season. He may be inconsistent on a night-to-night basis, but he's shown his upside with two 20-point performances already this month. Based on his per-minute stats, Holiday has shown considerable promise in both steals (0.8 in just 19.9 minutes per game) and 3-pointers (1.8 per game in his past five games). With his recent increase in minutes, Holiday could give fantasy owners a big boost in both categories the rest of the way.

C.J. Watson, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors: Watson's value largely hinges on the health of Monta Ellis, but there is one thing we know for sure: When Ellis is out, Watson is a big-time fantasy performer. In 11 games as a starter this season, he's averaging a cool 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per game. Monta's recent back injury appears fairly serious, so Watson will have significant short-term value at the least. The risk here, of course, is that Ellis returns sooner than expected. I should also note, however, that Watson's stellar play has probably earned him additional minutes even after Ellis returns.

Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, Warriors: Sticking with the Warriors, Tolliver has somehow flown under the radar despite posting a versatile 13.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 blocks and 2.1 3-pointers in 38.2 minutes during his past five games. We don't have much historical data on Tolliver to be able to determine if this outburst is for real or not, but anyone who's seeing that many minutes is worth the gamble to find out. With Biedrins' season in jeopardy and the Warriors already playing for next season, Tolliver has the potential to become one of the best late-season pickups in the league.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and is a two-time Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year, as named by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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