As one of the key categories for owners to consider, finding consistent production is a difficult task.
Only four players averaged more than two steals per game but to make matters more difficult, 62 posted at least one per night.
To illustrate how close the figures are between elite and average production, no player logged more than 175 steals last season, but 35 players posted 100 or more.
In league history, only seven players have averaged over three steals per game during the course of an entire season and the feat has been accomplished just 11 times.
Alvin Robertson was the last player to average three steals per game, posting 3.04 steals per game with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1990-91.
Ever since, the league leader in steals averaged less than 2.5 steals per game on five occasions.
The good news for fantasy owners is the top players within the category are mostly All-Star caliber.
There is plenty of depth for fantasy owners, but to secure the steals advantage each week, picking these 10 players early will go a long way.
*The graphs below display each players steal total in every game during the 2012-13 season and all are from NBA.com/stats.
1. Ricky Rubio– Minnesota Timberwolves
A torn ACL kept Rubio out of the lineup until Dec. 15, but in his first game back, he made his impact on the defensive end of the floor, recording three steals during his season debut against Dallas. The onslaught continued, as the 22-year-old totaled 10 games with five or more steals, swiping a season high eight passes in 34 minutes against Milwaukee.
2. Chris Paul– Los Angeles Clippers
Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in 2005, Paul has led the league in total steals and steal averages on five occasions. The six-time All-Star has led the NBA in steals per game, each of the past three years. Paul recorded a season-high seven steals against Atlanta and on six other occasions during the 2012-13 season, he totaled five steals in a game.
3. Mike Conley– Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies defensive attack, which allowed just 89.3 points per game, the fewest in the league last season, started with Conley jumping in passing lanes and harassing opposing point guards. In 80 appearances, Conley failed to steal the ball away just six times. Memphis posted a 12-1 record in the 12 games he registered four or more steals.
4. Kemba Walker– Charlotte Bobcats
In his second season, Walker morphed into a ball hawk. Charlotte’s point guard totaled 160 steals, exactly a 100 steal increase from his rookie season, as he started all 82 games. The 23-year-old posted a career-high eight steals during a victory against Dallas. The Bobcats have ranked last in defense during each of the past two seasons, but with continued improvement from Walker, that should change.
5. Monta Ellis– Dallas Mavericks
During his first full season in Milwaukee, Ellis logged a career-high with 169 steals. The 27-year-old guard never stole more than six passes in a game last season, but finished 11 contests with five or more steals. Part of of his success was based on his playing time, for the third time in his career, Ellis was on the court for more than 3,000 minutes during a season.
6. Paul George– Indiana Pacers
The increased expectations placed on George didn’t come just on the offensive end of the floor. As the only player on the Pacers roster with over 100 steals, totaling 143 on the year, George’s play on the perimeter helped Indiana become the top defensive team in the league. George has totaled over 100 assists each of the past two years and for him to secure the maximum contract he’s seeking, becoming a lock down defender is necessary.
7. Dwyane Wade– Miami Heat
Wade has been one of the most consistent threats to steal the ball for the past 10 years. The 31-year-old has completed seven seasons with 100 or more steals and his career low total, 82 steals, came when he played just 49 games during the lockout shortened season. Last season, he finished with 128 steals, just one fewer than LeBron James, despite appearing in seven fewer contests than the league MVP.
8. James Harden– Houston Rockets
Houston needed Harden to be the team leader in every single way. Not only was he able to morph into an All-Star and one of the most explosive scorers in the league, his play on the perimeter was one of the few areas the Rockets were able to succeed defensively. The 24-year-old submitted one of his best performances of the year against Cleveland, totaling 29 points and seven steals during a 112-104 victory.
9. Russell Westbrook– Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook is expected to be on the court when Oklahoma City opens training camp in a few weeks fully recovered from the torn meniscus tendon that knocked him out of the playoffs after just two games. The three-time All-Star has posted 100 or more steals in each of his first five seasons in the NBA and totaled 25 games with three or more steals a year ago.
10. Thaddeus Young– Philadelphia 76ers
In the absence of Andre Iguodala, Young became Philadelphia’s most versatile defender, averaging one steal per 19.8 minutes per game last season. The 76ers have opted use Young as the primary defender on the oppositions best player, no matter the position and he responded, totaling 133 steals and registering a steal in 61 of his 76 appearances last season.