Second-half bounce-back players

Evans among players who recovered from slow starts and could be 2014-15 steals

Updated: March 31, 2014, 2:58 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

Kudos to you if you're still reading fantasy hoops articles this late in the season. There are typically two types of readers at this point in the year: Those who are still in the hunt and those who are already starting to prepare for next season.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value for the 2013-14 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, OKC (1)
2. LeBron James, MIA (2)
3. Anthony Davis, NO (3)
4. Chris Paul, LAC (4)
5. Stephen Curry, GS (6)
6. Kevin Love, MIN (5)
7. James Harden, HOU (7)
8. John Wall, WSH (8)
9. Carmelo Anthony, NY (9)
10. DeMarcus Cousins, SAC (11)
11. Paul George, IND (10)
12. Serge Ibaka, OKC (12)
13. Al Jefferson, CHA (14)
14. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL (16)
15. Joakim Noah, CHI (17)
16. Blake Griffin, LAC (18)
17. Ty Lawson, DEN (20)
18. Isaiah Thomas, SAC (19)
19. Nicolas Batum, POR (25)
20. Kyle Lowry, TOR (27)
21. Damian Lillard, POR (22)
22. Pau Gasol, LAL (26)
23. Paul Millsap, ATL (30)
24. Rajon Rondo, BOS (23)
25. Goran Dragic, PHO (21)
26. Monta Ellis, DAL (28)
27. Rudy Gay, SAC (29)
28. Marc Gasol, MEM (24)
29. Thaddeus Young, PHI (35)
30. Kawhi Leonard, SA (63)
31. Trevor Ariza, WSH (32)
32. David Lee, GS (33)
33. Michael Carter-Williams, PHI (43)
34. Tyreke Evans, NO (72)
35. Mike Conley, MEM (40)
36. Brandon Knight, MIL (41)
37. Kemba Walker, CHA (37)
38. Deron Williams, BKN (34)
39. Dwyane Wade, MIA (31)
40. Russell Westbrook, OKC (15)
41. Eric Bledsoe, PHO (39)
42. Dwight Howard, HOU (42)
43. Nikola Vucevic, ORL (36)
44. Chris Bosh, MIA (44)
45. Klay Thompson, GS (47)
46. Tony Parker, SA (46)
47. Wesley Matthews, POR (48)
48. Josh Smith, DET (38)
49. Ricky Rubio, MIN (51)
50. Kevin Martin, MIN (49)
51. Jeff Teague, ATL (61)
52. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (50)
53. DeAndre Jordan, LAC (52)
54. Andre Drummond, DET (53)
55. Marcin Gortat, WSH (54)
56. Arron Afflalo, ORL (55)
57. Greg Monroe, DET (56)
58. DeMar DeRozan, TOR (57)
59. Kenneth Faried, DEN (79)
60. Jeff Green, BOS (58)
61. Victor Oladipo, ORL (59)
62. Jimmy Butler, CHI (66)
63. Bradley Beal, WSH (67)
64. Jodie Meeks, LAL (71)
65. Chandler Parsons, HOU (45)
66. Brandon Jennings, DET (64)
67. Spencer Hawes, CLE (65)
68. Tim Duncan, SA (60)
69. Gordon Hayward, UTAH (68)
70. Amir Johnson, TOR (101)
71. Zach Randolph, MEM (70)
72. Derrick Favors, UTAH (75)
73. Tobias Harris, ORL (62)
74. Paul Pierce, BKN (76)
75. David West, IND (69)
76. Lance Stephenson, IND (78)
77. DeMarre Carroll, ATL (81)
78. Joe Johnson, BKN (84)
79. Wilson Chandler, DEN (73)
80. J.R. Smith, NY (82)
81. Jose Calderon, DAL (83)
82. Anderson Varejao, CLE (99)
83. Trey Burke, UTAH (87)
84. Jamal Crawford, LAC (89)
85. Eric Gordon, NO (77)
86. Luol Deng, CLE (80)
87. D.J. Augustin, CHI (93)
88. Robin Lopez, POR (88)
89. Nikola Pekovic, MIN (74)
90. Tyson Chandler, NY (95)
91. Taj Gibson, CHI (96)
92. Dion Waiters, CLE (107)
93. Randy Foye, DEN (122)
94. Avery Bradley, BOS (114)
95. Jameer Nelson, ORL (85)
96. Markieff Morris, PHO (102)
97. Kyle Korver, ATL (86)
98. Gerald Green, PHO (110)
99. Daniel Green, SA (113)
100. Ersan Ilyasova, MIL (100)
101. Andrew Bogut, GS (97)
102. Amare Stoudemire, NY (119)
103. Roy Hibbert, IND (105)
104. Terrence Jones, HOU (116)
105. Manu Ginobili, SA (106)
106. Mario Chalmers, MIA (108)
107. Alex Burks, UTAH (98)
108. Terrence Ross, TOR (94)
109. Patrick Beverley, HOU (109)
110. Jared Sullinger, BOS (92)
111. Kyrie Irving, CLE (13)
112. Ramon Sessions, MIL (120)
113. Matt Barnes, LAC (112)
114. Tony Wroten, PHI (91)
115. Jarrett Jack, CLE (NR)
116. Shaun Livingston, BKN (125)
117. Kendall Marshall, LAL (104)
118. Khris Middleton, MIL (111)
119. Enes Kanter, UTAH (124)
120. Reggie Jackson, OKC (NR)
121. Jeremy Lin, HOU (NR)
122. Vince Carter, DAL (126)
123. Gerald Henderson, CHA (NR)
124. Shawn Marion, DAL (NR)
125. Ray Allen, MIA (NR)
126. Kyle O'Quinn, ORL (130)
127. Gorgui Dieng, MIN (NR)
128. Drew Gooden, WSH (NR)
129. Jordan Hill, LAL (NR)
130. Nick Young, LAL (NR)

