In the NBA, many teams are currently searching for that one player who can help take their team to the next level. A big part of finding success in the NBA has a strong defense. In this article, Red’s Army will look at the best defenders NBA and provide a full guide on how you can become one.
Best Defenders in NBA History: Top Best Defensive Players
1. Anthony Davis
Who are the best defenders in the NBA? Siakam, the previous Most Improved Player, can utilize his length and quickness to create defensive plays. Siakam, a wiry athlete, can switch on to waterbug point guards while still mixing it up in the paint.
Siakam’s 7-foot-3 wingspan devastates opposition defenses and is a luxury for a Toronto Raptors squad that relies on Kyle Lowry and Fred Vanvleet in the backcourt.
2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
He is neither a rim protector nor a lockdown on-ball defender. Green does not rank well in defensive statistics like thefts, blocks, contested shots, deflections, loose balls recovered, or charges drawn.
However, Golden State’s reputation as the league’s greatest defensive team helps the case for Green as the best defensive player of all time NBA when coach Steve Kerr or teammates aren’t.
His recent sitdowns with NBA TV’s Dennis Scott and ESPN/Doris ABC’s Burke to discuss his technique were instructive – he’s almost like the rover in classic hockey or the short centerfielder in softball in accepting general responsibility for sabotaging the other players’ assaults.
While Green is a six-time All-Defense selection and the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, consider this: the Warriors had a defensive rating of less than 100 in 12 of their first 30 games this season, compared to 11 times in 72 games in 2020-21.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, draws a lot of attention for his rim runs and intriguing ventures into the paint on offense. He is also a formidable defender. Antetokounmpo, with his 7-foot-3 wingspan and athleticism, covers a lot of ground and is the ideal help defender. His defensive skills earned him his first Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
4. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
The Timberwolves humiliated themselves by attacking Gobert’s reputation soon after losing by 32 points to Utah — despite the Jazz outscoring them by 25 points during the big man’s 31 minutes on the court. Both Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley criticized the three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s rim defending.
It’s not clever, but it adds something to the teams’ rematches in Minneapolis on Thursday and New Year’s Eve.
Gobert leads the NBA in rebounding (14.8) and defensive rebounding (11.8), averages 2.3 blocks per game, and assists Utah in ranking first in net rating (10.5). At the very least, Washington’s Bradley Beal understands what it takes to be successful at the rim against Gobert.
5. Myles Turner
The Indiana Pacers depend heavily on Myles Turner to guard the rim and mop up any offensive drives. Turner, a six-year veteran, led the NBA in blocks two seasons ago and is on his way to another title this season.
He swats approximately four shots every game. Turner hasn’t won any defensive accolades, but he’s been steady, blocking at least two shots per game in four of the previous five seasons. Turner might win Defensive Player of the Year shortly after his latest block party.
6. Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons was consistently among the best defender in the NBA all time (just ask him). In his absence, the Sixers have dropped out of the Top 10 in that category, but Thybulle has stepped up as the team’s primary on-ball option.
The guys he defends are shooting 8.6 percent worse overall, behind just Minnesota’s Patrick Beverley (minus 9.6 percent ). Individually, Thybulle is among the top NBA defenders and steals. He made an impression against the Warriors by blocking two 3-point tries by Stephen Curry.
7. Ben Simmons
A 6-foot-10 point guard is a one-of-a-kind weapon. Ben Simmons is criticized for his lack of perimeter shooting, yet he excels at everything else. Simmons is a nightmare to play against on defense. He is capable of guarding all five spots and excels in any strategy.
Recently, Simmons led a 2-3 zone defense that limited the Indiana Pacers to six points in the last eight minutes. Last year, Simmons led the NBA in thefts and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the first time. It’s unlikely to be his last.
8. Hakeem Olajuwon
Nobody should be surprised that “The Dream” is at the NBA top defenders 2021. During his 18-year career, Olajuwon blocked 3,830 shots, the most of any player in NBA history. Hakeem was a 9-time All-Defensive selection, a 2-time DPOY, and a two-time NBA Champion with the Houston Rockets.
