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Fantasy Basketball Steal Specialists - Draft Targets


Of the two defensive categories in mainstream fantasy basketball, steals are a bit more readily available as opposed to its counterpart, blocks. This stat is usually found in backcourt players and even with more athletic forwards. There have even been legendary centers such as David Robinson or Hakeem Olajuwon who often were amongst the league leaders in this category as well. The thing is, there are players that are not always known necessarily as ‘great’ defenders, but find a way to fill this category, let’s say a  player like James Harden (2.0 a night in 2018-19). These players often gamble on the defensive and can do so when your team either has the ability to rotate to make up for the misses and/or have an elite rim protector like Clint Capela.

Either way, filling this category is much easier than searching for blocks, but there are still the players that are considered ‘steal specialists’. Unlike with blocks, players who rack up steals often add to other categories which have them bring more of an all-around value to your club, but for the sake of this article, let’s look at players that provide elite numbers of steals, but sometimes, not much else, that can make these players slide in drafts.

Amongst the league leaders last season in the steals department, players like Paul George, James Harden, Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler to name a few, these players are not necessarily selected for ‘steals’ but rather their complete package. So, let’s dig deeper.

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Marcus Smart - G, Boston Celtics

(1.8 steals a game) – Smart is one the leagues toughest and peskiest defenders. He is a guy you would rather have on your team rather than play against. Last season he actually provided a solid all-around season on top of his elite steals. Smart upped his shooting split to career-highs of (.422/.364/.806).

With this, he has quietly become a must-own player in category leagues and will not hurt your team as much with his past dreadful shooting percentages. Throw in 2.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 triples a night, Smart is definitely someone to look at in later rounds to up your thieving numbers.

 

P.J. Tucker - F, Houston Rockets

(1.6 steals a game) – We have another bruising player on the list here with P.J. Tucker (we are beginning to see a trend with this hustle stat). Tucker does most of the dirty work for the run-and-gun Rockets and it begins with his elite defense. Tucker plays most of his minutes as an undersized power forward (listed at 6’6”, but tipping the scales at 245lbs) and even plays minutes the five in his club’s small-ball lineups.

Tucker is your prototypical 3-and-D type player as he adds 1.8 makes from three a night. Tucker is an Ironman as well missing just eight games over his last eight seasons, so pencil in 80 games next season for this grinder.

 

Mikal Bridges - F, Phoenix Suns

(1.6 steals a game) – Bridges was one of the few bright spots in Phoenix last season as the rookie came into his own as another 3-and-D stud with a bright future ahead of him. There was a logjam at the forward spots last season for the Suns, but with the departures of T.J. Warren (Indiana Pacers) and Trevor Ariza (Sacramento Kings), we can expect Bridges to take another step in his second campaign.

We can easily see Bridges get minutes in the lower 30’s and we can see him provide numbers similar to what Ariza did with the Rockets just a couple of seasons ago. There will still be some bumps in the road for the young wing this season, but the future is looking bright in the land of the Suns.

 

Larry Nance Jr. - F, Cleveland Cavaliers

(1.5 steals a game) – Nance Jr. provides a unique skill set from the big man positions, but it seems he is always battling with injuries as he played just 65 games on average through his first four NBA seasons. He often gets mixed up in rotations as well, but when given the minutes, he seems to be able to pack the stat sheet, including providing elite steals from the power forward/center positions.

His per-36 numbers last season were eye-popping (12.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 makes from three). Not saying he will get those type of minutes, but pointing this out more to just imagine if and when he has a healthy season with a legitimate shot to stay in the rotation.

 

Tyus Jones - G, Memphis Grizzlies

(1.2 steals a game) – Jones seems to always be on the cusp of becoming a reliable and consistent option in fantasy, but he looks to be back up for life kind of player. He did average 1.2 steals a night in just 22.9 minutes a night (second-lowest minutes per night in the top-40 steals leaders in 2018-19). Now in a Grizzlies’ uniform, Jones will be the primary backup to rookie JA Morant and we will surely see lineups featuring both guards. With saying this, Jones Is definitely worth a look in deeper formats as he also provided a solid 4.8 assists last season.

These are just a handful of standout ‘steals specialists’ and there are many more, but these above-noted players often slide in drafts and can be a welcome addition in category formats. Steals are often a category that gets overlooked, but grabbing a couple of lesser-known players later drafts could make quite the difference as your fantasy dream team comes together this year.

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