This week, we'll cater to both groups by looking at five second-half breakout players who underachieved in the first half and may be undervalued (due to depressed overall totals) heading into drafts next season:

Kawhi Leonard, SF/SG, San Antonio Spurs

Highly touted after last year's brilliant playoff run, Leonard got off to a slow start this season and struggled to live up to his average draft position of 49.1 for much of the campaign. But after returning from a 14-game absence due to a hand injury, Leonard has been one of the league's best and most efficient fantasy players since the All-Star break.

His averages of 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers with percentages of 51.9 from the floor and 90.2 from the line in 13 games since the break reminds us why some reached as high as the third round to nab him in fantasy drafts earlier this year. It is clear that Leonard is still the same player who wowed us late last season, and he should continue to put up huge numbers the rest of the way now that he's seeing 30-plus minutes per night in Gregg Popovich's rotations. Still just 22 years old, Leonard is a future fantasy superstar for those in keeper leagues, and could go as high as the third or fourth round in next year's drafts.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets

It's no secret that I've always been a fan of the "Manimal," but even I started to doubt him when he got off to a slow start earlier this season. Struggling to adjust to coach Brian Shaw's system -- and perhaps slowed by constant trade rumors -- Faried managed averages of just 10.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.0 blocks in only 24.7 minutes per game before the All-Star break.

But he has been a completely different player since the break, posting averages of 18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game over his past 18 contests. Now that's more like it. Faried is a fantastic fantasy player when he's earning decent minutes, and he should continue to dominate the rest of the way, especially now that J.J. Hickson is done for the year with a knee injury. Faried is a nice keeper option as well, partially because he's still just 24 years old, but also because he's a high-upside option with a low floor due to his amazing per-minute production.

Tyreke Evans, SF/SG, New Orleans Pelicans

Doing his best 2009-10 impression, Evans has been one of the league's best since the All-Star break, and has been even better in the month of March. With averages of 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 3-pointers and terrific efficiency over his past 10 games, Evans has become the main playmaker in New Orleans since Jrue Holiday's injury.

Evans is a safe bet to finish the season strong, but is he doing enough to solidify his keeper status for next season? Holiday's return will certainly complicate matters; however, Evans is proving that he can still recreate his rookie-season magic if put in the right situation.

Amir Johnson, PF/C, Toronto Raptors

After posting just 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 28.6 minutes per game prior to the All-Star break, Johnson has exploded for 15.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 34.3 minutes per contest in March.

We've seen Johnson go on hot streaks like this before, only to fade into obscurity a few weeks later. But with only four weeks left in the season, he looks like a solid bet to continue to perform at a high level the rest of the way.

However, I'm not completely sold on Johnson as a keeper. He's been incredibly inconsistent over his eight-year career, and while he's had some promising stretches, he hasn't yet been reliable over the course of a full season. He'll continue to be a high-risk, high-reward option at the end of fantasy drafts next season.

Derrick Favors, PF/C, Utah Jazz

Favors doesn't exactly fit the theme of second-half breakouts, but of all the players who underachieved this year, Favors hurts me the most. Averaging a modest 12.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on the season, Favors currently ranks 69th on our Player Rater (which isn't too far off from his ADP of 62.2). But let's be honest: Most of us were expecting much more from the 22-year-old center. In fact, I had him penciled in for 15 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks per game, and maybe he'd be reaching those numbers if he were playing 35 minutes per game instead of 30.

Favors has given us reason for optimism -- such as Sunday's 28-point, 10-rebound effort against the Spurs -- but it's clear that he still needs a little work on the offensive end before he's ready to be considered an elite fantasy option. He certainly has all of the physical tools to make good on his promise, and he'll be on my list of breakout candidates once again next season.

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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