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Fantasy Basketball Category Studs: Blocks And Steals

Blocks and steals, the two defensive stats used in typical category leagues, may seem secondary but they are just as important to manage as rebounds or assists, and they should not be overlooked. Yes, it feels cool to grab all the guys who can score points and average double-doubles, but if you aren't rostering players on your team that can contribute in either of these defensive categories too, you're likely going to have to work harder than most in order to win on a regular basis. Punting one might be okay, but punting both is not recommended.

When it comes to either steals or blocks, the drop-off between the top players and the average player may appear small but it's quite a sizable percentage. Each stat has a relatively large variance from game to game, but at the same time, you'll find that the winning margin in either of these is often minimal. I can't tell you how many times I've seen my opponent beat me by just one measly steal or block. Every single one counts.

The players highlighted below are just some of the defensive studs who most definitely should be on your radar this season.

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Fantasy Basketball Studs for Blocks

Centers are a valuable position in fantasy hoops. They can help you out in so many facets of the game. Some can average almost 30 points per game. Some have no trouble getting you 10-15 rebounds per outing. Their field-goal percentages are usually top-notch. Then there are a select few who can even help you dominate your opponent with the blocks they provide. Anthony Davis is the ultimate example of this. So, besides the eight-time NBA All-Star in Los Angeles who averages 2.3 blocks per game, here are some other shot-blocking studs who can surely help you compete in what is often a critical category to win:

Rudy Gobert - C - Minnesota Timberwolves

Gobert had 137 blocks last season for the Utah Jazz, which was the second-highest total output in the NBA. He's consistently averaged at least two blocks per game every single year, other than his rookie season. Over the span of his career, he's averaged 2.2 blocks per game. The only real concern this time around might be his move to Minnesota, and being paired up with fellow big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Other than that, Gobert is about as consistent as you can get when it comes to blocking shots.

Myles Turner - C - Indiana Pacers

Turner has been one of the best shot blockers in the league over the past few seasons. Last year he averaged 2.8 blocks, and the prior year he averaged an incredible 3.4 blocks per game. The main issue is he doesn't get the volume because he seems to be battling injuries every season. However, on a per-game basis, you can't do much better than the Indiana center.

Robert Williams III - C - Boston Celtics

After locking up the starting position this past season, the fifth-year center averaged 2.2 blocks in just under 30 minutes per game. His 134 total blocks were third among all players, and his Per-36 Minutes average of 2.7 was also one of the best in the league.

Jaren Jackson Jr. - PF/C - Memphis Grizzlies

Triple J led the league last year in blocks, and it wasn't even close. His 177 total blocks were 40 better than second-place Gobert. He played in a career-high 78 games too, which certainly helped, but his averages were still incredible. Not only did he average 2.3 per game, but he also averaged 3.0 when looking at Per-36 Minutes. Unfortunately, he's currently set to miss several months this season due to injury, so we'll have to just wait and see if he can continue this strong showing when he returns.

Hassan Whiteside - C - None

As of this writing, Whiteside is still an unsigned free agent. He played backup to Gobert in Utah last year and averaged 1.6 blocks in less than 18 minutes per game. His Per-36 Minutes average of 3.2 was not even the best of his career. The veteran center also has a career average of 2.24 blocks per game and has shown to be a reliable defensive anchor when he gets the opportunity. Look to stream him in if he does end up getting minutes with someone this season.

Whiteside isn't the only player to monitor for minutes either. Players such as Daniel Gafford, Mo Bamba, and Mitchell Robinson all have shown to contribute sufficient block numbers when given the opportunity.

 

Fantasy Basketball Studs for Steals

Steals are much harder to predict. In fact, of the nine typical categories, steals have the highest variance not only from game to game but from year to year as well. Popular podcaster Josh Lloyd recently presented a study showing the yearly correlation for each of the categories, using a sample size of the 184 players who were ranked in the top 250 for each of the past two seasons. It showed that steals had the smallest correlation. What that basically means is that a player's steals average is the least likely stat to remain consistent from one year to the next.

