Defense wins championships! If you’ve ever played basketball, watched basketball, or even if you’ve just stepped onto a basketball court in your life, you probably have had at least three older men tell you that.
They probably then ramble on about how the 60’s was the true mecca of basketball talent, but ignore that and focus on what they said first: Defense wins championships!
Defense is essential. It is what separates playoff pretenders from contenders. Just ask the Steve Nash era Phoenix Suns; they had one of the highest-octane offenses of all time, but their defense stopped them from reaching their true potential. When we think of defense, we think of the best of the best: Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay, and Draymond Green to name a few. Here are the best of the rest.
5. Lonzo Ball – 1.7 Steals, 0.8 Blocks
Lonzo is only a rookie, but he already shows an extremely high defensive IQ. Standing 6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan, he has the size and quickness to be as good as it gets at giving your point guard fits (Shoutout to Nelly!). He had a defensive efficiency rating – which in basic terms is how good you are at defense – of 104.1, well above the league average.
4. Jaylen Brown – 1.0 Steals, 0.7 Blocks
Geez, Boston, leave some good young wings for the rest of the league! Brown is just another perfect cog in the Brad Stevens doomsday machine, and he does it on the defensive end. He plays good man defense, great team defense, and manages about one steal and one block per game while posting a defensive efficiency rating of 100.3 – what more could you ask for from a second-year player.
3. Kyle Lowry – 1.1 Steals, 0.2 Blocks
The only player on this list with a first-team defense vote, Lowry is a great example of ‘making the most of what you’re given’. What he lacks in height and length, he makes up for in heart. He uses his stout body to leverage bigger guards out of the paint and help keep them in front of him on the perimeter, all to the tune of a 104.1 defensive efficiency rating.
2. Al-Farouq Aminu – 1.1 Steals, 0.6 Blocks
The chief is a great small-ball five. Although he may not be able to body with the biggest and baddest in the association, he can guard smaller centers with his 6’10 frame. His quick feet and long arms allow him to switch onto guards efficiently, which is essential in the modern NBA.
1. Joe Ingles - 1.1 Steals, 0.2 Blocks
Literally, nothing about Joe Ingles jumps out at you. He looks like he showed up late to the game because the class he was teaching was unruly (HE dismisses them, not the bell), he isn’t the most athletic, and his shot is a bit funky. But Joe Ingles is awesome. I would go as far as to say he is the most underrated player in the NBA.
Defensively, his IQ and surprisingly quick hands more than make up for his non-elite athleticism. He is always in the right place at the right time. All of this makes for a defensive rating of 102.3, but even that doesn’t show Ingles true worth.