7 Biggest Fantasy Basketball Draft Day Steals Who Are Carrying Owners

Stephen Fenech@Fenech2491Correspondent IDecember 24, 2012

7 Biggest Fantasy Basketball Draft Day Steals Who Are Carrying Owners

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    Drafting a player who turns out to be a gem can be the difference between a good team and a bad one, as draft day steals are a key part to any successful team fantasy basketball team.

    This season has been more predictable than the 2012 lockout shortened one, which has in turn made this year's fantasy basketball a bit more calculable. 

    A stud player such LeBron James or Kevin Durant will only get owners so far, especially in nine-category leagues. The difference thus far has come via the draft's later rounds, in which knowledgeable owners hold the advantage. 

    If your season is going well, then chances are you have at least one of the following seven players on your roster. 

    All statistics are accurate as of December 22nd, 2012

Stephen Curry

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    The red flags that have surrounded Stephen Curry throughout his career have nothing to do with his play, as injuries have limited the young sharpshooter throughout his first three seasons. 

    Up to this point, Curry has been able to stay completely healthy. Consequently, his play has been excellent, as his combination of outside shooting and nifty passing have been fun to watch. 

    In ESPN leagues, Curry's average draft position was 42.8, which appeared to be reasonable at the time due to his questionable ankles. Owners who took the risk on Curry have benefited greatly, as he has been a fantasy superstar. 

    Curry is currently in fourth place in ESPN's player rater, with only Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul are above him. 

    Outside of the negative scores that Curry has posted in field goal percentage and in blocks, he is a major asset in every other category.

    If he keeps this up, Curry will be among the first point guards taken in next year's fantasy drafts. 

O.J. Mayo

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    O.J. Mayo has been dynamite for the Dallas Mavericks, as he leads the team in scoring in Dirk Nowitzki's absence. 

    Apparently all Mayo needed to become an elite scorer was a change of scenery and a starting role, as he has thrived since leaving the Memphis Grizzlies via free agency in the offseason. 

    Mayo is ranked 11th in ESPN's player rater and is the third among shooting guards, only trailing Kobe Bryant and James Harden.

    The player rater shows how Mayo doesn't hurt fantasy teams in any category, as he grades negatively only in blocks. Considering that Mayo is a shooting guard, owners shouldn't expect much from him in terms of blocked shots anyway. 

    Mayo is ranked fourth in the player rater in terms of three point shooting, behind only Ryan Anderson, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. In terms of scoring, Mayo is currently eighth in the league, averaging 19.8 points per contest.

    The value that owners have gotten out of Mayo is incredible, considering that his average draft position was 83.1 in ESPN leagues. 

Andrei Kirilenko

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    After missing the 2012 lockout shortened season playing overseas, Andrei Kirilenko has been the MVP of the Minnesota Timberwolves thus far this season. 

    With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio missing a substantial portion of time due to injuries, Kirilenko was forced to step up in order to keep the team competitive. 

    Kirilenko's average draft position in ESPN.com standard leagues was 108.1, as he flew under the radar. Fantasy owners that were fortunate enough to pick him up have not been disappointed. 

    In his 20 appearances, Kirilenko has averaged 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks. In nine-category leagues, Kirilenko has been invaluable due to the steals and blocks that he adds from the small forward position. 

    Kirilenko has also been extremely accurate from the floor this season, as he has converted on 51 percent of his field goals which is fifth among small forwards. 

    ESPN.com's player rater has Kirilenko ranked 52nd amongst all players, which is a great value considering where he was drafted. 

Damian Lillard

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    Damian Lillard is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, as the Weber State alumnus has not been intimidated by NBA competition. 

    The Portland Trail Blazers rookie is the highest ranked first-year player in terms of ESPN's player rater, as Lillard is currently ranked 24th among all players.  He stacks up well against other point guards in regards to that category as well, as Lillard is ranked seventh at the position. 

    In ESPN drafts, Lillard's average draft position was 77.8. On average, point guards such as Jeremy Lin, Goran Dragic and Raymond Felton were all drafted ahead of Lillard but have not had the same fantasy success that the rookie has enjoyed. 

    The only area in which Lillard has hurt fantasy teams is field goal percentage, as the young rookie is not bashful about hoisting up a ton of shots. On average, Lillard has taken 15.2 shots per contest, which is second on the team behind LaMarcus Aldridge. 

    The point guard position is deep this season, but Lillard has been a great value for owners through the season's first third. 

Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan has seen his minutes cut in recent seasons and because of that, he saw his average draft position fall. Overlooking Duncan was a mistake, though, as the wily veteran is as productive as ever. 

    Duncan is sixth in ESPN's player rater, which has him ranked one spot ahead of LeBron James. The San Antonio Spurs legend is the top rated big man, as only guards are ranked ahead of him in the player rater rankings. 

    Considering that Duncan's average draft position was 57.6, his owners have been pleasantly surprised by the veteran's sprightly play. 

    A fair share of Duncan's fantasy production has come by the way of blocks, as he is averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Duncan is ranked fifth in the player rater in terms of blocks, only trailing Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert, Larry Sanders and Dwight Howard

    Duncan's production will decline a little as the season progresses because Gregg Popovich will rest him more to ensure that he is in tip-top shape come playoff time. Even with sporadic off nights on the horizon, Duncan's owners should consider themselves fortunate.  

Kemba Walker

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    Kemba Walker has made major strides in his second season, and as a result, some of his doubters have backed off.

    Through the season's first third, Walker has compiled the sixth most fantasy points among point guards and is averaging 17.7 per game. That number is the highest average for a Charlotte Bobcats player, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming in second at 14.9 fantasy points per game. 

    In nine-category leagues, Kemba is ranked 18th on ESPN's player rater. Walker is a good source of points, assists and especially steals.  

    Another aspect that makes Walker valuable is that he can fill two different positions because he is listed as both a point guard and a shooting guard. That distinction can be crucial when trying to field a full lineup. 

    Walker's average draft position was 92.3 in ESPN leagues, behind point guards such as Jeremy Lin and Mo Williams. 

Anderson Varejao

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    Anderson Varejao is leading the NBA in rebounding after he made the Cleveland Cavaliers watchable during Kyrie Irving's absence. 

    Varejao's average draft position was 88.2 in ESPN leagues, as he flew under the radar due to the torn tendon injury that ended his 2012 season. 

    Through the first third of the season, Varejao is ranked fifth among centers in fantasy scoring, as he is averaging 25.8 points per contest. 

    In nine-category leagues, Varejao's domination on the glass all be clinched the rebounding category most weeks. 

    Varejao doesn't come with very much baggage either. He only turns the ball over an average of 1.7 times per game and shoots 47.8 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the charity stripe. 

    A knee injury has kept Varejao off the court recently, but he has been a major steal for those who snagged him.