Now, because I'm here to point out who exactly is best in getting you steals, ignore that last paragraph. No, I'm only kidding, but use that information to at least temper your expectations. You can still make an informed decision based on historical data, along with current projections, for a given player. Some great steal guys are basically in the same situation as they were last season, so it's reasonable to expect similar results.

Looking at last year's results is fine, but check out career averages too. When you do that, you'll notice players who are way more consistent than others when it comes to getting you those juicy steals.

Just like with Anthony Davis mentioned earlier with blocks, we are just going to skip past the players with great steals averages that are being taken in the first few rounds for multiple other reasons already. This includes players like Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Tyrese Haliburton, and Dejounte Murray. Getting any of these guys is a great start to getting you the steals you need on a weekly basis. Digging a bit deeper though, the following five players are more or less steals "specialists."

Herbert Jones -SF/PF -New Orleans Pelicans

The second-year forward played in 78 games his rookie season and racked up a total of 130 steals (1.7 per game). That was good for third-highest in the entire league last year. Additionally, his Per-36 Minutes average was an even stronger 2.0 steals per game. With a plethora of offensive weapons in New Orleans now, Jones will have one job to do when he's on the floor: play elite defense. Look for his steals numbers to continue this season.

Marcus Smart - PG/SG - Boston Celtics

Smart is a great example of why looking at career averages can be beneficial. The Boston guard is a savvy veteran who has always played strong, solid defense. Last season, he averaged 1.7 steals per game and has a career average of 1.6 steals per game. He's been consistently reliable too, averaging at least 1.5 steals in all but one season since he's been in the league. Smart is not going to win you the category on his own, but his steady production will most certainly keep you in contention on a weekly basis.

Matisse Thybulle - SF - Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers forward has seen a slight improvement in each of his first three seasons, averaging 1.6 steals over his career so far. However, what really stands out is his Per-36 Minutes average, which was an impressive 2.5 steals last year. If he ever gets more minutes, he could easily lead the league in total steals. In the meantime, he's a very solid streamer when you need some steals late in the week.

Alex Caruso - PG - Chicago Bulls

Caruso was given more opportunity when he signed with Chicago last year, and his increase in minutes also translated to an increase in his steals output. In 41 games played, he averaged 1.7 steals. What's more impressive is that even though his minutes increased, his Per-36 Minutes average still ended up at 2.2 steals. With Lonzo Ball set to possibly miss more time to start the season, look for Caruso to continue getting some decent minutes this year. He may not contribute much in other categories, except perhaps some assists, but the steals numbers could still be there.

Gary Payton II - SG/SF - Portland Trailblazers

The Portland guard only averaged about 17 minutes over 71 games last season for the Warriors, but he still averaged almost 1.5 steals in those minutes. His Per-36 Minutes average was a whopping 2.8 steals. Now that he's in Portland, he could end up with more opportunity which would translate to some great defensive numbers. This should make him, at worst, a very solid steals streamer this season.

Other players worth mentioning here are Lonzo Ball, De'Anthony Melton, and Jordan McLaughlin. Though they may not get the volume this season (due to either uncertainty in minutes or missed time), their Per-36 numbers are high enough to include them in the conversation.

 

Fantasy Basketball Studs for Stocks (Steals Plus Blocks)

If you're looking to get more bang for your buck, you can also seek out the players capable of helping you in BOTH categories at the same time. Several studs that were already mentioned above, along with a few others, averaged at least one steal and one block per game last year. Jackson Jr. and Williams III just missed the list, each averaging 0.9 steals per game. The leader among these is Davis, who averaged 3.5 steals+blocks per game.

If you do in fact want to grab guys who help you out in both of the defensive categories, aim for the bigs rather than the guards. Forwards and centers with high block numbers can achieve decent steal numbers much easier than steal-heavy guards can get you enough blocks. Keep that in mind when streaming or trying to fill holes in your roster with your last one or two spots.



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