Commentary

Weekly Dish: Late-season help

Updated: March 12, 2012, 3:57 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

With just a little more than a month left in the season, it's time for owners to start preparing themselves for the stretch run. For some of you, that might mean 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.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2011-12 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. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (5)
6. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (6)
7. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (7)
8. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (8)
9. Deron Williams, PG, NJ (9)
10. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (10)
11. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (11)
12. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTAH (12)
13. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (13)
14. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR (14)
15. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (15)
16. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (16)
17. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (17)
18. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (19)
19. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (20)
20. John Wall, PG, WSH (21)
21. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (18)
22. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (22)
23. Ty Lawson, PG/SG, DEN (27)
24. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (23)
25. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO (24)
26. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET (25)
27. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (26)
28. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (28)
29. Paul Millsap, PF, UTAH (29)
30. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (30)
31. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (31)
32. James Harden, SG, OKC (33)
33. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC (34)
34. Carmelo Anthony, SF, NY (32)
35. David Lee, PF/C, GS (36)
36. Ryan Anderson, PF, ORL (37)
37. Kyrie Irving, PG, CLE (41)
38. Danny Granger, SF, IND (39)
39. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (43)
40. Jeremy Lin, PG, NY (40)
41. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (46)
42. Tony Parker, PG, SA (48)
43. Nicolas Batum, SF/SG, POR (42)
44. Andre Iguodala, SF/SG, PHI (44)
45. JaVale McGee, C, WSH (45)
46. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (38)
47. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, SAC (47)
48. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (49)
49. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (52)
50. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (54)
51. Kris Humphries, PF, NJ (56)
52. Kevin Garnett, PF/C, BOS (55)
53. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (51)
54. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (68)
55. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, POR (53)
56. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (50)
57. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (57)
58. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (58)
59. Tyson Chandler, C, NY (59)
60. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (60)
61. Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN (62)
62. Paul George, SF/SG, IND (65)
63. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (104)
64. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (70)
65. Drew Gooden, PF, MIL (76)
66. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, DEN (61)
67. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (71)
68. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (72)
69. Nene Hilario, C/PF, DEN (73)
70. Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, MIL (86)
71. Evan Turner, SG, PHI (NR)
72. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (93)
73. DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC (67)
74. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, NO (75)
75. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (64)
76. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (63)
77. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA (78)
78. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (79)
79. Jared Dudley, SF/SG, PHO (82)
80. Luis Scola, PF, HOU (80)
81. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (77)
82. Luke Ridnour, PG, MIN (127)
83. MarShon Brooks, SG, NJ (81)
84. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL (74)
85. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (83)
86. David West, PF, IND (85)
87. Chris Kaman, C, NO (92)
88. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN (97)
89. Mo Williams, PG, LAC (95)
90. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (100)
91. Raymond Felton, PG, POR (128)
92. Brandon Knight, PG/SG, DET (90)
93. DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, TOR (91)
94. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, POR (66)
95. Isaiah Thomas, PG, SAC (84)
96. Jordan Crawford, SG, WSH (87)
97. Caron Butler, SF, LAC (94)
98. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (98)
99. Andre Miller, PG, DEN (101)
100. Corey Maggette, SF, CHA (NR)
101. Jason Richardson, SG, ORL (102)
102. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (107)
103. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, RFA (99)
104. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA (105)
105. Nick Young, SG, WSH (125)
106. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (109)
107. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI (117)
108. Samuel Dalembert, C, HOU (114)
109. Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, CHA (130)
110. Gerald Henderson, SG, CHA (103)
111. Devin Harris, PG, UTAH (106)
112. Darren Collison, PG, IND (89)
113. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (111)
114. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, ORL (112)
115. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (110)
116. Randy Foye, SG/PG, LAC (118)
117. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (120)
118. Kemba Walker, PG, CHA (113)
119. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR (96)
120. James Johnson, SF/PF, TOR (119)
121. Kenneth Faried, PF, DEN (121)
122. Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL (122)
123. Ekpe Udoh, C/PF, GS (NR)
124. Andray Blatche, PF, WSH (108)
125. Tayshaun Prince, SF, DET (126)
126. Derrick Williams, PF, MIN (NR)
127. Iman Shumpert, PG/SG, NY (124)
128. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, UTAH (NR)
129. Tony Allen, SG, MEM (129)
130. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (123)

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 players who aren't getting it done when there are plenty of viable options waiting on the waiver wire; I'm talking to you, Dorell Wright, Wesley Matthews, Darren Collison, Boris Diaw and whoever else is slumping at the moment.

