Having great offensive players is really important to win games, series and championships. But many teams would not be able to do it without extremely good defenders, who are able to lockdown their rivals and make them scoreless for large amount of time. Join us as we present 10 of the best one-on-one defenders in the league today.
10. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Magic Johnson said that this player is the defender he wants to have on his team. A consistent guard who can make big fourth-quarter defensive efforts and be a game changer. This is why KCP joined the Lakers during 2017 off-season. He’s played as a starter every game of his 2017-18 campaign, proving just how valuable he is.
9. Kevin Durant
Even though he has never been named to an All-Defensive Team before, Durant is probably one of the best defensive small forwards of all-time, if we can even call him a small forward. His incredible size and speed allows him not only to be an incredibly good shot blocker but also dominate at the other rim on the other end of the court.
8. Marcus Smart
The 23-year old guard from Oklahoma State has averaged at least 1.5 steals per game in every season of his career. Smart‘s style is very similar to Avery Bradley’s. They are both aggressive and make offense much more difficult for opponents.
7. Jimmy Butler
A 3-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. He made his biggest progress with the Chicago Bulls and under coach Tom Thibodeau. He is one of the best defensive shooting guards in the league, arguably the best. Butler has had only one season where he averaged less than 1 steal per game — it was his rookie year.
6. Klay Thompson
Despite playing on probably the best offensive team to ever play this game, Klay Thompson is a great defender as well. When he was contesting the Cavs’ shots in the 2017 NBA Finals, most of them were missed. Thompson does not average many steals or blocks per game, but is a well-versed and consistent defensive player every single night.
5. Chris Paul
The smallest player on our list. Despite only standing at 6’0 tall, he’s a member of 9 All-Defensive Teams and a 6-time NBA steals leader. Thanks to his high effort and great active hands, Paul has been ranked as one of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history.
4. Tony Allen
A member of 6 All-Defensive Teams and an NBA champion with the Celtics. Very often assigned to defend high-scoring forwards and swingmen. On February 26, 2017, Kobe Bryant signed his shoes for Allen with a note: “[…], the best defender I ever faced!”. Praise from one of the best offensive players in the history of the game is something extremely valuable.
3. Avery Bradley
During 7 seasons in Boston, he was never a captain of a contender. Bradley‘s defensive skills began to become useful when the rebuilding process had ended for the Celtics, and they came back to the top of the Eastern Conference. He plays aggressive but effective. His defense against Stephen Curry in the 4th quarter was the key reason for the Pistons’ victory over Warriors this season.
2. Draymond Green
He is the best all-around player in the league. Green is the only NBA player who has achieved a 5-by-5 in the last 5 years. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17. You can easily witness how good of a defender he is just by looking at stats from his game against the Grizzlies last season (12 rebs, 10 stls, 5 blks). In that game he recorded the first ever triple-double with less than 10 points.
1. Kawhi Leonard
Known as the best defender of this era, a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2014 NBA Finals MVP. Kawhi‘s incredible performances against LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and many other superstars helped him to build his status as an elite defensive player in the NBA.