We find ourselves 16 days away from tip off which seems close enough to start dusting off those old draft manuals and updating some assumptions. My big assumptions going into the draft this year are the effects from all of the moves in the NBA (have you checked your phone in the last hour? You might have missed 2-3 trades).
Next up is the Hamburgler’s favorite - Steals
2016-2017 Steals per game leaders
Draymond Green (2.03)
John Wall (2.01)
Chris Paul (1.95)
Robert Covington (1.90)
Jimmy Butler (1.88)
- The first three: Draymond, John and CP3 I get (CP3 I’ll go into depth in the total recap), they make sense and I would expect more of the same from them. The bottom two are interesting. Robert Covington is excellent at stealing and would have been in the previous year if not for the overall numbers being up. Robert had 1.6 in 2015-2016. The issue here is playing time, with Ben Simmons stepping into a starting role, he will not get the starters minutes he was used to. Jimmy Butler is a career 1.5 steals per game player BUT he will now be on a Minnesota Timberwolves team that already has Andrew Wiggins at 1 SPG, and Gorgui Dieng at 1.07 SPG. He “may” fill into Ricky Rubio’s shoes (1.71) or they could tell him to concentrate his efforts on increasing their offensive production (which I’m inclined to think). I expect around 1.60 steals per game out of Butler this year.
2015-2016 Steals per game leaders
Stephen Curry (2.14)
Ricky Rubio (2.13)
Chris Paul (2.05)
Kyle Lowry (2.05)
Russell Westbrook (2.04)
-Consider this interesting factoid, all five of these players are higher than the best player (Draymond Green 2.03) the next year. Stephen Curry clearly dominated in 2015-2016 before taking a backseat the next year as Draymond Green stepped up from 1.47SPG to 2.03SPG and Kevin Durant joined going from 0.96 SPG with the Thunder up to 1.06 SPG with the Warriors. Ricky Rubio went down as Wiggins stepped up (and much like Butler the total of all Minnesota Timberwolves will be diluted due to the collective strength). His time in Utah will be interesting, I think either Donovan Mitchel or he will lead the team in Steals but the collective talent is clearly diminished without Gordon and Ricky might NOT increase. CP3 is the mainstay, expect him to continue to land in the top 5 even with Trevor Ariza by his side, CP3 as a vet will demand the court and chance for steals. Lowry is too inconsistent to as he drops down to 1.48 the next year and Russell Westbrook saw Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson eat into his steals and should expect Carmelo Anthony (0.86SPG last year) and Paul George (1.88SPG) to eat into his numbers this year.
2014-2015 Steals per game leaders
Kawhi Leonard (2.31)
Russell Westbrook (2.09)
Tony Allen (2.05)
Stephen Curry (2.04)
Chris Paul (1.90)
-Kawhi remains a respectable option for this stat as one of the best defenders in the league, he stays in the 1.75+SPG each year. Russell as aforementioned will see a hit this year, Tony Allen used to be THE elite stealer but age is catching up to the 35 year older who is now with the Pelicans. Curry will stay in the 1.0-1.50SPG and CP3 remains alongside John Wall as my predicted top two in steals per game this year.
Steals per game recap: Steals per game has stayed flat around 7.7-7.9 over the last 6 years. In some years like 2015-2016 it was more top heavy but the collective amount of steals is around the same. The reason Chris Paul is different from many of the other powerhouses is that he is a natural defensive player and assist player. To me James Harden and CP3’s games are complimentary and will not infringe upon each other due to the fact that James Harden is more of a pure passer and scorer, while CP3 is a defensive, stealer and passer. The potential conflict in passes is mitigated by the fact that CP3 is feeding the perimeter with James Harden, it’s an easier pass and something he can do in a fluid manner. Going beyond John Wall and Chris Paul, I think Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz remain the strong rookies to contend but they won’t be in the top 10. Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chance to pop into the top 5 as he continues to dominate in all facets of the game. Kyle Lowry could have a strong bounce back if Toronto doesn’t put everything on his shoulders.
Up next: Blocks!