Fantasy Basketball Trade Analyzer: Is it time to worry about Devin Booker?

Fantasy basketball managers are getting some troubling signals from Devin Booker early on. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Fantasy basketball managers are getting some troubling signals from Devin Booker early on. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

By Henry Weinburg, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The parity in the NBA right now is off the charts compared to recent years. Player performance hasn't yielded a ton of shocks, but it's a good week for probing the market. Don't be afraid to knock on some doors even if you're not in the mood to sell anything.

Trade Away: Devin Booker, Suns

Booker (calf) has been available for two of Phoenix's 10 games thus far. Fantasy managers with Booker as a top-two player on their roster could be in a slight hole already.

Booker was great when able to take the court, but his injury arc has been concerning. Starting with a sprained toe, then being diagnosed with a foot sprain and now dealing with a calf issue for a prolonged stretch, it seems that Booker's right foot/leg has not responded well to playing through the initial injury. It's always possible that Phoenix's injury report is partially semantics, but I find it more likely that Booker is suffering complications due to certain muscles compensating for the pre-existing injured ones.

The risk of reaggravation down the stretch feels extremely plausible. Fantasy-wise, I think Booker has enough value to be a worthy sell candidate. This is also a spot to high-risk-gamble if you want to acquire Booker. Either end of the spectrum is valid here. My first step would be to see if I can get a haul for him. Finding the deepest teams in your league and prying two or three quality rotation players for Booker is my preferred course of action.

If his current injury spirals into an Achilles diagnosis or he only plays 50 games in total, there are better assets that can be acquired, and now would be a pivotal juncture to strike. An Achilles issue can't be ruled out, given the region and progression of his injury.

Trade For: Buddy Hield, Pacers

Hield is only playing 22.9 minutes per game, but he's bombing away when Indiana lets him on the court. He's averaging 20.9 points on 18.4 shots and 13.0 3s per 36 minutes. Neither Bennedict Mathurin nor Bruce Brown have missed a game yet, so — with Mathurin also being the developmental priority — Hield simply hasn't seen the court at a reasonable rate. That should change moving forward, for a variety of reasons:

  • The Pacers acknowledge they should play Hield more because he improves the offense.

  • Increase his playing time for the Pacers to build trade interest before the deadline.

  • An actualized trade that puts Hield in a better spot.

He's only shooting 41.9% from the field, but he's still hitting 38.6% of his 3s. I'm buying stock. Hield is averaging 13.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game thus far.

Trade For: Andrew Wiggins, Warriors

Wiggins' stock is about as low as possible. The 28-year-old is 4-for-26 from beyond the arc and corralling a career-low 3.7 rebounds per game. Consistent efficiency can be a struggle for Wiggins, but he has a track record of starting hot and fading down the stretch. That hasn't been the case thus far. Wiggins missed about 30 games last season due to his father's ailing health, but it's unclear if he's dealing with off-the-court difficulties/hardships at the moment.

Wiggins is imperative to the Warriors, and I think his quality of play will improve. Given the size issues of Golden State's lineups, he's locked into an important nightly role as a defender and physically advantageous mismatch threat. Wiggins' usage and true-shot volume remain consistent with usage that yielded 17.1 points on 47.3/39.6/61.1% shooting last year. His free-throw attempts have increased from 1.9 in 2022-23 to 3.3 per game thus far, which might be more of a testament to his inability to draw fouls last year. Wiggins' 3-point clip in 2022-23 was a career-best mark, which perhaps sets the bar too high, but his shooting efficiency should certainly be on the rise from its current rate.

If you're stashing a player like Bojan Bogdanovic or Wendell Carter, flipping him for Wiggins is a deal I like. If you're mid-negotiations on a blockbuster, getting Wiggins as a throw-in has upside. Overall, I would rather have Wiggins than Brandon Miller, Saddiq Bey, Caris LeVert and Herb Jones (unless it's a category/roto league).

Trade Away: Gordon Hayward, Hornets

Hayward's usage rate of 23.2% tells you that he is shooting the ball or committing a turnover on nearly a quarter of Charlotte's possessions when he is on the court. It's the second-highest usage rate of Hayward's career since leaving Utah and ranks in the 80th percentile among all wings this season — above Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe.

Averaging 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 32.7 minutes per game, Hayward is one of just 14 players in the league to hit those thresholds this season. His offensive efficiency is in line with his normal rate, although his 3-point volume is at an all-time low. When Charlotte reintroduces Miles Bridges to the rotation Friday, Hayward will shift to off-ball duties more often. This makes Hayward's 3-point shooting a swing factor in sustaining his current scoring output. Hayward has averaged 17.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 91 games when sharing the court with Miles Bridges, so the duo is a very functional offensive pairing.

I'm not panicking to move Hayward, but I'm extremely willing to do so if I can get a comparable contributor in return. Hayward will simply have the ball in his hands less moving forward, especially when Terry Rozier (groin) returns from his ongoing multi-game absence. If I could cheaply stack Hayward and Bridges, that would also be interesting.

Durability is still an issue for the 33-year-old Hayward. Combining the return of Bridges with Hayward's failure to exceed 50 games played in each of the last three seasons, as well as the involvement of Brandon Miller, makes me willing to fade Hayward. Keldon Johnson is an example of a player in Hayward's tier whom I prefer.

Trade For: Jaren Jackson, Grizzlies

The 24-year-old is coming off back-to-back quiet games, so taking a quick buy-low stab just seems like a good idea. He's averaging career highs with 20.5 points and 5.7 free-throw attempts per game, so it will prove difficult. Acquiring Jackson would take a hasty sell from his incumbent fantasy manager.

However, the narrative in Memphis is still overwhelmingly negative, so it's a good buy-low juncture. The ethos appeals that Jackson will not post numbers like this once Ja Morant returns, or that Memphis will not push for playoff contention down the stretch, are leverage points to get Jackson.

Trade For: Walker Kessler, Jazz

Kessler is set to miss the next 1-2 weeks due to a UCL sprain in his elbow. The injury, combined with posting extremely inconsistent results, makes Kessler a buy-low. Critically, the injury was initially suffered on opening night, and Kessler played through it since, which could justify his volatile performance.

Across Utah's first eight games, Kessler supplied two huge double-doubles but four games where he failed to exceed five points or five rebounds. Once settled into a consistent role last year, Kessler averaged 12.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game throughout February and March. His block production was unsustainable, but flirting with nightly double-doubles was the expectation for Kessler entering 2023-24.

Operating with the fantasy playoffs in mind, Kessler's role should grow as the season progresses. He's a buy candidate even if he misses the next month. There is no guarantee John Collins will continue logging 31.1 minutes per game in a starting role, and it's possible that Kelly Olynyk's expiring contract could be traded by the deadline. Kessler blossoming into a bona fide rim protector is a huge swing factor in Utah's return to contention, so his development is paramount.

Utah was getting torched for 120.8 points per 100 possessions with Kessler on the court through eight games — representing a bottom-15 percentile grade in the league, per CleaningTheGlass. That is a stark contrast from the above-average 114.6 defensive rating Kessler yielded while on the court last season. The offense was far less crisp as well this season, dropping from a 117.2 offensive rating last year to a ghastly 102.0 offensive rating thus far in 2023-24. The league-average offensive rating this year is 112.8. Kessler needs a larger sample size for fair evaluation, but it's simultaneously unclear how much the injury could be to blame.

Kessler's efficiency, rebounding and shot-blocking make him a fantasy darling. His floor is extremely high if he regains his 2022-23 flashes.