By Daron Grandberry on August 8, 2014
While not every great defender is lucky enough to be called a champion, these 10 NBA players are the league's best on-ball defenders and rim protectors. Although it is the scorers and the players with the emphatic dunks who usually receive all the recognition and highlights reels on SportsCenter, here are the top 10 defensive specialists in the NBA.
In only two seasons with the Houston Rockets, Patrick Beverley has quickly become one of the NBA's top perimeter defenders; just ask Jeremy Lin, who lost his starting spot last season to Beverley. The pesky on-ball defender averaged 1.4 steals per game and was voted to the 2014 All-Defensive Second Team. With Lin gone in Houston, expect to see an increase in Beverley's production.
Kawhi Leonard has always been known for his defensive abilities since his days at San Diego State. Known for his large hands and ability to guard multiple positions, the 2014 Finals MVP has fit perfectly in Gregg Popovich's system. Despite having to guard the opposing team's best perimeter player on a nightly basis, Leonard finished 10th in the NBA in steals per game with 1.73.
Andre Iguodala has been known around the NBA for his flashy dunks and perimeter defense since his days in Philadelphia. In his one season in Golden State, the 6-foot-6 forward instantly became the Warriors' defensive specialist and helped them improve to the 10th best defensive team in the league.
At 7-foot-2, Roy Hibbert has been known as the Indiana Pacers' anchor in the middle for the last six seasons. Although the Georgetown product averaged 2.3 blocks per game last season, his numbers dropped significantly in the 2014 playoffs when his team needed him most. During the playoffs, Hibbert's numbers fell to 9.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.4 BPG.
A major reason the Pacers are among the league leaders in defense is due to the defensive prowess of All-Defense First Team member Paul George. Last season the 24-year-old George finished fifth in the league with 1.89 steals per game and added six defensive rebounds per game. The loss of George will be a major blow for the Pacers on both ends of the floor.
Veteran point guard Chris Paul has proven to be an elite point guard after once again leading the NBA in steals for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in his career. While Paul is a great offensive talent and passer, the four-time All-Defensive First Team member is known around the NBA for his on-ball defense and knack for playing the passing lanes.
At 6-foot-11, Joakim Noah does a little bit of everything on defense for the Chicago Bulls. The 2014 Defense Player of the Year averaged 1.5 BPG and 1.2 SPG as the Bulls' defensive anchor. Noah's foot speed allows him to successfully guard smaller and quicker players on the perimeter, and his high basketball IQ makes him a great help defender.
In his second year in the NBA, Anthony Davis improved his defense tremendously. Despite playing out of position, the 6-foot-11 forward led the NBA with 2.82 BPG and finished 10th in rebounding (10 RPG). At only 20 years old, Davis has yet to reach his full potential and should improve on both ends of the floor under head coach Monty Williams.
At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, LeBron James can play and defend multiple positions. The four-time MVP has seemingly won it all, except a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Known for his chase-down blocks and ability to guard multiple positions, James is a five time All-Defensive First Team member and great on-ball defender. James' defensive ability will be heavily relied upon this season in Cleveland; will this be the year he wins the DPOY?
Five-year veteran forward Serge Ibaka is one of the premier defenders in the NBA and continues to improve his game on both ends of the floor. Like Noah, Ibaka's ability to guard players on the perimeter makes him a coach's dream forward, and his long arms and versatility allow Ibaka to flourish in the Thunder's help defense. Last season Ibaka finished second in blocks per game (2.7 BPG) after averaging 3.3 BPG the two prior seasons.
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