Jimmy Butler and Paul George have a lot in common. Butler finished last season 12th on the Player Rater, while George was 14th. During the offseason, they each joined a talent-filled team. And now, just two spots separate Butler (17th) from George (19th) in average draft position (ADP).
With the value of these fantasy stars so similar, we asked our experts: Would you rather take Butler or George in your fantasy drafts?
Eric Karabell: I will take George over Butler. It's close, but I think playing with Russell Westbrook will help George actually score more than he did in Indiana, and of course he can hit about as many 3-pointers as he wants. While the Thunder also added Carmelo Anthony, he's just going to score. That's it. It's George and Westbrook.
The Timberwolves, however, are more balanced with a top center, underrated point guard and their own 20-plus scorer at small forward. Butler will get his numbers, but I think George will be getting more.
Joe Kaiser: The biggest thing Butler and George have in common this season is that they both join a new team that includes two other big-time scorers. So why do I believe Butler will have a better season than George? It comes down to usage for me. George ranked 23rd in the league in usage last season while playing on a Pacers team that had Jeff Teague and Myles Turner and not a whole lot else. So what's going to happen when he joins a Thunder squad that has Westbrook (42.5 usage, first in the NBA last season) and Anthony (28 usage, 17th in NBA), two players who need the ball in their hands all the time? I think George runs the risk of becoming the clear-cut third option in that offense, much like Chris Bosh did in Miami and Kevin Love did in Cleveland in recent years.
Butler, meanwhile, goes to play for his former coach, Tom Thibodeau, in Minnesota, where he could very well be the leading scorer and have the highest usage on a team that includes Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Teague. The other thing here is Butler is coming off the best season of his career, averaging more points, rebounds and assists per 40 minutes than ever before and recording an all-time high PER of 25.19. Meanwhile, George saw his points, rebounds and assists all drop per 40 minutes last season and has never recorded a PER above 21 in his seven-year NBA career. While it's reasonably close, I'm going with Butler over George every time in fantasy drafts this season.
Kyle Soppe: I love this question, as we are talking about a pair of high-usage players who join much stronger rosters heading into this season. While I like both, I'm slightly more skeptical about Butler's path to elite fantasy standing in 2017-18. From a roster construction point of view, I think PG gets the bump. Let's go back two seasons ... when everything was kosher between Kevin Durant and Westbrook. If we assign the top numbers across the board from that duo to Westbrook and the lesser numbers to George, we are still looking at a 23.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.0 APG season ... or, you know, the best season of George's career.
What about Melo, you ask? Sticking with the 2015-16 theme, could he not just absorb the 17.9 shots that Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters combined to average that season? I think there is equal reward and less risk when comparing George to Butler this season, as the youthful Wolves roster has a pair of players in Wiggins and Towns who are trying to establish themselves as stars in this league, something the Thunder don't have to worry about.