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Monday, April 1, 2013
Weekly Dish: April sleepers

By Brian McKitish
Special to

April is almost always the most difficult month to project in fantasy basketball. It's a month dominated by youth movements and shutdowns. Teams that are out of playoff contention will often decide to give their younger players more playing time in the season's final frame as they look to evaluate talent for next season. Conversely, teams that are locked into the postseason may give their star players some extra rest to help keep them fresh for the playoff run. These scenarios can be awfully frustrating (particularly in head-to-head leagues), but they also leave the door open with an incredible opportunity to find unheralded breakout players.

The Top 130

"Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2012-13 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses. "

1. Kevin Durant, OKC (1)
2. LeBron James, MIA (2)
3. Chris Paul, LAC (3)
4. James Harden, HOU (4)
5. Stephen Curry, GS (6)
6. Russell Westbrook, OKC (5)
7. Paul George, IND (8)
8. Dwyane Wade, MIA (7)
9. Kobe Bryant, LAL (9)
10. Kyrie Irving, CLE (NR)
11. Carmelo Anthony, NY (11)
12. Deron Williams, BKN (10)
13. Ricky Rubio, MIN (14)
14. Serge Ibaka, OKC (15)
15. Paul Pierce, BOS (16)
16. Al Horford, ATL (20)
17. Josh Smith, ATL (19)
18. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (18)
19. Damian Lillard, POR (17)
20. Larry Sanders, MIL (23)
21. John Wall, WSH (29)
22. Brandon Jennings, MIL (13)
23. Brook Lopez, BKN (21)
24. Jrue Holiday, PHI (24)
25. Jeff Teague, ATL (26)
26. Nicolas Batum, POR (28)
27. Mike Conley, MEM (32)
28. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (31)
29. Marc Gasol, MEM (NR)
30. Ty Lawson, DEN (12)
31. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (22)
32. David Lee, GS (27)
33. Tim Duncan, SA (41)
34. Al Jefferson, UTAH (35)
35. Blake Griffin, LAC (30)
36. Dwight Howard, LAL (34)
37. J.R. Smith, NY (39)
38. Kemba Walker, CHA (36)
39. Monta Ellis, MIL (37)
40. Tony Parker, SA (46)
41. Anthony Davis, NO (40)
42. Greg Monroe, DET (42)
43. Klay Thompson, GS (43)
44. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (51)
45. Roy Hibbert, IND (58)
46. Zach Randolph, MEM (44)
47. Greivis Vasquez, NO (33)
48. Ryan Anderson, NO (45)
49. Danilo Gallinari, DEN (48)
50. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (50)
51. Rudy Gay, TOR (57)
52. Jameer Nelson, ORL (49)
53. Tyreke Evans, SAC (56)
54. Wesley Matthews, POR (53)
55. Chris Bosh, MIA (54)
56. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (47)
57. Thaddeus Young, PHI (52)
58. Joakim Noah, CHI (25)
59. Luol Deng, CHI (64)
60. Spencer Hawes, PHI (103)
61. Andre Iguodala, DEN (61)
62. Jeff Green, BOS (76)
63. Chandler Parsons, HOU (62)
64. Jose Calderon, DET (63)
65. Tobias Harris, ORL (63)
66. Bradley Beal, WSH (NR)
67. George Hill, IND (55)
68. Moe Harkless, ORL (89)
69. J.J. Hickson, POR (70)
70. Carlos Boozer, CHI (71)
71. Gerald Henderson, CHA (90)
72. Steve Nash, LAL (73)
73. Goran Dragic, PHO (38)
74. Jeremy Lin, HOU (65)
75. Omer Asik, HOU (66)
76. Jamal Crawford, LAC (67)
77. Paul Millsap, UTAH (74)
78. David West, IND (77)
79. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (83)
80. Kyle Lowry, TOR (68)
81. Kenneth Faried, DEN (59)
82. Tristan Thompson, CLE (69)
83. Pau Gasol, LAL (87)
84. Mo Williams, UTAH (101)
85. Kawhi Leonard, SA (80)
86. Jarrett Jack, GS (82)
87. Amir Johnson, TOR (78)
88. Andrei Kirilenko, MIN (88)
89. Daniel Green, SA (84)
90. Nate Robinson, CHI (102)
91. O.J. Mayo, DAL (79)
92. Andre Drummond, DET (NR)
93. Kevin Martin, OKC (81)
94. Raymond Felton, NY (85)
95. Joe Johnson, BKN (75)
96. Tyson Chandler, NY (86)
97. Gordon Hayward, UTAH (91)
98. Evan Turner, PHI (93)
99. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (94)
100. Emeka Okafor, WSH (97)
101. Eric Gordon, NO (99)
102. Jonas Valanciunas, TOR (108)
103. Shawn Marion, DAL (105)
104. Reggie Evans, BKN (116)
105. Andrew Bogut, GS (110)
106. Manu Ginobili, SA (72)
107. Kevin Garnett, BOS (60)
108. Martell Webster, WSH (107)
109. Jerryd Bayless, MEM (122)
110. Vince Carter, DAL (113)
111. Dorell Wright, PHI (115)
112. Derrick Favors, UTAH (123)
113. Derrick Williams, MIN (92)
114. Mario Chalmers, MIA (112)
115. Luis Scola, PHO (127)
116. Wesley Johnson, PHO (129)
117. Carlos Delfino, HOU (114)
118. C.J. Miles, CLE (NR)
119. Brandon Bass, BOS (NR)
120. Jason Terry, BOS (121)
121. Devin Harris, ATL (119)
122. Wilson Chandler, DEN (NR)
123. Tony Allen, MEM (126)
124. Trevor Ariza, WSH (117)
125. Josh McRoberts, CHA (120)
126. Andre Miller, DEN (130)
127. Brandon Knight, DET (NR)
128. Brandan Wright, DAL (NR)
129. Jimmy Butler, CHI (NR)
130. Beno Udrih, ORL (NR)

