Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.
Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's André Snellings, Jim McCormick, Kyle Soppe and Joe Kaiser.
Devin Booker is expected to miss the next 2-3 weeks due to a strained adductor. Who do you expect to pick up the slack in his absence?
André Snellings: TJ Warren is the most likely player to pick up the scoring slack while Booker is out. Warren has proven himself capable of heavy scoring volume, he just hasn't been able to do it consistently. However, with no other volume scorers on the Suns, and a gameplan that relies on the wings to generate points, Warren will be given every opportunity to put a lot of points on the board over the next 2-3 weeks.
Outside of Warren, though, there are some other interesting dynamics at play that could produce some other short-term stars -- though predicting exactly who is difficult. The Suns have been splitting their point guard minutes between Tyler Ulis and Mike James, with Ulis starting and playing more minutes of late. However, that seemed to be due, in part, to uncertainties over James' status with the team due to a unique two-way deal that expired on Wednesday. That said, James did get his extension, and this season he has proven to be better able to handle a bigger scoring load than Ulis (even though Ulis did have periods of high production last season). Either or both could step up with Booker out, with James as the more likely candidate.
The Suns have also been tinkering with their big-man rotation in recent weeks. Greg Monroe, Alex Len, Tyson Chandler and Marquese Chriss have all had games as starters, games off the bench, and games of DNP-CD during this exploration phase. This makes it difficult to rely on any of them. Of the group, Monroe is the best scorer and Len has shown the best combination of scoring and big-man skills, so either of them could also step up in Booker's absence.
Finally, there's the question of which wing actually replaces Booker in the rotation. Troy Daniels is more of a professional scorer, while Jared Dudley is a veteran who could expand his usage -- though most likely not to any kind of volume. Josh Jackson is the most intriguing option, though, as the raw lottery rookie who needs playing time to develop, even if he doesn't really have the skill-set to replace Booker's production.
All told, there will probably be several Suns that increase in value in the short term with Booker out, with Warren, Monroe, James, Len and Jackson as the most-intriguing options to watch.
Jim McCormick: Booker ranks 19th in the league in usage rate (minimum 15 MPG), so his absence certainly creates a significant offensive void for the Phoenix rotation -- so much so, there may be enough for more than one player to grab a piece of this now-missing pie.
Tyler Ulis should enjoy the largest leap in usage with Booker sidelined. He's handled 24.7 percent of the Suns' plays when Booker hasn't been on the court, with a team-high surge of 4.8 percent in usage. Additionally, Ulis's career per-36 rates have resulted in 13.6 PPG, 7.1 APG and 1.6 SPG. That's real value in fantasy leagues of 12-plus teams.
Using previous DFS results can also be telling. Case in point, Marquese Chriss enjoys the biggest boost in fantasy points per minute on DraftKings when Booker takes a seat, along with his team's highest offensive rating (115.8) in such scenarios.
Kyle Soppe: This was a limited offense with Booker in the mix, so there is definitely potential for some ugly games the rest of December. That said, even bad NBA teams are going to score and thus offer at least some fantasy intrigue.
For me, this is an opportunity for Mike James to establish himself as a deep league/DFS play. The Suns aren't going to change their offensive philosophy (tied for the most possessions per game) and James is quietly flirting with a top-50 usage rate in his near 22 minutes per game this season.
The Suns gave him good run this summer (33.1 minutes per game in Las Vegas) and, by averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 assists, and 2.9 rebounds this season in limited action, James has earned himself a look in fantasy leagues -- given his presumably-expanded role while Booker is out. What do you have to lose?
Joe Kaiser: It's a tough call, but I think it free up the Suns to basically try anything and everything without any concern of winning or losing, sort of like what Philadelphia did over the past four seasons. That means getting promising rookie Josh Jackson off the bench and playing him as much as possible, for one, but it also means running the offense through the team's next best scorer, TJ Warren.
Those two young forwards are the ones who will benefit most while Booker and his nearly 19 shots per game are sidelined. Trust another process?