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Monday, April 30, 2012
Early Top 100 ranks for 2012-13

By Brian McKitish
Special to ESPN.com

Yet another fantasy season is in the books, and after the wild ride that was the shortened 2011-12 season, it's now time to start looking ahead to 2012-13. And what better way to do that than to take a preliminary look at the Top 100 for next season? Since much will change between now and September, these rankings will evolve throughout what promises to be an action-packed summer.

To complement the ranks, here are some players who have the potential to take their game to elite levels next year, along with some undervalued talent for the 2012-13 season.

Early Top 100 for 2012-13 season

1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC
2. LeBron James, SF, MIA
3. Chris Paul, PG, LAC
4. Kevin Love, PF, MIN
5. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA
6. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC
7. Deron Williams, PG, BKN
8. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL
9. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL
10. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTAH
11. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC
12. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL
13. Dwight Howard, C, ORL
14. Paul Millsap, PF, UTAH
15. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL
16. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL
17. Kyrie Irving, PG, CLE
18. Marc Gasol, C, MEM
19. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR
20. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI
21. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS
22. Ty Lawson, PG/SG, DEN
23. James Harden, SG, OKC
24. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM
25. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC
26. Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF, NY
27. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL
28. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC
29. John Wall, PG, WSH
30. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS
31. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS
32. Marcin Gortat, C, PHO
33. Steve Nash, PG, PHO
34. David Lee, PF/C, GS
35. Ryan Anderson, PF, ORL
36. Danny Granger, SF, IND
37. Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET
38. Tony Parker, PG, SA
39. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU
40. Ricky Rubio, PG, MIN
41. Kevin Garnett, PF/C, BOS
42. Andre Iguodala, SF/SG, PHI
43. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL
44. Mike Conley, PG, MEM
45. Marcus Thornton, SG, SAC
46. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS
47. Roy Hibbert, C, IND
48. Eric Gordon, SG, NO
49. Goran Dragic, PG, HOU
50. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA
51. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, BKN
52. Paul George, SF/SG, IND
53. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY
54. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL
55. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI
56. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG/SF, SAC
57. Luol Deng, SF, CHI
58. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA
59. Nicolas Batum, SF/SG, POR
60. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, DEN
61. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR
62. Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, MIL
63. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR
64. Kris Humphries, PF, BKN
65. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI
66. Tyson Chandler, C, NY
67. Nene, C/PF, WSH
68. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM
69. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI
70. Kenneth Faried, PF, DEN
71. Jason Terry, SG, DAL
72. Arron Afflalo, SG, DEN
73. Ray Allen, SG, BOS
74. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, UTAH
75. Ramon Sessions, PG, LAL
76. Wesley Matthews, SG/SF, POR
77. Nikola Pekovic, C, MIN
78. Jordan Crawford, SG, WSH
79. Jeff Teague, PG, ATL
80. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU
81. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET
82. Klay Thompson, SG, GS
83. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE
84. Isaiah Thomas, PG, SAC
85. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA
86. Andrew Bogut, C, GS
87. Evan Turner, SG, PHI
88. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE
89. Brook Lopez, C, BKN
90. Luis Scola, PF, HOU
91. Chris Kaman, C, NO
92. Elton Brand, PF, PHI
93. Raymond Felton, PG, POR
94. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO
95. Jeremy Lin, PG, NY
96. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, NO
97. DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, TOR
98. Derrick Favors, PF, UTAH
99. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI
100. Chauncey Billups, PG/SG, LAC

Taking the next step

DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Sacramento Kings: Some might debate the high ranking for Cousins, but there is no doubt that he finished the season as one of fantasy's premier big men with averages of 19.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in 32 games after the All-Star break. Most impressive about those numbers is that he did it all in just 31.5 minutes per game. Imagine what the 21-year old will do once he figures out how to stay out of foul trouble? Averaging 4.0 personal fouls per game, Cousins has foul problems that are not uncommon amongst young bigs, but he should improve in this area as he enters his third professional season.

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Many felt that Irving lacked the star-power qualities that typically characterize the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Boy, did Irving prove his doubters wrong. Boasting an impressive array of skills on the offensive end, Irving turned in a truly brilliant rookie season with 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and 87.2 percent from the line in just 30.5 minutes per game. I was overly impressed with Kyrie's talent and poise as a 20-year-old, and it would not surprise me one bit if he became a perennial first-round fantasy selection in the near future.

Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks: On the strength of his dominant steals and 3-point shooting, Jennings finished the season ranked 25th on our Player Rater when sorted by averages. But it wasn't just the steals and 3s that made this season so special for Jennings. Sure, he averaged 19.1 points, 5.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.0 3-pointers, but it was his improvements in field goal percentage (from .380 to .418) and assist-to-turnover ratio (from 2.03 to 2.50) that showed his maturity and improvement in just his third professional season. Some may think that Jennings might be nearing his ceiling, but he will turn 23 at the start of the 2012-13 season, and there is plenty of room for growth as he enters his fourth professional season.

Paul George, SF/SG, Indiana Pacers: We knew George had loads of potential after he flashed signs of stardom in his rookie season, and he didn't disappoint as a sophomore, posting averages of 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers with solid percentages in just 29.7 minutes per game. With numbers like those, as a 22-year-old in his second season, George has upside that is simply off the charts. He's essentially a Rudy Gay in the making, with the potential to be a better 3-point shooter.

Undervalued/sleepers for 2012-13

Al Horford, C/PF, Atlanta Hawks: A borderline top-25 talent when healthy, Horford suffered a freak pectoral injury that caused him to miss much of the 2011-12 season. He'll likely be undervalued heading into 2012-13, but savvy fantasy owners will remember that Horford had been an iron man of sorts, playing an average of 76.5 games per season in four years prior to this season's aberration.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: The "Manimal" may be undersized, but what he lacks in height, he more than makes up for with quickness, athleticism and energy in the paint. Faried has a motor that is almost unmatched among his peers. He fights for every loose ball, consistently beats defenders down the court and is adept at grabbing (and capitalizing on) offensive rebounds. His skills translate well on paper too, as he posted averages of 11.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 25.2 minutes per game after the All-Star break. From a fantasy perspective, Faried is essentially Paul Millsap-lite, minus the free throw shooting. Next year, with more minutes on the way, we may even be able to remove the "lite" from that comparison.

Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz: Hayward put to rest any questions about how his skills would translate at the NBA level with a spectacular sophomore campaign that saw him average a versatile 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 86.3 percent from the line in 34 games after the All-Star break. Just as he did during his collegiate career at Butler, Hayward uses a variety of offensive moves, including a silky smooth jumper and an uncanny ability to get into the lane where he can finish or draw fouls en route to the basket. Simply put, this kid can flat out play, and fantasy owners should be drooling given his age (he turned 22 in March) and upside.

Derrick Favors, PF, Utah Jazz: I hesitate to put Favors in such high regard without knowing what the Jazz will do in the offseason, but every time I watch the 20-year-old play, I can't help but think that he's going to be a future star in the NBA. His per-minute numbers appear to support that claim as he projects to be an elite rebounder and shot-blocker once he's able to secure 30-plus minutes per game. He averaged a productive 9.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 22.8 minutes in 34 games after the All-Star break, and will be a top sleeper candidate if he can carve out additional minutes in the loaded Jazz frontcourt.