Commentary

If only these guys were given more PT ...

Updated: January 23, 2012, 1:07 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

It was only a matter of time before injuries became the leading storyline of the 2011-12 fantasy hoops season. With a jam-packed 66-game schedule, we figured this time would come, and with high-profile players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade all nursing injuries, fantasy owners have been left scrambling to find replacements. We're only about a quarter of the way through the season, so this recent wave of injuries likely is only the tip of the iceberg.

The best way to combat injuries to your fantasy lineup is to know exactly who benefits when injuries strike. And the best way to predict future success, in my opinion, is to analyze per-minute statistics. How would a particular player fare if he was given an opportunity at full-time starter's minutes (35 minutes per game)? Granted, we can't always expect a player to be as productive per minute in 35 minutes as he is in 20 minutes, but we at least have an idea of what he is capable of.

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. LeBron James, SF, MIA (1)
2. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (2)
3. Chris Paul, PG, LAC (3)
4. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (4)
5. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (5)
6. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (6)
7. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (7)
8. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (8)
9. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (9)
10. Carmelo Anthony, SF, NY (10)
11. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (12)
12. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (11)
13. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (14)
14. Deron Williams, PG, NJ (13)
15. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTAH (15)
16. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (16)
17. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR (17)
18. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (18)
19. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (21)
20. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (22)
21. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (19)
22. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (23)
23. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (20)
24. Ty Lawson, PG, DEN (24)
25. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (27)
26. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (25)
27. Andre Iguodala, SF/SG, PHI (26)
28. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (29)
29. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, DEN (28)
30. John Wall, PG, WSH (34)
31. Ricky Rubio, PG, MIN (30)
32. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (31)
33. JaVale McGee, C, WSH (32)
34. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (33)
35. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (35)
36. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO (36)
37. David Lee, PF/C, GS (37)
38. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET (39)
39. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (42)
40. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (38)
41. James Harden, SG, OKC (43)
42. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (44)
43. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC (41)
44. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (40)
45. Danny Granger, SF, IND (45)
46. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (46)
47. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (47)
48. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, POR (48)
49. Ryan Anderson, PF, ORL (56)
50. Paul Millsap, PF, UTAH (52)
51. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (49)
52. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (50)
53. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (60)
54. Nene Hilario, C/PF, DEN (53)
55. Kyrie Irving, PG, CLE (58)
56. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (51)
57. Kris Humphries, PF, NJ (66)
58. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (54)
59. Eric Gordon, SG, NO (61)
60. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (62)
61. Tony Parker, PG, SA (69)
62. Raymond Felton, PG, POR (63)
63. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, NO (65)
64. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (55)
65. Tyson Chandler, C, NY (68)
66. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL (74)
67. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, MIL (57)
68. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (71)
69. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (67)
70. Andray Blatche, PF, WSH (72)
71. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR (64)
72. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (70)
73. Spencer Hawes, C, PHI (73)
74. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (59)
75. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (77)
76. Chauncey Billups, PG/SG, LAC (79)
77. Iman Shumpert, PG, NY (86)
78. Darren Collison, PG, IND (76)
79. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (78)
80. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (81)
81. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (88)
82. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, ORL (82)
83. DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC (90)
84. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (85)
85. Caron Butler, SF, LAC (87)
86. Luis Scola, PF, HOU (83)
87. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA (89)
88. Nicolas Batum, SF, POR (91)
89. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (80)
90. David West, PF, IND (92)
91. Paul George, SF/SG, IND (93)
92. DeMar DeRozan, SG, TOR (84)
93. Samuel Dalembert, C, HOU (113)
94. Kemba Walker, PG, CHA (97)
95. Gerald Henderson, SG, CHA (98)
96. Nick Young, SG, WSH (102)
97. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, DET (110)
98. Boris Diaw, PF/SF/C, CHA (75)
99. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (101)
100. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (104)
101. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (105)
102. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (96)
103. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA (106)
104. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (107)
105. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (114)
106. Byron Mullens, C, CHA (108)
107. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (125)
108. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (109)
109. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, POR (100)
110. Andre Miller, PG, DEN (111)
111. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (NR)
112. Jared Dudley, SF/SG, PHO (95)
113. Chris Kaman, C, NO (94)
114. Amir Johnson, PF/C, TOR (103)
115. MarShon Brooks, SG, NJ (122)
116. Devin Harris, PG, UTAH (99)
117. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (116)
118. Tony Allen, SG, MEM (118)
119. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN (119)
120. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (120)
121. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (121)
122. Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, NJ (115)
123. Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL (123)
124. Tayshaun Prince, SF, DET (NR)
125. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (127)
126. Kawhi Leonard, PF, SA (124)
127. Marvin Williams, SF, ATL (NR)
128. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI (128)
129. Jason Richardson, SG, ORL (129)
130. George Hill, PG/SG, IND (NR)

To help combat the injury bug that's sure to follow fantasy owners all season, I've compiled a list of players who have been ultra-productive on a per-minute basis, and would have considerable value if an increase in playing time were on the horizon.

Players like Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Brandon Knight would have been on this list a few weeks ago, but it appears Charlotte head coach Paul Silas and Detroit head coach Lawrence Frank have beaten me to the punch.

Per minute warriors

The following players are already owned in most fantasy formats due to their impressive per-minute production, but how much more valuable could they be if injury opened the door for increased playing time for them?