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 young players whose playing time should increase down the stretch, along with some injured stars who are set to return to the lineup.

Youth Movement

Evan Turner, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers: Since joining the Sixers' starting lineup last week, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA draft has averaged a magnificent 17.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 0.8 steals in his past four games. After struggling to adjust to the pace of the NBA in his rookie season, Turner had shown glimpses of brilliance in 20-25 minutes off the bench earlier this season. Averaging 8.2 points, 5.6 boards and 0.5 steals in 23.8 minutes before the All-Star break, Turner's per-minute numbers suggested a breakout once he got an opportunity for increased minutes, particularly as a scorer and rebounder from the guard position. The opportunity is now, and Turner is taking full advantage. Fantasy owners should be running to the wire to grab Turner now that he's locked in as a full-time starter.

Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, Charlotte Bobcats: Biyombo still has a ton of work to do before he's able to offer much on the offensive end, but he's already a top-5 shot blocker as a 19-year-old rookie. He has 4.72 blocks per 48 minutes (second behind only Serge Ibaka) and is swatting 3.4 shots per game in 27.5 minutes over his past 10 contests. There is no doubt that Biyombo will continue to see 27-32 minutes per game for the Bobcats, who have the league's worst record at 5-34. Anything less than 8-10 boards and 2.5 blocks per game the rest of the way would be a major disappointment.

Ekpe Udoh, C/PF, Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race, so it should come as no surprise that coach Mark Jackson has named Udoh as their starting center for the remainder of the season. Though he is slightly more refined than Biyombo, Udoh is an incredibly raw prospect who should improve with experience. Averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four starts this season, Udoh offers plenty of value and upside for anyone in need of shot-blocking help this late in the season.

Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves: Typically, when we see teams giving young players additional minutes it's not because it makes their lineup stronger, but like Evan Turner, Williams is the second player on this list who is playing for a playoff contender. Williams has really stepped up his game in recent action, showing his athleticism down on the blocks and his versatility on the perimeter. Averaging 13.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 3-pointers over his past five games, Williams should continue to earn quality minutes off the bench as a leader of the Wolves' second unit.

Help is on the way

Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, Toronto Raptors: The Raptors must not be too worried about Bargnani's calf injury; otherwise, they probably wouldn't allow him back on the court given their 13-27 record. Bargnani suited up for just 19 minutes in his first game back since Jan. 25, but he should start to see more action as he gets back into game shape. Remember, Bargnani posted 22.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers with terrific percentages in 14 games prior to the injury, and he should pick up right where he left off once his minutes increase.

Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies: Those who have been patient with Z-Bo have to be happy about the positive reports coming out of Memphis regarding Randolph's potential return next week. That said, his owners might want to temper their expectations at first as the Grizzlies may take it slow with Randolph to ensure that he's healthy for their playoff run. At 23-16, the Grizzlies have been plenty successful without Z-Bo, so do not be surprised if they limit his minutes to 20-25 for the first two or three weeks after his return.

Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs: If his past three games are any indication, Ginobili is fully recovered from his oblique injury and ready to be a fantasy force down the stretch. With 15.7 points, 5.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 3.0 3-pointers in 26.0 minutes per game since his return, Ginobili only needs to stay healthy to justify his ranking at 54 in the Top 130 this week.

Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Denver Nuggets: Gallinari has already returned from an ankle injury that caused him to miss 13 games, but the Nuggets have been cautious, giving him just 21.3 minutes per game since his return. I'm not terribly worried about his minutes, as they will increase once he gets his game legs back, but with Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington playing so well, I don't think Gallinari is going to be as productive as he was earlier in the season. A potential Wilson Chandler return makes things even more complicated, so while I still like Gallinari down the stretch, I don't think he'll be the top-50 player he was in the first half of the season.

Raymond Felton, PG, Portland Trail Blazers: Felton wasn't injured like the rest of the players on this list, but he was abandoned by many fantasy owners after his demotion a few weeks back. Perhaps motivated by his stint on the bench, Felton returned to the starting lineup to post 13.0 points, 6.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 3-pointers over his past five games. That's much closer to what we expected out of Felton this season, and he should be picked up again if he was dropped in your league.

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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