9. Kawhi Leonard
Leonard is the greatest defender in the NBA right now. He has been named to the All-Defensive Team five times and is a two-time DPOY. Winning DPOY is no easy task, particularly for a tiny forward. Leonard’s excellent perimeter defense has helped him win two NBA titles, one as a reserve player for the Spurs and the other as the Raptors’ star.
10. Bill Russell
Who is the best defender in the NBA? Even though Russell played in an age when defensive statistics were recorded, what he accomplished throughout his career places him second on this list. Russell only averaged 15.1 points per game in his career, but he was the finest defender of his era, giving rival teams nightmares. Russell has won 11 NBA championships and has the best defensive win share in NBA history (133.64).
11. Marcus Smart
Smart is the Boston Celtics’ heart and soul. Though he is effective on attack, Smart has the most influence on defense. Smart often checks the hardest perimeter assignment for the Celtics while offering enough help defensively for his teammates. Smart, a well-known failure, has also made his deception into a work of art.
12. Dennis Rodman
“The Worm,” one of the most bizarre players in the history of the NBA, definitely made his imprint every time he went on the court. Rodman established himself in the NBA as the ideal team player, collecting rebounds and playing strong defense night after night without the ball.
Rodman was a 7-time Rebounding Champ, 8-time All-Defensive Player, 2-time DPOY, and 5-time NBA Champion while playing in this capacity.
13. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo was selected by the Miami Heat late in the lottery of the 2017 NBA Draft. The ability of the former Kentucky product to move on to smaller guards and contain bigger centers distinguishes him as a unique feature piece in Miami’s defensive strategy.
In Miami’s march to the NBA Finals on the bubble, Adebayo made a great play after an amazing contribution. His game-saving block on Jayson Tatum ranks among the top playoff moments from last season.
14. Scottie Pippen
Although he is best known as Michael Jordan’s sidekick, Scottie Pippen was the superior defender of the two and is often regarded as the finest perimeter defender of all time. He was named to the All-Defensive Team ten times and led the NBA in steals in 1994-95. His accomplishments on defense and to the Bulls teams can not be overlooked.
15. Joel Embiid
When Joel Embiid is patrolling, his seven-foot, 280-pound body makes it virtually hard to approach the paint as an offensive player. Embiid has twice been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team. Embiid has been a strong presence throughout his career, averaging at least 1.3 blocks every game.
16. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt the Stilt was maybe the most dominating player in game history. Unfortunately for us basketball lovers, he played in an age when defensive numbers were recorded and only appeared on five All-Defensive Teams. Regardless, Wilt should be considered one of the game’s defensive greats owing to his stature and domination over his opponents throughout his career.
17. LeBron James
Even at 36, LeBron James is the league’s GOAT. His attacking powers are undeniable, but the four-time champion and three-time MVP also excels on defense. James, 6’9″ and 250 pounds, can defend many spots and cause havoc.
James exemplifies the importance of All-Defensive teams as a regular season honor. Since 2014, he has not been chosen to an All-Defensive team. James typically reserves his energy for the playoffs when he ramps up his defensive aggressiveness on the greatest of platforms. James’ ability to read opponents’ play calls and research their trends is unparalleled.
18. Tim Duncan
The Big Fundamental was not well-known for his defense, but he was undeniably one of the game’s top defenders. Duncan was named to an NBA record 15 All-Defensive Teams, which means he was not picked in just four of his eight seasons. Duncan is one of the finest players and defenders of all time because of his consistency and brilliance.
19. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is the ultimate rival. Selecting his offensive locations and worming his way to the basket stand out. Butler, on the other hand, is always willing to take on the most difficult work. His aggressive demeanor and two-way prowess undoubtedly aided Miami’s NBA Finals appearance.
Butler and the Heat have had a poor start due to injuries and a streak of COVID-related absences, but you can bet they will not go down without a fight.
20. Kobe Bryant
Bryant was recognized throughout his career for making clutch and game-winning shots. He was, nevertheless, one of the finest defensive players of his day. During his career, Kobe was named to 12 All-Defensive teams and frequently shut down elite NBA players night in and night out.
