This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Welcome to the latest edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. All season long, our staff of experts will convene once a week to answer a set of questions about what's happening around the league, both in fantasy and reality.
This week, we dive into Jimmy Butler's trade request, injuries to star guards, auction draft strategy, and more.
1. With Jimmy Butler requesting out of Minnesota, which of the three teams on his list makes the most sense as a potential trade partner?James Anderson: This situation is fraught with complications – most notably that the GM/coach, who should be acting in the organization's best long-term interests is also fighting for his job. Ideally, he would target a package centered around either Kevin Knox or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but I could also see Thibs taking a win-now, veteran-heavy package if he has final say. I think all three teams will be about equally willing to trade for him, so it comes down to fit. Only one of those teams has Joakim Noah – so it's gotta be the Knicks. If a competent GM is running things, I'd aim for a Tobias Harris/Gilgeous-Alexander package and would settle for just getting something like Gilgeous-Alexander plus Danilo Gallinari.
Nick Whalen: No two trades are the same, but in the wake of deals involving DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George and Butler, himself, in recent seasons, it's tough to gauge what kind of return value a player nearing the end of his contract will command. Of course, the assumption here is that Butler would be willing to sign a five-year max with the Clippers, Knicks or Nets, but that's a massive commitment – both in dollars and years – to a player who turns 30 next fall and has an injury history. Regardless, the Clippers make the most sense to me as a trade partner. They can offer a mixture of young and established assets, which is what I think Thibs will seek as he attempts to keep Minnesota competitive in the short term.
Alex Barutha: I don't think Brooklyn or New York have the assets to create a cohesive deal, so I'm giving the nod to the Clippers. They could hand over a package like Tobias Harris and Lou Williams, which would Minnesota a young player worth investing in and a veteran to bolster their thin bench and keep them competitive this season. The Clippers would end up with Butler and a ton of cap room for 2019 free agency.
Ken Crites: All three teams should have plenty of cap room to max out Butler. But how does he win with either of those squads? I would think the Knicks, with Porzingis, would be the most appealing to Butler, but what can they trade other than picks to get him? Frankly, this list is for personal reasons that are different than winning – at least in the immediate future.
Alex Rikleen: The Doc-Thibs connection makes me think that the Clippers are the most likely landing spot. We've seen plenty of trades facilitated by those types of preexisting relationships. I've also read some plausible scenarios in which the Suns get involved as a facilitator, and their desperate dearth of point guards makes them a natural partner for the Clippers. In terms of fit, the Nets are the only one of the three teams on Butler's list that can claim to have any kind of discernible identity, and sure, Butler would fit there.
Jeff Edgerton: Despite landing on his wish list, I don't see the Knicks or the Nets in Butler's future. The Clippers make the most sense to me. He'd at least be in a larger market on a team that's closer to winning.
2. If Minnesota trades Butler to a team not on his list, where do you think he could land?Anderson: Miami. I think Denver and Toronto make the most common sense, but I don't think Thibs will go for the youth-centered packages they'd offer. I could see him being pretty into a James Johnson plus Josh Richardson package, and I think Butler would fit in perfectly with the Riley/Spoelstra culture of toughness.
Whalen: This is tough because it's clear Butler wants to be the man wherever he goes, but it's also pretty clear at this point that he can't be the best player on a serious title contender. On paper, Miami or the Lakers probably make the most sense, but I'm really enamored with the idea of the Raptors offering something like OG Anunoby and Delon Wright or Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and a pick for Butler's services. They'd be going all-in on a pair of expiring stars in Butler and Kawhi Leonard – and parting with Anunoby would be an especially massive pill to swallow – but adding Butler to that team would make Toronto a legitimate challenger to Boston in the East – even if just for a year.
Barutha: Boston, Washington, and Portland come to mind. Just based off total assets, the Celtics would have a great shot, and staying in Boston would put Butler in championship contention for a long time. Washington and Portland – both have a limited financial flexibility and have underperformed – could go the Raptors route, trading some committed money for a one-year run. Even if Butler left after one season, the teams would be in a better position to retool or rebuild.
Crites: While Boston has the assets, I don't think they want to mess with their winning chemistry. So who's close enough to winning big this season to go for the one-year rental? How about the 76ers packaging Markelle Fultz or Robert Covington and a late first rounder for one year of Butler?
Rikleen: The only way I'd see him going somewhere else is if the trade doesn't happen until midseason. In that case, it's way too soon to speculate on where.
