All Devin Booker does is score, yet when you’re scoring like Booker has, does it really matter?
Almost every Fantasy pundit’s “It” player to begin the season, Booker made us (gladly including myself on this list) wait for more than two months before finally hitting his stride and playing like someone whose absence from the All-Star Game will be his last for quite some time.
Booker’s 33-point outing on Friday — capped by a sick game-winning jumper — marked his 15th straight game of at least 20 points, a run not seen by a first- or second-year player since Blake Griffin in 2010-11. He’s averaging 36.2 Fantasy points per game over his last 10 games, a number driven largely by his offensive output, a factor that is totally OK with me, so it should be damn giddy for you. Clear?
Booker is never going to be a stat-stuffer like backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe. However, Booker will be the type of player who could eventually win a scoring title. He doesn’t offer much beyond that sweet jumper and underrated vertical. Entering Saturday, Booker averaged 2.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and just under a steal per game, making him a possible third- or fourth-round pick if we did a midseason draft.
The Devil’s Advocate will remind you that Booker still cannot buy booze in most states (he turns 21 on Oct. 30) and has plenty of time to hone his game. I’ll give DA his due, but even if Booker’s all-around game peaks at four boards, four assists and a steal per game, he’s brimming on Fantasy star status. It’s far too early to hit Booker with a career comp, but if we wanted to go crazy and ponder his ceiling, it falls in the neighborhood of Alex English, who won a scoring title (1982-83) and averaged 21.5 PPG during his Hall of Fame career.
Booker and the Suns play four times this week, including a matchup that is one of the most Fantasy-friendly of Week 16, so he’s an obvious play. Had you tried in mid-December to trade for him, you might have nabbed him. Trading for Booker these days will be more costly, so brace yourself and ante up if you’re attempting to add high-end offense to your roster.
Tomorrow is Just a Trade Away
With the trade deadline (subtitled, Free Jusuf Nurkic!) fast approaching, a host of players are on the verge of getting extended playing time and significantly better Fantasy value. Ground Zero might be in Denver, where the Nuggets have placed everyone not named Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay or Jamal Murray on the trade block. If the Nugs do push the jolly candy red button and go fire sale, Murray would see his Fantasy value climb.
Murray has already seen his minutes increase, and while his game is in need of refining, the rookie swingman has shown flashes of his immense upside, scoring 18 points in 21 minutes during Friday’s win over the Bucks. He’s just one of several examples we’ll discuss here next week, as the unofficial guide to the remainder of the season is unveiled.
Best Fantasy-Friendly Games of the Week
*Clippers at Raptors, Monday: Even without Chris Paul and (possibly) DeMar DeRozan, this should be an up-tempo affair. Toronto is the fifth-highest scoring team in the league (109.2 points per game), with Los Angeles right behind them at 108.4. If DeRozan doesn’t go, place Norman Powell into your lineup. He’s filled in masterfully in the starting lineup, averaging 15.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 13 starts.
*Nuggets at Knicks, Friday: The return of Jokic (62 Fantasy points on Friday) makes the Denver attack more explosive as they visit Madison Square Garden and a New York team ranked 25th in points allowed per game. Keep in mind that while the Knicks may lack the Nuggets’ overall firepower, they will be welcoming a defense ranked 28th in points allowed. You know Carmelo Anthony will be up for playing his old team, yet this could be a good night for a healthy Kristaps Porzingis and the beast that is Willy Hernangomez, if coach Jeff Hornacek unleashes him.
*Suns at Rockets, Saturday: Houston has averaged 128 points per game in a pair of wins over Phoenix this season, but the Suns tallied an average of 113 points per loss. If there is a game this week with strong stack potential, it’s this one.
Best Matchups to Exploit
*Kyle Lowry (Raptors) at Timberwolves, Wednesday: Minnesota allows the fourth-highest field goal percentage in the league, playing right into the hands of Lowry and a Toronto offense ranked eighth in overall accuracy. While Ricky Rubio has played well for the T-Wolves (35.8 FPPG in his last five), Lowry averages 1.5 steals per game on a team that is third in that category and should rack up a solid stat line once the Raptors dictate the pace of the game.
*Andre Drummond (Pistons) vs. Lakers, Wednesday: Ranked behind only Hassan Whiteside (Heat) in rebounds per game, Drummond has stepped up his board prowess, averaging a league-best 15.6 rebounds per game over the last five. With the Lakers uncertain about giving rookie Ivica Zubac more minutes in favor of Timofey Mozgov, the stage will be set for Drummond to inhale boards against a team allowing opponents 44.1 rebounds per game.
*Blake Griffin (Clippers) at Hornets, Saturday: With a usage rate of 32.8, Griffin has become the Alpha and Omega of the Clippers since his return. Averaging 41 FPPG over his last five, Griffin gets a matchup against the Charlotte power forward timeshare of starter Marvin Williams and reserve Frank Kaminsky, neither of whom will be able to contain Griffin one-on-one. Both might be best served wearing a HELP! logo on their jersey.
Best One-on-One Matchups to Watch
*Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall (Cavaliers at Wizards, Monday): TNT will air this matchup between two of the top point guards in Fantasy hoops. Wall ranks eighth at the position, while Irving is 10th. Washington entered the weekend with a 17-game win streak at home, where Wall is a beast, averaging 24.7 points, 4.6 boards and 10 assists this season.
*Isaiah Thomas vs. Damian Lillard (Celtics at Trail Blazers, Thursday): Over the last 10 games entering Saturday, Thomas has been white-hot. He leads the league with 35.9 points per game during that span, more than a quarter more than second-place Steph Curry (28.3). Boston is seventh in points per game on the road and should light up the scoreboard against Lillard, who is still averaging 40.1 FPPG over his last 10 despite shooting less than 41 percent from the field.
*Anthony Davis vs. Karl-Anthony Towns (Pelicans at Timberwolves, Friday): Round 2 will see Towns looking to redeem himself after Davis floored him with a 45-point, 10-rebound haymaker during the Pelicans’ 117-96 win on Nov. 23. KAT was BAD, managing just nine points and 11 rebounds over 26 minutes of play. Davis has averaged 49.6 FPPG over his last five games, yet Towns entered Saturday having averaged 55.2 Fantasy points during the same span while shooting 55 percent from the field.
TEAMS PLAYING FOUR GAMES
Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pistons, Pacers, Heat, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Knicks, 76ers, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Jazz
TEAMS PLAYING THREE GAMES
Hawks, Nets, Celtics, Hornets, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Thunder, Magic, Raptors, Wizards
TEAMS PLAYING TWO GAMES