21. Patrick Beverley
Patrick Beverley’s route to the NBA has been one of hard labor. He is now one of the league’s most fierce rivals. Beverley, a second-round selection, spent time in the Ukraine and Greece before breaking into the league.
Every night, the guard delivers it with exceptional level rebounding for a guard, effort, and that sticky defense. As a three-time All-Defense selection, opponents are wary about the damage Beverley causes as an on-ball hound.
22. Bruce Bowen
Bruce Bowen epitomizes the defensive specialist. Despite his greatest scoring average of 8.2 points per game in 2004-05, Bowen was able to carve out a lengthy and successful NBA career due to his exceptional perimeter defense.
He earned an All-Defensive pick eight times throughout his career and played a significant role in three of the Spurs’ five titles.
23. Eric Bledsoe
It’s difficult for any guard to overcome Eric Bledsoe’s excellent defense. Bledsoe was named to the NBA’s first and second All-Defensive teams in the previous two seasons. Bledsoe was a member of two great defenses in Milwaukee. His aggressive ability to anticipate passing lanes, restrict drives on the perimeter and stymie opponents makes him a rare defensive player.
24. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard’s output has diminished recently, but it doesn’t diminish what he did during his heyday. Howard has been named All-Defensive 5 times, Block Leader 2 times, and DPOY 3 times. He was the best shot-blocker of his era and continues to offer valuable minutes and defense for the Lakers today.
25. Paul George
Though the NBA Twitter brigade may mock him from time to time for a botched moniker (See: Playoff P), there’s no doubting what Paul George brings to the table. George, a six-time All-Star, is one of the top two-way players in the NBA today.
His ability to limit guards and other wings on the perimeter and his slithery skill on the offensive end to nail jumpers all over the floor has earned him a spot on the team. In Los Angeles, George’s defensive pairing with Kawhi Leonard is a rare combo.
26. Michael Cooper
Everyone knows Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy from the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. On the other hand, Michael Cooper was a vital member of that squad.
Cooper was a long guard who was an excellent defender and shooter, making him an ideal role player for Magic to work with. Cooper was named to the All-Defensive Team eight times during his career, earned DPOY in 1986-87, and was a member of all five Showtime Lakers championship teams.
27. Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday is most likely your favorite player. Holiday has performed well in his debut season with the Milwaukee Bucks, earning praise for his ability on both sides of the court. Holiday, a one-time All-Star, is one of the league’s top one-on-one defenders, and he can get the job done.
The holiday was an NBA All-Defensive Team member in 2018 and 2019, and the highlight of his defensive highlight reel was holding Portland’s Damian Lillard to 18.5 points and 35% shooting in a first-round matchup in 2018.
28. Manute Bol
Bol is the tallest player in NBA history, standing at an astounding 7’7 feet. Bol’s exceptional stature and length helped him to become an outstanding shot blocker. He averaged three blocks per game during his career and is the NBA’s 15th all-time shot blocker.
30. Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez was recognized for his offensive contributions in the low position early in his career. Still, he rejuvenated his career by developing the long-distance shot and employing his huge height as a deterrent near the rim. Read also: Best Position For Basketball: How To Create Space and Score More Points
Lopez was named to his first All-Defensive team and has been in the top five in blocks for the previous two seasons. Lopez, a former one-time All-Star, maybe the greatest NBA player and Disney fan.
31. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaq is widely regarded as one of the NBA’s most dominating players. O’Neal, who stood 7’1 325 pounds, was no pushover on the defensive end of the ball.
Shaq’s stature enabled him to outmuscle anybody who attempted to post him up, and he was also an excellent shot-blocker. He has been named to the All-Defensive Team three times and sits ninth all-time in blocks.
32. PJ Tucker
PJ Tucker, the NBA’s resident shoe king, has built a livelihood doing the grunt labor. Tucker’s sacrifice was evident last year. The 6-foot-5 Tucker took over as the starting center for the Houston Rockets after the club traded center Clint Capela for forward Robert Covington in a four-team transaction.
Tucker was at a height and weight disadvantage for most of last year when matched up with behemoths like Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert. Tucker, who has returned to his normal position as a power forward this season, is still making hustle plays on defense, taking charges, and diving for loose balls.
