While the NBA has moved towards the direction of high-octane offenses and freedom of movement, defensive players still have tremendous value. After all, defense wins championships. If you look at every NBA Champion in history, they have all played defense at a high level.
These 10 players are the absolute best in making sure your team is in a position to win, by playing tenacious defense and generating more offensive opportunities for scorers on the other end. While some of these players might excel at scoring the basketball as well, it is their defense that stands out among the rest of the NBA. Here are the 10 greatest defenders in the NBA today.
10. Klay Thompson
Klay has developed into one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA. While he is particularly known for draining three-point shots, Klay can also play lock-down defense.
The Warriors often placed Klay as the primary defender against the opposing team’s best players to stifle their production and make them work for their shots.
Klay has the size to compete with almost all 2 and 3 guards in the league, and the defensive awareness to close space and make you work. He is becoming an invaluable player thanks to his play on both sides of the floor.
9. Marcus Smart
While not the most famous player for the Celtics in recent years, Marcus Smart is a player who helps yo win games. It is just that simple. He is very strong and built with powerful shoulders that allow him to bully almost any guard in the league. His heavy frame also allows him to play the 3-position, where he can handle most forwards as well.
He has strong hands, which makes him effective for stealing the ball and deflecting passes. His on-ball defense, however, is what truly stands out. Smart is very difficult to get by and has been a lockdown defender for the Celtics since coming into the league.
8. Anthony Davis
Davis is a scary talent, thanks to his size and skill. Davis is long, athletic, and very agile which allows him to stay on guards in a pick-n-roll and recover on defense. Davis is also a fantastic shot-blocker, averaging over 2 blocks a game.
When it comes to defending bigs, Davis uses his long arms and length to bother opponents and make attacking the rim very difficult. In terms of pure talent, Davis might simply be the best big man in the league. His defensive impact is a big part of that.
7. Patrick Beverley
It seems Pat Beverley finally got his recognition when he made NBA headlines on Lonzo Ball’s debut. Beverley is simply not to be missed with, as he will keep coming at you again and again.
Beverley’s defensive impact goes beyond his tenacity, as he knows how to get under your skin while playing lock-down D. He stays in your space, and just becomes a nightmare to deal with. Ask any NBA Gm in the world and they would gladly take Beverley on their team. He is another special player who helps you win games with defensive tenacity and hustle.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Fresh off an MVP season, Giannis is also one of the top two-way players in the league. We all know what he can do offensively, but his defensive impact could be scary good. He is quite simply, an athletic freak, thanks to his size and length. He can move like a guard while possessing the long arms of a center.
Giannis can easily become the best defender in the league as he continues to improve early on in his career, and we might be seeing the beginnings of an All-Time great. If he can continue to improve his defensive awareness, Giannis might also be the best defender in the league.
5. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is a bulldog and does not go less than 110% in any game he plays in. His dedication, hard work, and passion for the game catapulted him into stardom when he was with the Chicago Bulls. It is no wonder he was such a sought-after free agent this summer, with the Heat welcoming him with open arms.
Butler has excellent size, which allows him to be a fantastic defender. Butler makes winning defensive plays, including big-time blocks and steals in the most crucial moments. Even though he is an All-Star two-way player, his defense might be the strongest aspect of his game.
When Butler decides to key in on a player defensively, that is normally the beginning of the end.
4. Draymond Green
Draymond Green’s value to his team cannot be understated, and he is one of the top 3 reasons the Warriors have dominated the league the past five years. Green is a perfect defensive player in today’s NBA, with his ability to play both the 4 and 5 positions and guard pretty much any position on the floor at any given time.
He has a very high defensive I.Q. and can impact the game with his non-stop hustle. He does not give up, does not quit, and wants to win. Green is a defensive All-Star who would be welcomed into any team in the NBA.
3. Paul George
A second Clipper to appear on this list, George is a fantastic two-way performer. He can completely take-over games offensively, and play lock-down D. George is also a master at stealing the ball, thanks to his quick reactions and ability to read the floor. In fact, George has averaged 2 or more steals in during each of the past two seasons.
George is also long and athletic, and can easily handle guards and forwards when playing straight up the defense. One-on-one, George is very difficult to score against. He is also a fantastic team defender, thanks to his ability to play passing planes and be in the right position.
His defensive leadership on the Clippers will be very crucial alongside his other defensive-stalwart teammates Patrick Beverley and Kawhi Leonard.
2. Kawhi Leonard
Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is known for his lock-down defense on just about any player in the league. His enormous hands make it easy for him to snatch the ball away from opponents and swat them away as well.
Leonard has one of the highest defensive I.Q.’s in modern NBA-history and is completely dominate on that end. His defensive presence and leadership are one of the many reasons the Toronto Raptors are celebrating their first championship in their franchise’s history.
His impact on the Clippers this season will be unforgotten, and he might be the reason why they are favorites in the league as we speak.
1. Rudy Gobert
Gobert’s defensive dominance is so profound, that he has managed to win two Defensive Player of the Year Awards in a row. Out of respect for his last two seasons, Gobert sits firmly as the best defender in the league.
Gobert, standing at over 7-feet tall, controls the paint more than any other player today. He is the main reason why Utah is so difficult to beat, and why they have been consistently featured in the NBA Playoffs in recent years. Gobert is a shot-blocker extraordinaire, able to stand tall and swat shots left and right. He has averaged over 2 blocks a game for five straight seasons and alters many more.
Anytime players decide to drive the paint against Utah, they will be forced to pass out to shooters or hope for contact against Gobert. Scoring on him is almost impossible when he gets into position. For his defensive efforts and recognized accolades. Gobert will enter this season as the best defensive player in the world.