Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are DFS expert Renee Miller and ESPN Fantasy's Kyle Soppe and Joe Kaiser.
LeBron James and Jimmy Butler rank 11th and 12th, respectively, on the Player Rater on a per-game basis. In points leagues, which player would you rather own going forward this season and why?
Renee Miller: This is really close, but what decided it for me was thinking about my response to a trade offer of James for Butler. I'm taking the James side. One key factor is that I think James and the Cavaliers make a priority of taking care of James' body. He's a lesser injury risk, and while he may have nights when he plays fewer minutes or rests, ultimately, I think you have a better chance of getting a full season out of him.
So far, however, James and Butler are both averaging 35 MPG. Butler has a slightly higher player efficiency rating (27.9 vs. James' 25.6), but James wins in usage rate (29.8), assist ratio (28.1) and rebound rate (12.2). Those peripheral stats add up in points leagues, and James is a legitimate triple-double threat, whereas Butler lacks in the assist department, averaging just 3.9 APG.
If you own Butler, I think you're very happy with his production so far this season, and his dual position eligibility is a plus. He's an energetic player averaging almost two steals per game and is a primary reason for the Bulls' current winning record. Overall, though, I'd prefer to own James, and you've got to be feeling good about getting him in the latter part of the first round.
While it's great for Cleveland to have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love around James, there is no doubt that this is still very much his team -- not to mention one of the best teams in the league -- and James' nightly stat lines prove it.
Joe Kaiser: As great of a season as Butler is having, which was no certainty heading into the campaign after Chicago's questionable additions of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Michael Carter-Williams, I'm still going with LeBron.
Both players are playing right around 35-36 minutes a night and, while they are similar statistically in almost every way, LeBron is the far superior distributor (9.3 to 3.9 APG) and that allows him to score 5-10 more fantasy points on a consistent basis.
Kyle Soppe: For me, It's James. Don't get me wrong, Butler is a fantasy monster and will continue to be so, but the high floor of The King makes him my pick here.
I imagine the argument against James is that he could take a hiatus at some point this season, but he has played more than Butler in three consecutive seasons and is actually averaging more minutes this season than the Bulls All-Star. They are neck-and-neck on the Player Rater right now despite James taking the fewest shots per game of his career (17.1), converting his free throws at the fourth-lowest rate of his career and averaging a career-low 1.6 blocks-plus-steals per game.
Butler, on the other hand, is shooting a career-best percentage from the field, from the 3-point line and from the free throw line (while attempting a career high in shots and free throws) in addition to averaging 10.3-percent more rebounds than he ever has. The stats seem to suggest that Butler isn't a great bet to build on his current numbers while James is unlikely to regress ... so no, I don't think Butler passes him when all is said and done this season.
Fantasy hoops: Jimmy Butler vs. LeBron James