To steal the ball once during a basketball game is already a difficult feat, as most of the players in the NBA don’t even do that on a regular basis. So how do we try to explain the guys who average more than 1.5 steals per game, or even more? How has Chris Paul averaged over 2.0 steals per game for his whole career?
Sure, getting steals isn’t as lively as a windmill dunk, nor is it as awing as a chase down block. However, steals are just as important and vital to the success of a team as anything else in a game of basketball. The steal is the essential piece of playing strong defense. The only thing more telling of good defense is getting a defensive rebound.
Steals give the team another chance to score, another chance to make the scoring deficit smaller, another chance to widen their lead. Some of the greats like John Stockton, Jason Kidd, and Michael Jordan have relied heavily on getting steals to make their offensive game easier. Playing the passing lanes, buckling down for tough-nosed defense, or pick-pocketing a player all come in to play when getting steals. Getting steals is no easy business, and our top 10 list shows the 10 steals leaders per game this year and their ability to play ball.
8 Monta Ellis, 1.78 SPG, Salary:$8,000,000
Monta Ellis signed with the Dallas Mavericks over the offseason to play number two to the star of the team, Dirk Nowitzki. This move made us all skeptical as Ellis was known to be a chucker in Golden State and in Milwaukee.
Now in Dallas, he's proving his worth. Averaging 18.9 points per game to go with 5.8 assists per game, Ellis is proving his worth to the Mavs. Add in 1.78 steals a game and Ellis proves himself as one of the better shooting guards in the league. Sure he's no Harden or Bryant, but his contributions to the team cannot be ignored.
7 Mario Chalmers, 1.79 SPG, Salary:$4,000,000
Super Nintendo Chalmers jumps in at number nine in steals and does it skillfully. Chalmers, best known for taking angry tirades from LeBron and Dwyane Wade, is constantly in the spot light for his ability to known down open threes and his undervalued defense.
At 1.79 steals per game, Chalmers shows his brilliance of being an on the ball defender and keeping his hands active off the ball. He commonly gets deflections by playing the passing lanes, leading to fast breaks, which leads to LeBron tomahawks. I can see why he doesn't get as much attention as he deserves.
6 Paul George, 1.82 SPG, Salary:$3,282,003
PG24 took a huge jump last playoff run, as he led the Pacers to a deep push into the Eastern Conference finals. He established his super-stardom and his ability to keep pace with players of the level ofLeBron James. This year, Paul George has the eyes of the whole basketball world on him as he leads the team with the best record in the NBA.
Averaging 1.82 steals per game, Paul George is leading his team by example. Combine that with 22.7 points per game, and 6.4 rebounds per game, Paul George has taken on a major role running the show in Indiana and bringing fans back to the seats.
5 Trevor Ariza, 1.84 SPG, Salary:$7,727,280
It’s probably been a while since anyone has thought of Trevor Ariza as a force to be reckoned with. After winning the Championship with the Lakers in the 2008-2009 season, Ariza became forgotten in the league.
After finding a home in Washington, Ariza is having a great year averaging 14.2 points per game, while draining 2.4 three-pointers per game. Add these to a strong 1.8 steals per game, and Ariza is proving himself as a great wing role player. With long arms and a strong defensive prowess, Ariza has found himself a nice spot in Washington and reminds us why he was one of the best defenders in the league only a few years ago.
4 Paul Millsap, 1.85 SPG, Salary:$9,500,000
Finally, Paul Millsap has been freed from the prison bars of Utah where he was forgotten behind big man Al Jefferson, and up and comers Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Now, in Atlanta, Paul Millsap is showing why he deserved to be an All-Star this year.
As one of the most under-valued free agent signings over the summer, Millsap is averaging a stellar 17.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.85 steals per game. He’s commonly forgotten now that he’s in Atlanta, but he has quietly put together the best year of his young career.
3 John Wall, 2.00 SPG, Salary: $7,459,925
This year’s Dunker of the Night and first time All-Star breaks through with the fifth spot on our list. Although he’s commonly criticized for his sub-par jump shot, John Wall hides it with his insane athleticism and ability to break down defenses whenever he wants.
Combine his offense with 2.00 steals per game, and Wall becomes a lethal threat on the floor. Leading a fast paced offense that gets plenty of fast break points, Wall shows us why he deserved the All-Star votes this year.
2 Michael Carter-Williams, 2.02 SPG, Salary:$2,200,920
Potential Rookie of the Year (ROY), MCW stands at 6’6 weighing only 185 pounds. The 22 year old started his young NBA career with a stellar 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals against the reigning two-time Champs, Miami Heat. That night proved to the NBA community that this guy is ready for the pros.
Averaging 2.02 steals per game, MCW is making a strong push to win ROY honors. Although his wingspan is only documented at 6’7, it feels like they’re longer whenever you see him play, as his thin frame deceives us all.
3. Thaddeus Young, 2.22 SPG, Salary: $8,600,000
The second 76ers player on the list, Young has completed exploded out of the gates this year. This is by far his the best year of his career, and he’s certainly making the best out of it. Now that he doesn’t have Doug Collins holding him back and forcing him to take mid-range jumpers, Young’s offensive game now revolves in the post and at the three point line.
His 2.22 steals are a career high, as he's shown his length and basketball IQ. Young has exploded for multiple 5+ steal-games this year, and is putting up some of the best stats of any player when he’s hot. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the few bright spots for the 76ers this year.
2. Chris Paul, 2.45 SPG, Salary: $18,668,431
With seven-time All-Star appearances, the Rookie of the Year title in 2006, and multiple appearances on both the All-NBA team and All-Defensive teams, Chris Paul reminds us why he is arguably the best point guard in the league. Now that he’s taken his talents to Lob City, CP3 has continued to impress us with his stellar play and hounding defense.
His pressure on the ball-handler rivals none, as he is a ball hawk. Combine that with less pressure on offense with players like Griffin and Crawford on his side, Paul can focus more on the defensive end. No doubt that with skills like his, he should have a caution sign for ball handlers who dare approach him.
1 Rick Rubio, 2.46 SPG, Salary: $4,002,120
In only his 3rd year in the league, Ricky Rubio leads the league in steals, averaging a strong 2.5 steals per game. Rubio exploded on to the international basketball scene with the Spanish national team for his ability to run the open floor and control the fast-paced game.
Rubio, much like Paul, is a hawk on the ball. Relentlessly attacking ball handlers, Rubio shows why speed is so valuable in the Association. Rubio gets a lot of small deflections and is able to sneak his hands into small areas with agility. His steals combined with his ability to find the open man out-letting down the floor makes for a very lethal weapon from the point guard position.