Numbers Game: Are Steals Predictable?
Numbers Game: Are Steals Predictable?

This article is part of our Numbers Game series.

Can we anticipate steals?

Last month, I found a mathematically viable way to boost rebounding totals. It got me thinking – and by me, I mean the fantastic behind-the-scenes guys who turn my word docs into webpages and are the guys who actually came up with this idea – can we do the same thing with other categories? The week, we start that journey by focusing on steals.

Where do we start?

Rebounding had an easy start point. There are a bunch of readily available rebound-related stats that almost demanded our attention. Even blocks, which I'll probably check out next week, has some relatively obvious places to start (before someone can block a shot, the shot has to be attempted). But steals? Steals can happen anywhere, any time.

Additionally, we need results that are helpful for fantasy. Fantasy is about individuals, not teams. So I can't just look at the opponent steals category and tell you "the team facing the Nets is more likely to get a few extra steals than the team facing the Mavericks." For this to be helpful, those extra steals need to be grabbed by players who have a track record for thievery.

And, of course, we need something better than opponent steals (I'm going to use OppStl), otherwise we're just wasting our time. When focusing only on the best rebounders, rebound percentage did a better job of predicting success than opponent rebounds.

What we are looking for, therefore, is a stat that: A) has

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
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