Edgerton: History tells us that this initial wish list doesn't mean much. Kyrie's initial wish list last year didn't even include the Celtics, but look what happened there.
3. Do Russell Westbrook and Devin Booker's recent surgeries change your opinion about them as fantasy commodities?Anderson: Yes, of course. I don't anticipate ending up with either guy in a redraft league. There are just too many similarly talented players going in those ranges/dollar values that don't come with significant injury risk.
Whalen: I'm a little more concerned about the cumulative effect of Westbrook's procedure, given that he's had trouble with that same knee in the past. But on the whole I'm not ready to drop him down my board until it looks like he could miss more than a game or two to begin the year.
Barutha: For dynasty, I might have concerns about Westbrook considering his playstyle and that he's entering his age-30 season. But neither injury sounds serious and doesn't really change where I'd draft either player.
Jeff Stotts: I'm downgrading both slightly. Westbrook's now had four surgeries on his troublesome right knee and has style of play only further elevates his level of risk. Booker's value is in his shooting numbers and any lingering effects from his hand surgery could impact his efficiency.
Crites: It seems like an injury to a player's shooting hand (Booker) should be a problem. Since we know he could miss a few early season games, yes, I drop him down a few picks. Westbrook has played 80+ games the last three seasons. I'm more confident he'll come back without any issues.
Rikleen: Westbrook, yes; Booker, barely. This is Westbrook's fourth surgery on the same knee. His style of play is so aggressive and so built upon his sheer physical and emotional forcefulness. It kind of makes sense that even his own body will someday succumb to that demand. He falls from my clear eighth overall spot (not roughly eighth, not sometimes seventh and sometimes ninth, always eighth) into in a fuzzy tier that now starts at eighth and ends roughly between 14th and 17th, depending on settings and my mood. I don't love that Booker's injury is to his shooting hand, but I'm not too concerned. He drops from I wonder if I'll regret ranking him directly below C.J. McCollum to directly below C.J. McCollum.
Edgerton: In terms of overall fragility, I would be more concerned about Booker than Westbrook, but not in this case. This is now the fourth surgery on Westbrook's knee, and while it isn't as serious as some of the previous operations, one has to wonder how much more the knee can take before it becomes a career-threatening problem.
4. Which player are you more confident in drafting this season: Devin Booker or C.J. McCollum?Anderson: McCollum should have the slight edge in FG%, steals and games played, but despite my answer a couple questions ago, I'll take Booker because I think he'll have the edge everywhere else and will offer a significant edge in PPG and APG once he's fully healthy. I don't mind plugging in a guy like Caris LeVert for a week or two to start the season if necessary. If it's a H2H league, it's Booker and it's not all that close.
Whalen: Everything about how this Suns roster is constructed scares me. With that said, the fact that they somehow still don't have a point guard could end up working in Booker's favor. They're going to acquire someone at some point, but the season is less than a month away, and if they can't get their hands on a decent veteran before mid-October, Booker will likely be the guy, which should result in an assists bump. McCollum is the safer option, though.
Barutha: Booker. He's about five years younger and was similar in terms of fantasy production last season. There's a greater chance Booker takes a step forward this season than McCollum, which could make up for the fact that McCollum has missed five games in three years, compared to Booker's 38 missed games over that same period.
Stotts: I'm going to go with McCollum because he's proven to be a more consistent, reliable fantasy option. Booker's injury only strengthens this argument.
Crites: I'm going to pick McCollum for pure health reasons. McCollum has played 80, 80 and 81 games the past three years. Booker is coming off an injury. I'll go the boring route, which might put me in the minority.
Rikleen: McCollum. I had these players neck-and-neck before the Booker injury, so the injury makes for an easy tie-breaker. I'd rather own someone who already had a top-30 season than someone who we just expect will get there someday. Also, I want as little association with the Suns as possible. I'm probably not going to own either anywhere though, since I'm pretty far below the market on both.
Edgerton: I would lean toward Booker.The Lillard/McCollum pendulum swings too wildly for my tastes, and as a former McCollum owner, I found the variance to be rather frustrating. I think the Suns will be much improved this year and Booker has a reliable floor with explosive potential.
5. Which player(s) typically ranked 30th or lower do you think could become a top-25 fantasy commodity this season?Anderson: Rankings on different sites are all over the place, particularly in that range. I think Donovan Mitchell will become a top-15 player. I think Jamal Murray will become a top-25 player. So those are a few that may qualify.
