Commentary

Fantasy prospects at NCAA tourney

Updated: March 22, 2010, 4:29 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

It has been a busy week for sports fans, and at this stage of the season, fantasy hoops has perhaps taken a back seat to NCAA brackets and fantasy baseball drafts. While everyone is taking in March Madness with an eye on their brackets, true fantasy hoopsters should be keeping their scout eye on the future fantasy prospects playing in this year's tournament.

Some of these kids will be making an impact in fantasy leagues as early as next season, and the top of this year's draft class (if everyone comes out as expected) offers some serious NBA-ready talent. And since a lot of fantasy owners are already looking ahead to next season, let's take a look at some of the best prospects in the tourney with a fantasy twist:

1. John Wall, PG, Kentucky: Chad Ford calls him "Derrick Rose meets Jason Kidd," which is quite the compliment, and we certainly won't complain if it holds true in the fantasy game. Unlike Rose, who is a terrific player in real life but lacks the 3-point shooting and steals to be a fantasy stud, Wall has the potential to be dynamic both as an NBA and fantasy prospect. He's averaging 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks and a 3-pointer while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor and 76.3 percent from the line as a freshman. The only potential hiccup in his fantasy game might be the lack of range on his jump shot (which may improve with time). In the future, I see Wall offering Rajon Rondo type of boards, assists and steals with much more scoring but without the horrendous FT percentage.

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

2. Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State: If it weren't for John Wall, Turner would be a lock as the No. 1 overall selection in the upcoming NBA draft. Averaging 19.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game, Turner is a do-it-all type of prospect (think Brandon Roy). Not only is the big combo guard a scoring machine, but he also has tremendous handles, great court vision and lockdown defensive ability. Aside from the lack of range on his jumper and somewhat pedestrian free-throw shooting (74.4 percent), there's little not to like here. At some point down the line, he very well could turn into an 18/5/5 type of player, but his most redeeming fantasy quality might be his defensive abilities. He has a ridiculous wingspan which should help him become one of the league's best steal artists while potentially offering a block per game to boot.

3. Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse: Johnson is one of my favorite fantasy prospects thanks to his statistical diversity. Averaging 16.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers for Cuse this season, Johnson is one of those rare players who could potentially provide help in steals, blocks and 3-pointers. And that, my friends, is pure fantasy gold. One thing is for sure: He's got all the tools for it (massive wingspan, incredible athleticism, explosive leaper, great range on his jumper). He doesn't look as though he can handle being the No. 1 scorer on an NBA roster, but he would make for a great No. 2 or No. 3, and his statistical versatility has me dreaming of a cross between Rudy Gay and Shawn Marion (in his Phoenix Suns days).

4. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky: Questions about his motor may drop Cousins a bit in the draft, but there is no questioning his pure talent. An accomplished scorer and rebounder in the paint, Cousins is averaging 15.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.9 blocks per game for the Wildcats this season. From a fantasy standpoint, Cousins looks like your typical upper-echelon power forward who can offer double-double ability with about 1.5 blocks to go along with the usual subpar free-throw shooting (61.3 percent). There is a ton of upside here, so make sure you get a good look at him in next week's action.

5. Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech: With Tech losing to Ohio State on Sunday, you won't get a chance to see more of Favors, but I'd be crazy to put together a list of NBA prospects and not mention him. Favors, remember, was a higher-ranked prospect (by most accounts) than Wall coming into the season. He hasn't exactly dominated the way we thought he would this year, but it's hard to miss this kid's potential. Averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 2.1 blocks per game as a freshman, Favors might be better served sticking in the college ranks for another year so he can refine his offensive game before heading to the NBA. He's still a little too raw to be considered an immediate impact player if he does decide to come out this season, that is, unless he lands with a team that could use him right away.

Rankings

You will notice some big changes in the ranks starting this week as we'll be looking to ride the hot hand all the way through the end of the season. With such little time left, those on current hot streaks could very well stay hot the rest of the way. The same can be said for those who are currently slumping.

It's also important to note that injuries play a big role this late in the season, even minor ones. If a player is going to be out a week or more, they are going to take a big hit in the ranks. Some will even be dropped completely from the rankings. Let's take a quick look at some of the more significant changes in this week's top 130:

Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (64): Profiled in my last column as a high-risk/high-reward pickup, Holiday has been more rewarding than I even thought he could be. Averaging 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.8 3-pointers this month, Holiday is proving to be one of the best late-season pickups in the league.

Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets (74): It's been two weeks since the last rankings came out, so this upgrade might seem a little late. Thornton has dominated in March to the tune of 20.9 points, 1.2 steals and 2.3 3-pointers in 30.3 minutes per game. He'd actually be ranked higher than this if it weren't for the uncertainty about his role after Chris Paul returns to the lineup. I think he'll be just fine, but it is about to get awfully crowded in the Hornets backcourt.

John Salmons, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks (53): Salmons has been simply brilliant since being traded to the Bucks, averaging 19.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.4 3-pointers while shooting 86.7 percent from the line in 16 contests. Given the way he's playing (not to mention the Bucks), I wouldn't be surprised if he kept this up the rest of the way.

Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers (56): Inconsistent minutes and play have zapped some of Kaman's value as he's averaging just 11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks in 30.8 minutes per game over his past five contests. Kaman was dominant for much of the season, so hopefully this is just a short rough patch for him.

Tim Duncan, C/PF, San Antonio Spurs (47): In typical Gregg Popovich fashion, the resting of Tim Duncan has begun. He's seen just 24.6 minutes per game over his past five, but luckily he's been fairly productive despite the limited time, with 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game. Before you get too concerned, it should be noted that the Spurs currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference and will want to improve their seeding heading into the playoffs. That means Pops might not be able to rest Duncan as much as he might want to down the stretch.

Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, Toronto Raptors (66): Mired in a big-time shooting slump, Bargnani is averaging just 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.2 blocks and 0.6 3-pointers over his past five games. He should get his shooting touch back soon, but we don't know when that will happen or whether it will be too late. Given his upside, you have to stick with him and hope that he turns it around soon.

Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Utah Jazz (91): For a stretch in January and February, Kirilenko tricked us into thinking that we could rely on him in the fantasy game. Lesson learned. Injuries led to inconsistent play and AK is now averaging just 9.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game this month. He's still in the rankings thanks to his steals and blocks, but if his latest calf injury lingers, he could drop out by this time next week.

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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