With that said, let's take a look at some players who fit the above criteria and have the upside to break out in the season's final month:

We'll start with Andre Drummond, who returned to action Friday night after missing 22 games with a back injury. Drummond is a per-minute warrior, averaging a brilliant 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.7 blocks in just 19.7 minutes per game. In his first game back, he put up a 17-point, 2-steal, 2-block game in 19 minutes. The 24-49 Detroit Pistons are expected to let Drummond loose as the season winds down, which makes him a must-add for the stretch run. Drummond's upside is absolutely off the charts if he's able to secure 25-30 minutes per game.

The Utah Jazz are still fighting to hold onto the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, but that doesn't mean that Derrick Favors can't find a way to earn additional minutes in the season's final month, particularly with Enes Kanter likely out for the year. He has been terrific in recent action with 9.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.8 blocks in just 22.6 minutes over his past five games. Favors is a dynamic talent when he's getting minutes, and he'll be a big force in boards and blocks the rest of the way now that Kanter's injury has cleared some room for additional playing time.

We spoke about Jonas Valanciunas last week, but it looks like the fantasy community has been a little slow to react to his breakout, as evidenced by the fact that he's owned in just 41.2 percent of leagues. With 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 69.6 percent from the floor over his past 10 games, Valanciunas needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues at this point. Expect him to continue to post big numbers as his minutes should remain stable the rest of the way.

As the debate over Derrick Rose's potential return continues, Nate Robinson is quietly on fire with 16.1 points, 6.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.2 3-pointers in the month of March. Robinson has always been a streaky player who can be incredibly valuable in the fantasy game when he has it going. And he sure has it going right now. On Saturday, Robinson went 7-for-7 from the 3-point line, finishing with 25 points and six assists on the day. Oh, and he's also shooting 56.3 percent from the floor over his past 10 contests. Rose's status is still much of a mystery, and Robinson should continue to pay major dividends at least until Rose is back on the court.

If Robinson is already taken in your league, Jerryd Bayless might be a nice consolation prize. Bayless is another high-upside, instant-offense type of player who's getting hot at the right time for the Memphis Grizzlies with 17.2 points, 4.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 3-pointers over his past five games. His quality play has earned him some additional run in the Grizzlies rotation, and Bayless should prove to be a quality pickup option for the duration of the season.

I hesitate to get too excited about Wesley Johnson's 15.0 points, 1.4 steals and 2.6 3-pointers over his past five games, but he is exactly the type of player described in the intro who has the potential to come out of nowhere to have a big month of April. With the 23-51 Phoenix Suns in full youth movement mode, fantasy owners need to give Johnson a look, particularly now that he's gotten hot from downtown. Johnson has underperformed in his short career, but he still has some talent, and he should continue to put up numbers as long as he's seeing 30-plus minutes per game.

Brandan Wright has quietly become a viable fantasy option, posting 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 24.4 minutes per game over his past 13 contests. His solid play has earned him some additional run in Rick Carlisle's rotation, and you can bet that Carlisle will continue to roll with the hot hand with the Dallas Mavericks only two games back for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Roy Hibbert doesn't truly fit into the theme of this article, but he has had an absolutely disastrous season on the offensive end, averaging 11.4 points while shooting just 43.6 percent from the floor on the year. How a 7-footer can shoot sub-45 percent is beyond me, but the big man has suddenly found his touch and is shooting 47.9 percent from the floor in 13 games this month. His improved efficiency on the offensive end has given head coach Frank Vogel an opportunity to increase his minutes in recent action. Hibbert has responded well with 19.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over his past five contests. Hibbert owners have endured a long season, but it looks like the big man is peaking at the right moment, and he should be able to give his owners a nice boost in points, boards and blocks for the stretch run.

We'll finish things off this week by taking a look back at the best pickups and my top 5 most underrated players for the month of March:

1. Spencer Hawes, C/PF, Philadelphia 76ers: 51.0 FG%, 84.2 FT%, 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 blocks.

2. Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Orlando Magic: 43.1 FG%, 76.8 FT%, 16.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 3-pointers.

3. Jeff Green, SF/PF, Boston Celtics: 47.2 FG%, 80.6 FT%, 16.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 3-pointers.

4. Maurice Harkless, SF, Orlando Magic: 46.4 FG%, 57.1 FT%, 13.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 0.9 blocks, 1.2 3-pointers.

5. Gerald Henderson, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats: 47.2 FG%, 83.9 FT%, 20.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 3-pointers.