Whalen: I really like Julius Randle's chances to blossom in New Orleans, but we'll see if he provides enough value outside of points and rebounds to climb closer to the top-25. Donovan Mitchell is probably a better answer. I think last season was just the beginning of what's going to be an incredibly productive NBA career.
Barutha: Gordon Hayward is probably a cop-out answer, but there's no indication he's limited in any capacity, and he was an All-Star in the loaded West two years ago. A better answer might be Khris Middleton, who I recently drafted at pick 34 in a mock, which I thought was a steal. His performances in the playoffs against Boston last year proved how dominant he can be at times. He's also likely to shoot even more threes in a Mike Budenholzer system.
Stotts: I think Kevin Love has a chance to return to a top-tier fantasy option. He's not that far removed from producing elite fantasy stat-lines and should see an increase in usage as Cleveland's top dog.
Crites: Jamal Murray is only 21 years old and is heading into his third season. There is plenty of room for improvement.
Rikleen: I see a ton of parity between roughly 16th overall and 46th overall. I've got a list of 16 players who I'm drafting outside the top-30 but that I think could become top-25. My favorites from that list: Myles Turner and Josh Richardson. Two lower ranked players who could make that leap: Lonzo Ball and Julius Randle.
Edgerton: Can we get some love for Lou Williams? He''s a difference-maker whenever he's on the court. My other candidate here is John Collins, who could be poised for a breakout year.
6. Which player are you more confident in drafting this season: Kyrie Irving or John Wall?Anderson: Kyrie, because he's entering his prime. I think he's a dark-horse MVP candidate, and despite what happened last year, I think Wall is the bigger injury risk and I think his prime years are over. Any edge Wall gets you in assists, steals and blocks, he'll give back in FG%, FT% and 3PTM – and Kyrie could average six or seven points more per game.
Whalen: Both players carry injury risks, but I like Wall's upside. Kyrie is going to be Kyrie, but the talent around him is going to prevent him from reaching his immense statistical season. If Wall can stay healthy for 70-plus games, I think he'll bounce back and reclaim his spot among the elite at the league's deepest position.
Barutha: It's a toss-up to me, but I'll lean Wall. He's not nearly as efficient as Irving, but he has higher upside as a passer and defender.
Crites: The injury risk seems pretty even for these two. I'm going to go with Wall because his team needs him more. Boston has plenty of lead scorer options – Washington does not.
Rikleen: Kyrie Irving. Irving has provided early-second round value the last two seasons, and in four of his last six. He missed significant time due to injury in the other two and still managed top-25 and top-55 value in those seasons. He does get hurt a ton, but when he's out there, I'm confident he'll be excellent. Wall's best seasons have all been late-second-round value, so the peaks he's shown are lower. Furthermore, Wall's injury seemed to linger throughout last season.
Edgerton: Despite last year's knee injury, I have to favor Wall. Irving will be productive, but Gordon Hayward's return could adversely affect Irving's output this season.
7. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone doing their first NBA auction draft, what would it be?Anderson: I'm going to give more than one. You have to enter with some loose dollar values of your own (RotoWire is a great source for custom values) – don't rely on the values on the host site. You also need to be extremely flexible. Every auction is different. You will get into a lot of trouble if you go in knowing you're taking a few players no matter the cost. Don't be afraid to buy the first guy nominated, but also don't be afraid to be the last person in the auction to spend money. It's all about value.
Whalen: Something I've learned the hard way over the years: Don't be afraid to spend big money early on. Owners can be (understandably) hesitant to put a dent in their budget within the first few nominations, but the high-dollar buys made early in the auction oftentimes end up looking like major bargains an hour later when owners who were too conservative start getting desperate.
Barutha: It's cliche, but every dollar counts. If you're conservative early and avoid overspending, you can get great value when everyone else is out of money.
Stotts: Have a flexible plan. It sounds silly but devising a plan on how you want to spend your money that allows for you to pivot if needed is always helpful.
Crites: Strike early to go after the superstar you want, then focus on the second-tier stars you want, without being distracted by the other shiny objects that come up sooner than your go-to guys.
Rikleen: Other than read my article? Go to the bathroom first. Seriously. You cannot afford to walk away from an auction draft for even a minute. Go to the bathroom and prep your draft station with whatever drinks and snacks you want to have with you. Be prepared to stay glued to your computer for a few hours.
Edgerton: Don't be afraid to go big on one or two elite players. Even if you're in a 14-team league, you'll be surprised at the kind of value you will get later on with $1 and $2 bids, especially when other owners are low on cash.