NBA: Finals-Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors
Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

The NBA's steals leaders are often starters, but quite a few bench players broke into the top 20 last season. While points, rebounds, and assists are often the more glamorous categories that Fantasy managers target, defensive production can matter just as much when building a well-rounded squad.

Looking to find contributors in the back half of the draft or pick up difference-makers from the waiver wire? We've put together a list of available pickpockets to take a look at ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Two guards seem particularly interesting to be as late-round, high-value category boosters after switching teams over the summer. This trio can help you stay competitive on the defensive end in Roto leagues.

Gary Payton II
View Profile

The Portland Trail Blazers made Payton an offer he couldn't refuse after his NBA Finals run with the Golden State Warriors, and he's set to take on a larger role as Damian Lillard's backup in 2022-23. He cracked the top 20 in total steals last year despite playing less than 18 minutes per contest and paced the league with 2.8 steals per 36 minutes. He boasts more offensive upside than Mattise Thybulle and is supposedly on track to play at the start of the regular season after undergoing surgery for a core muscle injury over the summer. 

Matisse Thybulle
POR • SF • #4
View Profile

Payton was the only player who averaged more steals per 36 minutes than Thybulle last season. The Philadelphia 76ers wing accrued the seventh-most steals (115) in the NBA in 2021-22. While his shooting woes leave something to be desired, his knack for getting in passing lanes can't be ignored. Fantasy managers should be cautious with him in Year 4, though. His to improve as a scorer could lead to fewer minutes in Year 4. Time will tell.

De'Anthony Melton
PHI • SG • #8
View Profile

One of Thybulle's newest teammates actually stands out as a better bench contributor ahead of the upcoming season. Melton will likely be Philly's first guard off the bench after being sent over by the Memphis Grizzlies. He's racked up four steals in 32 minutes through his first two preseason appearances with the 76ers after tallying 2.3 steals per 36 minutes last season. He's sure to partner with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt at times. His off-ball awareness is stellar and appears to have more to offer than Thybulle as a scorer, rebounder, and passer.