Defense win championships.
We’ve all heard it countless times before, whether it be on sports talk shows or by current and former NBA players. You cannot win a title unless you can stop your opponent from scoring. For the past 5 seasons, no team had anything worse than the 14th best opponent field goal percentage and two teams had the number one rank.
Some nights you just might not be feeling it on offense. You could be missing a lot of shots or you never really develop any rhythm at the offensive end. If that’s the case then it’s time to knuckle down on the defensive end.
It doesn’t matter if your shots aren’t falling, you can always bring it on defense. This is the blue-collar side of basketball, the area where few highlights are made but where games are often won or lost.
A good defender is unbelievably valuable to any franchise. Any NBA player or coach will tell you that all good defenders have one common trait; hustle. Without the heart and desire to stop your guy from scoring, no matter how quick or strong you are, you might as well just keep the bench warm.
Guys that hustle just wanna win and having an abundance of them on your team will ensure you will be successful.
There are certain guys out there who made it their priority to be known as defensive stoppers. These are the guys that cause opposing players nightmares on the court. They are constantly making life hard for their matchups and won’t let them get anything easy.
Every position has that guy who is known to have mastered his craft when it comes to defending and here are my guys whom I think are the cream of the crop.
Point Guard - Patrick Beverley
From here on out, he shall be known as Pesky Patrick, for that exactly describes how he plays on the court. Just ask Russell Westbrook who has had several run ins with him over the years. I hate to imagine what it’s like going up against this guy.
Another nickname for his is Mr 94 feet, meaning he will pick up your point guard and proceed to hound and harass him all the way up the court, making it extremely difficult for him to do anything productive.
Since the NBA is so ball-handler dominant, having a guy like Patrick is so effective because if he can stop an opposing ball-handler than the other team won’t be to do anything at all on the offensive end.
Shooting Guard - Tony Allen
Even at 35, The Grindfather is the best defender at the shooting guard position. At 6 foot 4 and 213lbs he is the perfect the size and weight to chase opposing 2s around the court, battling through a multitude of screens in the process.
Like Pesky Patrick (knew it would catch on), he is extremely strong for his size and there is more hustle in his left pinky than a lot of players have in their whole body. There’s a reason why Kobe Bryant called Allen the toughest defender he’s ever faced.
Small Forward - Kawhi Leonard
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi is the ultimate wing defender playing in the NBA today. Not only is he very athletic, but he has the highest wingspan ratio of any All-Star in 15 years.
He stands 6 foot 6 with a 7 foot 3 wingspan, an 11.5% difference. This incredible reach allows Leonard to heavily contest every shot his opponent takes and to reach in to get steals off his guy. Many a time he’s been out on the perimeter guarding a ball-handler and he’s ripped the ball from their hands and dunked it on the other end.
Kawhi is so good defensively that he makes LeBron James grimace when he comes into the game. If I want a stop in a key moment then there’s nobody I trust more than Kawhi.
Power Forward - Draymond Green
This year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Green has finally won the award he’s been clamoring for these past three years. He is one of the few guys in the NBA that can guard all five positions effectively. He’s a little undersized at the 4 spot at 6 foot 7 but that hasn’t stopped him at all in his career.
Green lead the NBA last season in steals per game with 2 as well as swatting away 1.4 shots, but it’s not his incredible individual defensive efforts which make him the best defender in the NBA; it’s his leadership at that end which really separates him from the rest.
I’ve mentioned before that Draymond with the Warriors reminds me a lot of Kevin Garnett with the Boston Celtics. Garnett was their emotional leader on defense and he was always the one calling out screens, making sure everyone had the correct matchups and mastering the art of weak side defending.
Green is no different. His defensive intellect makes everyone around him better which is why he was second in defensive rating last year at 99.1. It’s the combination of his own personal hustle and desire combined with the way he dictates the defense which makes him such a formidable opponent.
Center - Rudy Gobert
Why do we have this obsession with large wingspans? Why do we love guys whose hands nearly touch the floor when they stand up? Well, large wingspans mean you can reach higher and therefore contest shots that other players cannot. More contested shots, fewer points scored by the other team and therefore more games won.
When it comes to wingspans in the NBA today, none is bigger than Rudy Gobert’s which stands at 7 foot 9. For the past three seasons, the Stifle Tower has been in the top 3 for block percentage and lead the league in blocks per game at 2.6 last campaign.
He also lead the league in defended field goal attempts per game at 10.2 and opponents only shot 43.8% against him on those attempts. His incredible reach is just so effective at causing the opposing player to have to alter their shots against him.
Gobert makes my starting current starting five mainly based on his ability to contest anyone that dares come into the paint. In the 2015/16 season opponents shot a league worst 41% at the rim versus him. Don’t come into the paint against this guy, you’ll wish you’d stayed at home.