33. Walt Frazier
Although statistics may not indicate it, Frazier was one of the best defenders in NBA of his day. He played from 1967 through 1980, when the NBA just began tracking defensive statistics in 1973. Despite this, Frazier is regarded for possessing arguably of the fastest hands in the history of the NBA, enabling him to steal several times. In his career, he was named to seven All-Defensive Teams.
34. Elvin Hayes
“The Big E” is among the NBA’s most underappreciated players. Hayes was a superb defensive player in addition to winning the NBA Championship with Washington in 1978 and ranking 10th all-time in scoring.
Hayes was a hound on the boards and a good post and perimeter defender. Thus his defensive approach was classified as “aggressive.” During his career, he was named to two All-Defensive Teams.
35. Sidney Moncrief
In the 1980s, Sidney Moncrief was a nightmare for opposition players to face. He was an outstanding on-ball defender who caused havoc for everyone he faced. Despite being just a 6’3 guard, Moncrief was a 5-time All-Defensive Team member and earned back-to-back DPOY titles in 1983 and 1984.
36. Mark Eaton
Mark Eaton was one of the most imposing figures in NBA history, at 7’4 275lbs. During his 11-year career with the Utah Jazz, Eaton has been named five All-Defensive Teams, led the league in blocks four times, and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. His greatest season was 1984-85 when he started all 82 games and averaged 5.6 blocks per game.
37. Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones is hardly a familiar name among Hall of Fame basketball players, but he should be recognized for his great defensive performance. He was a reliable defender and valuable player in whichever club he played.
During his career, Jones was an 11-time All-Defensive Team selection and was named Sixth Man of the Year in 1983, the year his 76ers won the NBA title.
38. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd was a brilliant defensive guard in addition to being one of the finest playmakers and floor generals in NBA history. Kidd was chosen to nine All-Defensive Teams during his career and averaged more than two steals per game. He is second in all-time steals, only behind John Stockton.
39. Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby is most known for his unorthodox jump shot, but he was also one of the top defensive players in the 2000s. Camby led the NBA in blocked shots four times, was named to the All-Defensive Team four times and earned the DPOY with the Nuggets in 2006-07. In terms of defensive win shares, he ranks ahead of Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, and Gary Payton.
40. OG Anunoby
Anunoby is 6-foot-7, but he can defend everyone from wings to power centers. Anunoby, in his fourth NBA season, is tied for the league lead in thefts. Despite the Raptors’ slow start to the 2020-21 season, Anunoby’s growth as a competent two-way player has been a bright light. If he keeps this up, he might make his first All-Defensive team.
41. Dave DeBusschere
Dave DeBusschere was widely regarded as one of the finest defensive players of his generation. However, DeBusschere played in the 1960s and 1970s, when defensive statistics were not recorded.
The NBA did not begin recognizing players for All-Defensive teams until 1968. DeBusschere was named to the All-Defensive Team every year of his career when the honor was available.
42. Dejounte Murray
Dejounte Murray, a long-armed guard on the perimeter for the San Antonio Spurs, is one of the NBA’s sharpest young defenders. Murray, an All-Defensive Team member in 2018, finished in the top ten in thefts last season (1.9 steals).
Murray, who recovered from a ruptured ACL two years ago, is a very powerful defensive rebounder for a guard, and his reputation is rising.
43. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala has been a defensive standout throughout his career, whether as a starter with the 76ers or as a reserve player with the Warriors.
Iguodala made two All-Defensive Teams in his career and was named Finals MVP in 2015, largely thanks to his defensive performance against LeBron James. In his 16th season in the NBA, he still provides great defense and leadership for the Miami Heat.
44. Luguentz Dort
Dort, a one-person wrecking company on the outskirts, appeared out of nowhere last year. He received considerable attention across the league for his work attaching like glue to Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden during the Thunder’s first-round matchup against the Houston Rockets.
Even though the series was lost, Dort’s defense drove him into a starting place this season. Despite an improved jump shooting, Dort’s intrusive, gnat-like defensive pressure remains. It’s resulted in a clearer picture of what the 21-year-old Dort can become in the future.
