The NBA is a sport of giants, it’s one of the reasons why its athletes are so revered. The average height in the NBA is 6 foot 7, a whole 9 inches taller than the average height of guys in America (5 foot 10).
Ever since the birth of basketball (shout out to Dr. James Naismith) the sport has attracted the very tallest humans the world has to offer. Height has a huge advantage in basketball for the simple reason that you are closer to a rim and therefore should find it a lot easier to be effective.
This applies both on offense and defense. In attack, big men have a very high release point meaning less effort is required to put the ball through the net. The less energy required the less that can go wrong with the shot.
On defense they are the last line of protection against your rim, the guys you trust to alter as many shots as possible to minimize a number of easy points your opponent can get.
There have always been guys who have made it their business defending as many shots as possible and they take it as a personal insult when someone scores on them. They are the ones providing the rim defense that is vital if a team wants to be successful.
The one place teams don’t want to be scored on, is the rim. It’s the easiest shot in basketball so if you can’t defend that then you have no hope in hell. Having a good rim protector is the backbone of any good defense and these five guys are the best in the business.
5. Kristaps Porzingis - New York Knicks
Right now New York city is a dismal play for basketball. The team has just had another terrible season marred by several controversial incidents highlighted by the Charles Oakley affair. Things right now couldn’t be much longer, the players aren’t doing their bit, the fans are unhappy and the immediate future looks to be just as bad.
The only bright spot is Kristaps Porzingis.
The 7 foot 3 inch Latvian surprised all of us with his play in his first two seasons, showing that Phil Jackson made at least one good decision in his time with the Knicks.
Porzingod blocked 2 shots a game last season and was very savvy at altering them as well. Defenders only shot 50.7% at the rim against the Latvian showing that he was able to use that incredible frame to full effect.
Who knows what will happen in New York this season, judging from previous years just about anything could happen. In all likelihood, it will be another season of disappointment, dismal play and disinterested fans.
The one thing they can look forward to is the possibility of catching a ball sent flying into the stands by another devastating Porzingis block.
4. Draymond Green - Golden State Warriors
Although Draymond is only 6 foot 7, he is still able to be one of the best rim protectors and defenders in the NBA. He does boast a 7-foot wingspan which allowed him to block 1.4 shots a game last season.
Despite his small stature, he was the best rim protector in the NBA season out of players that played 60 or more games and defended at least 4 shot attempts per game less than 6 feet from the rim. Players shot only 48.3% against him at the rim which is an incredible stat for a guy that size.
Green reads the game extremely and is never afraid to put his body on the line to defend a shot. He won the defensive player of the year last season due to his incredible contributions on that end of the floor and I have no doubt that at the end of his career he will go down as one of the best defenders to ever set foot on and NBA hardwood.
3. Anthony Davis - New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans needs to be very careful lest they have a situation on their hands similar to what Cleveland had in 2010. Even though the Cavs were coming off their second season as the top seed in the East the league MVP LeBron James decided to go to Miami to go play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Cavs were far too complacent with their roster and didn’t look to improve it and because of that James took matters into his own hands and left town.
Anthony Davis is a world class talent and is already one of the best players in the NBA at 24, but he’s only made it to the Playoffs once. If New Orleans isn’t careful and doesn’t provide Davis with the support pieces he needs then he may fly off to greener pastures elsewhere.
Davis has already lead the league in blocks per game twice so far and he’s a sure bet to do so again in the future. With a 7 foot 6 wingspan combined, fluid athleticism and extremely sharp defensive instincts, The Brow is a huge presence on the defensive end of the court and someone who could be a multiple Defensive Player of the Year in the coming decade.
2. Hassan Whiteside - Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are on my list of teams to keep an eye out for next season, mainly because they went 30-11 at the end of the season completely taking the basketball world by storm. This was largely because they had one of the NBA’s best defenses last year; their opponent field-goal percentage was 7th in the league at 45% and they only allowed 102.1 points per game which ranked them 5th in the NBA.
The main reason behind this sturdiness was the Wall of Whiteside patrolling the paint, daring anyone to come inside and challenge him. His wingspan of 7 feet 7 inches allows him to simply grab shots out the air so you don’t know whether it’s a block or a steal.
His athleticism and his length make for a deadly combo, one that will have every NBA player thinking twice before driving in and facing those incredibly long arms.
1. Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz
Mr. Gobert is the poster child for defensive statistics in the NBA. 1st in blocks per game at 2.6, 3rd in defensive rating at 99.2, 2nd in opponent field-goal percentage less than 6 feet from the rim and 6th in defensive rebounds per game.
He and Gordon Hayward were the two main reasons why Utah had a breakout season and went 51-31. Hayward carried the offense, Gobert anchored the defense. I maintain that right now Gobert is the most effective center in the NBA; he is so efficient on offense that he can spend the bulk of his energy on defense, putting true meaning behind his nickname of the Stifle Tower.
Although Hayward has departed Utah for Boston, all but killing Utah’s chances of having a good offense the Jazz will still have a top tier defense thanks mainly to this incredible defensive specimen from France with NBA Draft Combine record 7 foot 9 wingspan.