Lou Williams, SG/PG, Sixers (MPG: 24.7, Per 35 Minutes: 21.9 points, 5.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.2 3-pointers)
Anyone who owned Williams during the 2009-10 season knows just how valuable the 25-year-old can be in a starter's role. In 38 career starts (all during the '09-10 season), Sweet Lou posted 15.7 points, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 3-pointers with terrific efficiency from both the floor and the line. Injuries thwarted what should have been his breakout campaign, and when the Sixers drafted Jrue Holiday the following season, Lou was demoted back to his more natural role as a sixth man who provides instant offense off the bench. He's settled into his Jason Terry-esque role quite nicely this season, and while he's already owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, he'd get a significant bump in value if Holiday, Jodie Meeks or Andre Iguodala were to succumb to injury.

Al Harrington, PF, Nuggets (MPG: 25.5, Per 35 Minutes: 21.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 2.4 3-pointers)
Back in the mid-to-late '90s, before the Internet made it easy to scout high school basketball prospects, there were limited opportunities to see future NCAA and NBA stars in action. That is, unless you happened to live in central Jersey and had a chance to attend the PrimeTime Shootout every year in Trenton. Originally a regional tournament featuring the best teams in the Northeast, the PrimeTime Shootout eventually became a national event featuring high school mega stars such as LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Carmelo Anthony. The best high school player I saw back in the '90s was Camden's DeJuan Wagner, who was simply unstoppable, but the second best had to be St. Patrick's Al Harrington. I mention this not only to reminisce about the glory days, but also to illustrate that Harrington has always been an electric scorer. He was doing it as a 17- and 18-year-old in St. Patrick's green, and he's still doing it as a 31-year-old in Nuggets blue. Ranking 59th on our Player Rater thanks to his scoring, steals and 3-point shooting, Harrington is taking advantage of the void left by Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith in Denver. He'll continue to be a quality fantasy option despite the fact he's playing just 25.5 minute per game, and has some serious upside potential if more minutes head his way at any point this season.

George Hill, PG/SG, Pacers (MPG: 25.6, Per 35 Minutes: 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.5 3-pointers)
Owned in just 33 percent of ESPN leagues, Hill has flown under the fantasy radar during his first season in Indiana despite posting 10.5 points, 1.6 steals and 1.1 3-pointers while shooting an efficient 48.5 percent from the floor and 86.2 percent from the line. Hill's inconsistency on a nightly basis (which is directly related to his playing time) makes him less attractive right now, but he's still a borderline fantasy option in standard leagues thanks to his high steal rate. And as you can see by his per-35-minute numbers, he'd be quite a fantasy force if given more playing time.

Leandro Barbosa, SG, Raptors (MPG: 22.8, Per 35 Minutes: 19.0 points, 0.8 steals, 1.2 3-pointers)
Thanks to a recent bump in playing time, Barbosa's ownership has picked up in recent weeks as he's posted 16.0 points and 1.0 3-pointers in 27.4 minutes over his past five games. Aptly nicknamed the Brazilian Blur due to his speed and quickness, Barbosa won't score as much once Andrea Bargnani returns from an injured calf, but remember that he also plays behind the oft-injured Jose Calderon, as well. Just remember that Barbosa's value is fairly limited to scoring, steals and 3-pointers, as he is not much of a rebounder or assist man.

Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Bucks (MPG 30.5, Per 35 Minutes: 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 2.0 3-pointers)
With Mike Dunleavy on the shelf, Delfino's playing time has picked up of late, and while he has struggled to be a consistent scoring threat, he has proven to be one of the league's best in terms of steals and 3-point shooting. Delfino is not going to be a world-beater in any category other than steals and 3s, but he should be on rosters in most formats simply due to the fact he's so productive in two of the scarcest fantasy categories.

Nicolas Batum, SF, Trail Blazers (MPG: 25.6, Per 35 Minutes: 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.9 3-pointers)
It's not a big secret that Batum has tremendous upside whenever he's able to earn minutes, but I thought I'd mention it here just in case anyone was sleeping on his potential. One look at his per-minute numbers should sell you on his potential value, particularly given his ability to provide the rare combination of blocks and 3-pointers.

Put me in, Coach

The following players have shown glimpses of potential in limited minutes and could have considerable value later in the season if they can earn increased playing time.

Markieff Morris, PF, Suns (MPG: 21.0, Per 35 Minutes: 12.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.8 3-pointers)
Morris hasn't fared well since being inserted in the Suns' starting lineup last week, but I still believe in his talent despite the recent setbacks. His game reminds me a bit of Wilson Chandler's, and his per-minute numbers certainly support the comparison. I know it's still early yet, but the 6-9 Suns are on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race, and we will be seeing a lot of Morris as the season progresses if they continue to struggle.

Tiago Splitter, PF/C, Spurs (MPG: 20.8, Per 35 Minutes: 14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks)
Splitter showed us what he could do with extended minutes when he erupted for 25 points and 10 rebounds in Tim Duncan's absence Saturday. With tremendous footwork and touch around the basket, Splitter is shooting 62.0 percent from the floor on the season. His steady play should lead to increased minutes, and he's looking like a great speculative addition to fantasy rosters given the age and injury problems that the Spurs will continue to face during this condensed season.

Tristan Thompson, PF, Cavaliers (MPG: 18.3, Per 35 Minutes: 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks)
He's still an extremely raw talent, but wow does this 20-year-old have game. Fellow rookie Kyrie Irving has been phenomenal, but Thompson has flown under the radar due to the lack of playing time. Judging by his per-minute numbers, Thompson projects to be a double-double threat with plenty of blocks once he refines his game. The 6-9 Cavaliers are currently in the playoff hunt in the East, but if they fall out of contention, they'll surely be looking to give Thompson an extended look in the second half.

Taj Gibson, PF, Bulls (MPG: 19.4, Per 35 Minutes: 12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 2.5 blocks)
Of all the players on this list, Gibson is the one I'm most confident in, given the injury history of frontcourt mates Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. We've seen Gibson have spurts of value as an injury replacement in the past, and this year would be no different.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and was named the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2011. 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.

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