Commentary

Speculative pickups to consider

Updated: December 13, 2010, 5:34 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

Now that we're more than a month and a half into the season, it's getting to be that time of year when it becomes increasingly difficult to find long-term value on the waiver wire. Don't get me wrong, the wire isn't completely dried up, but with most rotations already set in stone, many of your free-agent acquisitions come in the form of injury replacements. That being said, it's time to start thinking about some players who might have considerable long-term value a little further down the line. The following players might not be putting up enough numbers to be relevant just yet but could warrant a speculative pickup based on their future prospects.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2010-11 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (3)
4. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (6)
5. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (4)
6. LeBron James, SF, MIA (8)
7. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (7)
8. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (5)
9. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (18)
10. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (9)
11. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (11)
12. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (12)
13. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (10)
14. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (13)
15. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (15)
16. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (19)
17. Danny Granger, SF, IND (14)
18. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (16)
19. Raymond Felton, PG, NY (26)
20. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (25)
21. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (17)
22. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (20)
23. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (21)
24. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (23)
25. John Wall, PG, WAS (24)
26. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (38)
27. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (22)
28. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (27)
29. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (29)
30. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (28)
31. David Lee, PF/C, GS (31)
32. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (34)
33. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (39)
34. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (36)
35. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTA (37)
36. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (32)
37. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (30)
38. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (33)
39. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (41)
40. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (35)
41. Jason Richardson, SG, PHO (40)
42. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (42)
43. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (43)
44. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (44)
45. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (45)
46. Nene, C/PF, DEN (56)
47. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (46)
48. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (55)
49. David West, PF, NO (47)
50. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (48)
51. Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR (49)
52. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (51)
53. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (52)
54. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (53)
55. Jeff Green, PF/SF, OKC (54)
56. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, NY (72)
57. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (60)
58. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA (50)
59. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (58)
60. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (73)
61. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (57)
62. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (62)
63. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (59)
64. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (61)
65. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (63)
66. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (64)
67. Andre Miller, PG, POR (65)
68. Gilbert Arenas, PG/SG, WAS (66)
69. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (67)
70. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (69)
71. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (70)
72. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (68)
73. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (71)
74. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (79)
75. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (74)
76. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (75)
77. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (76)
78. Tony Parker, PG, SA (77)
79. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (78)
80. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (80)
81. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (81)
82. JaVale McGee, C/PF, WAS (83)
83. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (89)
84. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (84)
85. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (85)
86. Darren Collison, PG, IND (86)
87. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (87)
88. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (88)
89. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (90)
90. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (91)
91. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (96)
92. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (93)
93. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (94)
94. Rashard Lewis, PF/SF, ORL (97)
95. Tyson Chandler, C, DAL (98)
96. Caron Butler, SF/SG, DAL (99)
97. Wesley Matthews, SG, POR (107)
98. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (101)
99. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (111)
100. Landry Fields, SG, NY (104)
101. Richard Jefferson, SF, SA (102)
102. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (95)
103. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (92)
104. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (106)
105. Darko Milicic, C, MIN (100)
106. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (108)
107. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (109)
108. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (103)
109. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (112)
110. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (113)
111. Josh McRoberts, PF, IND (116)
112. George Hill, PG/SG, SA (128)
113. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (82)
114. Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC (119)
115. Daniel Gibson, PG, CLE (129)
116. Amir Johnson, PF, TOR (115)
117. Tayshaun Prince, SF, DET (121)
118. Jodie Meeks, SG, PHI (NR)
119. C.J. Miles, SF, UTA (122)
120. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (118)
121. Marvin Williams, SF, ATL (123)
122. Mike Miller, SF/SG, MIA (NR)
123. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN (125)
124. Grant Hill, SF, PHO (126)
125. Brandon Rush, SG, IND (NR)
126. DeMar DeRozan, SG, TOR (120)
127. Eric Bledsoe, PG, LAC (127)
128. Derrick Favors, PF, NJ (NR)
129. Jonny Flynn, PG, MIN (NR)
130. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (NR)

Future prospecting

Derrick Favors, PF, New Jersey Nets: Head coach Avery Johnson already has said publicly that he's considering moving up the timetable on when he will move rookie Derrick Favors into the starting lineup. That change might come sooner rather than later as the 6-18 Nets continue to fall further into the basement in the Atlantic Division. Favors has shown glimpses of brilliance early this season, particularly as a rebounder and shot-blocker. His per-minute numbers (6.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.6 blocks in just 18.9 minutes) suggest that he has nightly double-double potential if moved into the starting lineup. Don't wait around for Johnson to make the official switch, move on Favors now before it's too late.

Terrence Williams, SF/SG, Nets: One of my favorite preseason sleepers just might have some life left in him yet. Fresh up from his demotion to the D-League, T-Will is already earning minutes in the mid-20s, and with Travis Outlaw struggling and Damion James injured, Williams should see a big increase in minutes going forward. He's still a high-risk/high-reward type of player, but there is no denying his pure talent. If he can find a way to stay out of Coach Johnson's doghouse (he appears to be repairing that relationship), Williams has the potential to turn into waiver-wire gold for his ability to contribute in multiple categories across the board.

Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets: With the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors picking up steam, fantasy owners are beginning to prepare themselves for the fallout. Most will agree that Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith and Al Harrington will be the big fantasy winners, but don't sleep on second-year point guard Ty Lawson, who is absolutely ready to take the reins as a starter in the NBA. Chauncey Billups isn't going to lose his starting job unless an injury strikes, but Lawson is making a big push to earn minutes alongside him in the backcourt. And if Melo is moved, I easily could see the Nuggets giving Lawson 30-35 minutes per night in a youth-movement effort. It's not quite time to add him in fantasy leagues, but Lawson has considerable upside in assists, steals and 3-pointers if and when his opportunity comes.

DeJuan Blair, PF, San Antonio Spurs: Blair hasn't had the breakout season many had predicted, but he has been efficient on a per-minute basis, averaging 7.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals in just 20.5 minutes per game. The problem for Blair has been a lack of consistent minutes, but with three straight games with 25-plus minutes and two consecutive double-doubles, he is beginning to show owners why many of us (including myself) liked him as a deep-sleeper candidate coming into the season. Now, Blair may continue to be plagued by inconsistent minutes moving forward, but if there's one thing we know about Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, it's that he likes to rest his aging veterans, particularly later in the season. It might not happen right away, but Blair's time will come at some point this season. Luckily, he's doing enough in rebounds and steals right now to make for a speculative pickup and stash him away for when his value takes off later in the season.

George Hill, PG/SG, Spurs: Given how strong he's been playing as of late, I may be a little tardy in considering Hill a speculative pickup candidate, but like Blair, Hill also stands to benefit from Popovich's tendency to rest his veterans. The nice thing about Hill is that he's already producing enough to be a pickup candidate right now, with averages of 17.2 points, 0.8 steals and 2.0 3-pointers in his past five games. Owned in just 46.2 percent of fantasy leagues, Hill should be added by anyone in need of scoring, 3-point shooting and steals. Be aware, however, that he does almost nothing in the way of rebounding or assists, averaging just 2.5 boards and 2.2 assists on the season.

Other speculative pickups: Mike Miller, Jonny Flynn, Robin Lopez, Mehmet Okur

News and notes

• If I'm a Troy Murphy owner, I'm not waiting too much longer to cut ties now that he's currently behind both Derrick Favors and Kris Humphries for minutes in the Nets' frontcourt. Murphy obviously has a ton of upside if given the playing time, but he's not worth owning at the moment considering he's seeing just 15.0 minutes per game in his past five contests.

• At 21 years old, Serge Ibaka is still a raw talent, so it should come as no surprise that he's had some bouts with inconsistency in his second season. But that doesn't mean that he's droppable. A little more than a week ago, Serge could have been found floating around on some waiver wires, but he's probably been scooped up already after going for 11.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game in his past five contests. He's holding steady at 45th on our Player Rater when sorted by averages, and owners should remain patient the next time Ibaka has a stretch of poor play.

• The Sacramento Kings still seem to have no clue what they want to do with their crowded frontcourt situation. Unfortunately, with Samuel Dalembert, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry all vying for minutes, no one has been able to step up to become a consistent fantasy threat. Take a look at the breakdown in minutes and production from their past five games:


Dalembert: 5.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 21.3 minutes
Cousins: 11.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 26.2 minutes
Thompson: 12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.8 in 25.8 minutes
Landry: 7.0 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes

At this point, the least reliable of the foursome is Landry. It's unfortunate because Landry was such a great fantasy option in Sac-Town last season. Feel free to drop him for other options. If you are prospecting for big men in Sacramento, I'd stick mostly with Dalembert and Cousins. Dalembert can at least provide some blocks in limited minutes, while Cousins should be getting every opportunity for extended playing time as the 5-16 Kings look to develop their young talent.

• Don't look now, but Blake Griffin is averaging 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks in six games this month. Earlier in the season, there was some question as to whether he'd be able to contribute on the defensive end, but his athleticism is starting to win out, and I believe in his recent steal and block totals. Add those to his already impressive points (20.0), rebounds (11.8) and field goal percentage (50.9 percent), and you have yourself a top-30 fantasy player, even with his dismal 57.5 percent shooting from the free throw line.

• With Andrew Bynum expected to return sometime this week, we'll have to keep a close eye on how his presence impacts Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in L.A. I'm not overly concerned about either player, but if anything, it will be Odom who is most affected by Bynum's return. That said, Bynum's minutes will likely be limited to start, and I wouldn't be looking to sell high on either Gasol or Odom given Bynum's lengthy injury history.

• Speaking of injury-prone big men, Yao Ming is still out "indefinitely" with an ankle injury. Since he was averaging only 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 18.2 minutes per game before the injury, Yao can be considered only a shot-blocking specialist at best in fantasy leagues upon his return. He was putting up great numbers on a per-minute basis, but that doesn't help us much when he'll be limited to around 20 minutes per game. Save yourself the heartache and cut him loose if you haven't already done so.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.

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.

ALSO SEE