Cason Wallace

Ranking the 10 best defenders in the 2023 NBA Draft

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You know how the old saying goes: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships, which is why finding the best defenders in 2023 NBA Draft will be a must for every single scout and GM out there.

They may not be the flashiest players by today’s standards, but you gotta have stoppers if you want to thrive come playoff time.

Best defenders in 2023 NBA Draft

That’s why often times the biggest NBA Draft steals wind up being those guys who, you know, can actually pile up steals at a high rate. With that in mind, we’ll dig deep into what we believe the top 10 NBA Draft best defenders are, those guys who won’t mind putting their bodies on the line to get a stop. Those who make a coach proud.

10. Bilal Coulibaly – SF, France

Our list of the top 10 best defenders in 2023 NBA Draft begins with a rather-unknown prospect. While every single person was mesmerized by Victor Wembanyama, and rightfully so, one of his teammates from Metropolitans actually managed to steal some attention as well, and for very good reason.

This guy is a physical specimen with an impressive wingspan and the ability to absolutely clamp and lock down rival wings with ease. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but his combination of strength, quick hands, lateral quickness, and determination to run through screens makes him a can’t-miss guy as a defensive specialist in this class.


9. Kobe Bufkin – SG, Michigan

Well, with that name of his, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Kobe Bufkin go on to become one of the biggest NBA Draft steals of all time. All jokes aside, if he keeps working on his offensive repertoire, he might well emerge as one of the most complete two-way players in the Association.

Kobe Bufkin has made a name for himself for being a lockdown defender already. He’s the ultimate hustler and the kind of guy who will never give up on a possession, regardless of the scoreboard. He’s a better on-ball defender than off-ball, but his speed and great reads also allow him to switch and recover as a help defender.

8. Amen Thompson – PG/SG, Overtime Elite

Some scouts believe that Amen Thompson is actually the most versatile defensive-minded guard in this draft class, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment. He might not be the best in any of the categories, but he’s most definitely the most well-rounded.

He’s a speedster with elite lateral quickness, size, and instincts. He’s a major threat in passing lanes, and he takes pride in handling the opposition’s first scoring option. While not often, he’s shown the ability to guard one through five, which is something not many players have in today’s positionless game.

7. Ausar Thompson – PG/SG, Overtime Elite

While he’s mostly known for his downhill scoring prowess, Ausar Thompson, like his twin brother, might is one of the NBA Draft best defenders. He’s not as versatile as Amen, but he’s much better at clamping rival perimeter players, especially when it comes to going over and through ball screens.


He’s a complete pest for rival ball handlers. His athleticism and instincts make him great at disrupting the rival’s offense in passing lanes or out-of-bounds plays. Just like his brother, he’s made a living out of bullying smaller players in the restricted area with his ability to get chase down blocks and pick up their pockets.

6. Victor Wembanyama – C, France

Given his physical traits, Victor Wembanyama obviously has the potential to be one of the top shot blockers in this Draft class, and in NBA history as a whole. This young man has the upside of becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the game, especially if mentored by a legend like Tim Duncan.

Wembanyama’s skill set is unique, and he’s obviously not going to go first-overall because of his defense, but he’s still an elite rim protector. He needs to bulk up to withstand the physical burden that comes with defending the post against NBA big men, but he’s got all the tools to thrive on that end of the floor.

5. Dereck Lively II – C, Duke

While defensive-minded and heavy-footed big men seem to be a dying breed in today’s game, Dereck Lively II has established himself as one of the best defenders in 2023 NBA Draft, which is why he’s still expected to be a late-lottery pick.

The 7-foot-1 specimen out of Duke is a complete menace as a rim protector, and he might be the best shot-blocker in his class. He’s got a massive 7-foot-8 wingspan and his sole presence around the paint changes everything for the rival’s offense. He’s worked on his fundamentals and footwork, so he could have a long career in the league if given some time to develop.

4. Taylor Hendricks – PF/C, UCF

Taylor Hendricks is a bit of a tweener in the frontcourt, but what he lacks in size and wingspan, he makes up with elite instincts, defensive IQ, and hustle. The 6-foot-9 forward/center can jump off the roof and has elite timing as a shot-blocker to alter everything inside of the restricted area.

His skill set makes him a plug-and-play kind of guy who could produce right away in pretty much any system. On the offensive side, he’s shown an ability to stretch the floor by knocking down almost 40% of his three-pointers on 4.6 attempts per game, so he could be a huge steal.

3. Anthony Black – PG/SG, Arkansas

Not many guards are NBA-ready defenders when they set foot on the court as professionals for the very first time, and that’s why Anthony Black isn’t like most guards. At either the one or the two, this young man is clearly one of the NBA Draft best defenders.

He’s got the size and length to guard multiple positions and disrupt rival ball handlers with his big and quick hands. At 6-foot-7, he can bully his way to the rim or shoot over smaller guards, or make the most of his wingspan to stay in front of them and run through screens to disrupt their entire court vision.

2. Jarace Walker – SF/PF, Houston

It’s crazy to think that Jarace Walker isn’t getting more love as one of the best defensive players in this class. He’s got an NBA-ready body and could be a plug-and-play defender with his great instincts and ability to make reads in real time, not to mention his discipline.

Walker has all the intangibles to become an elite defender at the next level. He’s 6-foot-8 with a massive 7-foot-2 wingspan. His impressive athleticism allows him to make plays and overpower his rivals on 50/50 balls and switches. He can guard multiple spots, staying in front of quicker players with his length and lateral speed.

1. Cason Wallace – PG/SG – Kentucky

When it comes to point-of-attack defense, there’s no one even remotely close to Kentucky’s Cason Wallace. The combo guard won’t hesitate to endure a beating and get dirty in the paint and on the perimeter by guarding bigger players, making up for his lack of size with elite defensive IQ.

He’s ferocious, strong, and a guy that will run through screens for a full 48 minutes, similar to what Jrue Holiday and Marcus Smart do. Rival ball-carriers cannot take their eyes of the ball or flinch for a second before he pokes the basketball away from them.

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