As one of the best defenders in the NBA, Marcus Smart has been put in front of some elite scorers over the course of his 5-year career. In an article he posted on The Players' Tribune, he named the top 5 toughest opponents he's ever had to face.
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
It’s like, when the shot clock is winding down and he’s gotta do something. As a defender, you’re running through Kyrie’s arsenal in your mind, narrowing down what you’ve seen him do and what he might pull out at that moment, based on where he’s at on the court. He’s short on time, so his options are limited.
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
There’s no such thing as a bad shot for Steph. He can hit from anywhere. He’s liable to shoot from half-court and hit it. And he doesn’t need a lot of space to get his shot off. He’s got a quick trigger. Even when you’re right up on him, that little inch of space you leave because you think you’re close enough?
Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul’s game is all about rhythm. It’s like when guys see a shot fall once, then twice … that momentum builds. It’s real. Being in the zone is real. The hot hand, being on fire — it’s all real. And Paul George will stay hot all night if you let him.
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
The first time I played against Kawhi was in 2015, during my rookie year, when he was in San Antonio. I just remember him being so quiet. Real unassuming. Like if you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was just a regular guy coming off the bench. He had that vibe about him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis different. He’s out of this world. Yes, he can handle the ball like a guard. So can A.D. But with his wingspan, the way he can manipulate the ball and get you chasing it one way before coming back with it — because he’s also quick like a guard, so he can cross you if he catches you leaning … man, it’s special. Plus, he’s also ridiculously long and athletic. So where it takes most people four or five steps to get to the basket from the three-point line, it only takes Giannis like three. Plus he can jump out of the gym. Plus he’s strong enough to get through contact, so you can’t body him.
It's hard to argue against the group of stars on this list. Interestingly enough, a similar article by Lonzo Ball listed very different names, including Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan.
Either way, each of these guys has a knack for putting the ball in the bucket. It'll be interesting to see which players pop up on the next list.