45. Tayshaun Prince
The 2004 Pistons are recognized for their strong team basketball and defense, which was spearheaded by four All-Stars. However, the probably most significant component of that starting lineup is sometimes overlooked by NBA fans.
Tayshaun Prince was a key player for the Pistons during their championship season as one of the finest perimeter defenders of his era. Prince played in 14 NBA seasons and was named to the All-Defensive Team four times.
46. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown, along with Jayson Tatum, is one-half of the Boston Celtics’ standout duo. Brown is the whole package and is a certainty to make his first All-Star squad this season.
Brown is an excellent on-ball defender who can switch and guard four different spots. Brown’s talents have played a significant role in the Celtics’ top-10 defense over the last three seasons.
47. Clint Capela
Clint Capela, a noted defensive impact player from his days with the switch-heavy Houston Rockets, has contributed to the Atlanta Hawks’ strong start to the season. The center recently had a 10-block game and blocked at least two shots each night on ten occasions.
Last season, Atlanta had one of the worst center rotations in the league, but Capela has delivered a significant increase with agility, rim protection, and excellent defensive rebounding.
48. Alvin Robertson
In the 1980s and 1990s, Robertson was a defensive mainstay for the Spurs and Bucks. He was named to six All-Defensive Teams, led the NBA in steals three times, and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1985-86. He averaged three or more thefts in five of his first seven seasons, an accomplishment that very few players can claim.
49. Wes Unseld
Wes Unseld has shown that height isn’t the primary factor determining how outstanding a center can be. Unseld was a towering 6’7, 245-pound defensive monster. He was a superb rebounder and post defender because of his broad size and build, which enabled him to outmuscle many of his opponents.
Unseld was never named to the All-Defensive Team, but he did assist the Washington Bullets/Wizards won their lone NBA Championship in 1978.
50. Larry Nance Jr.
Larry Nance, the second coming of his father, is one of the league’s top low-key defenders. Nance’s ability to switch and defend numerous spots has aided the Cavaliers’ climb to the top-10 in defense this season. So far this season, he leads the NBA in deflections and is tied for first in thefts.
With his improved defense abilities and three-point shooting, Nance has established himself as a top-tier role player in the NBA.
51. Tony Allen
It’s difficult to be a good NBA guard without a strong offensive game. On the other hand, Tony Allen earned a reputation for himself by consistently playing outstanding defense. Allen was a bother for opposing offenses throughout his 14 seasons in the NBA, frequently guarding the opposing team’s greatest scorer.
Even Kobe Bryant has remarked that Tony Allen was the finest defender he has ever faced. During his career, Allen was named to six All-Defensive Teams.
52. Pascal Siakam
Siakam, the previous Most Improved Player, can utilize his length and quickness to create defensive plays. Siakam, a wiry athlete, can switch on to waterbug point guards while still mixing it up in the paint.
Siakam’s 7-foot-3 wingspan devastates opposition defenses and is a luxury for a Toronto Raptors squad that relies on Kyle Lowry and Fred Vanvleet in the backcourt.
53. Joe Dumars
Dumars was an important member of the Bad Boys Pistons teams that won consecutive NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. The Pistons were famed for their swarming defense, and Dumars was the finest on-ball defender on the squad.
He was named to five All-Defensive Teams throughout his career and was the 1989 Finals MVP for Detroit’s first back-to-back championships.
54. Moses Malone
Moses Malone’s career extended from 1974 to 1995, making him one of the finest big players of all time. Malone earned two All-Defensive Teams and was a six-time rebounding champion during his 21-year career.
He was not renowned as a defensive stalwart, but I feel he deserves to be on this list because of his length and consistency throughout his career.
55. Ron Artest
During his playing career, Artest, commonly known as Metta World Peace, was one of the craziest personalities the game has ever seen. Despite being a somewhat controversial player, he is regarded as one of the finest defenders in the game. Artest was named to four All-Defensive Teams throughout his career and earned Defensive Player of the Year with the Pacers in 2003-04.
As we come to the end of our list, we want to thank you for taking the time to read it. We hope you enjoyed learning about the NBA best defenders and that you found our information helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us. Thank you again for reading, and we hope you have a great day!