There are a lot of things that just can’t be put into numbers when it comes to sports, and the impact some guys make on an NBA court goes far beyond their stats and personal distinctions, being key pieces in their teams despite not being in the spotlight as much as scorers do.
Offense win games, but defense wins championships, and we just can’t deny this, especially in an offensive-oriented NBA where teams keep putting up huge numbers and forgetting about protecting their own rim.
That key 50/50 play, that clutch steal, that last rebound, it all counts when we’re talking about winning in the Association, and if it wasn’t for those hustle players, many teams wouldn't even be contending.
So, let’s take a look at the top 10 hustle players in the NBA.
10. Jimmy Butler
Butler has established himself as one of the top 2-way players in the NBA since his surge about 4 years ago, leading the injury-plagued Chicago Bulls, and even doing so now, as he’s the main guy at the United Center.
Besides putting up 23.9 points, 6.2 boards and 5.5 assists on 45.5% shooting (36.7% from three), Jimmy Butler steals 1.9 balls, making it to 3 All-Star Games and 3 NBA All-Defensive teams over the last few years.
9. Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson is one of the main reasons the Cavaliers are as successful as they are, and since taking the starting center spot from Timofey Mozgov, the Canadian has established himself as a huge force in the paint.
Of course, his nightly averages aren’t quite impressive with his 8.1 points, 9.2 boards, 1 assist, 0.5 steals and 1 swat per matchup, but his ability to dominate the offensive glass and establish great position underneath the rim creates a lot of second chance opportunities for the defending champions, averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds a night.
8. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is without any single kind of doubt one of the ultimate point guards in NBA history, with a stunning basketball IQ and a breathtaking passing ability, as well as being one of the most capable perimeter defenders in the league.
Besides constantly being one of the league leaders in assists, the veteran point guard is also a regular in the steals category, with lifetime averages of 9.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game, showing great hands on both ends of the floor.
7. Matthew Dellavedova
Dellavedova took the next step in his career a couple of seasons ago when he showed his pesky and harsh defense against Steph Curry in the NBA Finals, proving that he was the kind of physical defender that can make a living out of it in the Association.
Now as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, he hasn’t been able to make the same impact he did in Cleveland, but he’s proven to be a hustle player and a leader with his national Australian team.
6. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has proven that there’s absolutely nothing that he can't do, breaking all kinds of ridiculous records through the entire season and proving every single one of his detractors wrong, averaging a triple-double for the season and leading the Thunder back into playoff territory.
His defense has come a long way and he has proven to have the clutch gene in him on both ends of the floor. On top of this, he is also one of the league leaders in rebounds despite his height, averaging 10.7 rebounds per game to go along with 1.6 steals.
5. Tony Allen
Tony Allen is a regular name in NBA’s All-Defensive squads, and he’s arguably the main reason why Memphis’ defense works the way it does, being one of the best defenders this league has ever seen despite not having any kind of offensive talent whatsoever.
Allen has made a name for himself thanks to his trash talking skills and his defensive ability, showing sticky hands and stunning lateral movement that make offensive players go nuts and make mistakes, with career averages of 1.4 steals per game.
4. John Wall
Wall has put himself in the MVP conversation after an outstanding season, being once again one of the league leaders in assists with 10.7 per contest, while shooting 45.1% from the field and stealing 2.1 balls per game, a career-high for the 6-year point guard.
Besides, Wall has always proven to be a very good and clutch defender, even making it to the 2014-15 NBA All-Defensive second squad, currently leading the league in steals per game and being seventh in steals percentage.
3. Kawhi Leonard
The ultimate two-way player had to be featured on this list, as Kawhi took the league by storm since playing lockdown defense against LeBron James and winning the Finals MVP award during the Spurs' 2014 championship run.
Now, "The Klaw” has established himself as a regular MVP candidate thanks to his outstanding impact on both ends of the floor for the San Antonio Spurs, and his incredibly huge hands make him capable of defending pretty much everybody, stealing 1.8 games per contest and making the most talented offensive players have off nights.
2. Draymond Green
Draymond Green is another guy that has to regularly be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, as the 5-year professional has established himself as one of the most fierce competitors, defenders, rebounders and of course, trash talkers in the league.
His impact is just incredible for the Golden State Warriors, owning the highest +/- of all his teammates even despite playing alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and now Kevin Durant, being a nightly triple-double threat while playing lockdown defense against all 5 positions.
1. Patrick Beverly
The ultimate pesky defender makes the top of our list, as Patrick Beverly is arguably the most uncomfortable defender in the entire NBA, with great ability to read opposing passes and a lateral movement ability that can drive pretty much everybody crazy.
He’s not afraid to get physical and fight the biggest guys on the opposing side, and even despite getting only 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game, his impact for the Houston Rockets just can’t be denied, taking a lot of pressure off of Harden’s shoulders while defending the best offensive guard on the rival team.