In basketball, everyone wants to score, but not everyone wants to defend. This is why the best NBA defenders 2021 are a different breed of players.
Best NBA defenders 2021
Defense is more than just steals and blocks. Some of the best defenders in the NBA right now don’t have the stats to show it but pass the eye test with their effort and hustle. After all, there’s a lot going on on the floor that the box score doesn’t show.
Below are the ten most impactful defensive players in the NBA this season…
10. Matisse Thybulle
Advanced analytics love Matisse Thybulle. He’s the only player to have career block and steal percentages of 4.0 and 3.7 respectively who logged at least 500 minutes.
Thybulle definitely passes the eye test too as he limits the field-goal percentage of the opposing matchup, disrupts passing lanes, and hustles for the ball.
His defensive potential is through the roof, especially when given more minutes. We may see the best of him yet as a defender in his third season.
9. Jrue Holiday
There are only a few point guards in the NBA who are elite on both ends of the floor. Jrue Holiday is one of them.
Throughout the years, Holiday’s defensive impact is well-documented as he can create havoc on the perimeter and contain the opposing team’s best point guard. This was evident as he averaged 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks per game last season.
His playmaking and defensive efforts were vital in Milwaukee’s championship run. Holiday earned his third All-NBA Defensive Team honors last season.
8. Myles Turner
Although Myles Turner hasn’t been decorated with any defensive awards, he’s still the best shot-blocking big in the league. Last season, he ranked first in blocks per game (3.4) and block percentage (8.8).
This is why Indiana heavily relies on Turner to protect the rim. His impeccable timing is the big reason why he can alter shots with ease.
Turner may not win the DPOY award anytime soon as advanced analytics doesn’t favor him. Although that can change with their new head coach, Rick Carlisle.
7. Jimmy Butler
Being a two-way superstar sure can be tough. These players have to carry the offensive load while tasked with defending the opposition’s best player. That’s not the case for Jimmy Butler.
Butler’s ball instincts are on another level as he’s the best in the game in forcing turnovers. Last season, Butler ranked first in steals (2.1) and tied for third in deflections (3.5) per game. As you can see, he’s a menace in the passing lanes and in forcing the opponent to cough up the ball.
He’ll continue to be the best defender in his position, especially with Kawhi Leonard missing a huge chunk of time this year.
6. Draymond Green
While Draymond Green is not the same athlete he was a few years ago, he’s still one of the most impactful defensive players in the NBA this season due to his toughness and basketball IQ.
His role is to do the little things for Golden State while Curry and Thompson shoot the lights out. Last season, he racked up 8.9 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game.
Green is already one of the previous DPOY winners. If he continues to pick up where he left off last season, there’s no reason he can’t get another defensive title this year.
5. Bam Adebayo
Since his rookie year, Bam Adebayo showed us his ability to switch on to smaller guards and contain bigger centers. He has then improved ever since and was awarded All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the second straight season.
Adebayo is the centerpiece in Miami’s defense. Last season, he averaged 1.2 steals and 1 block per game. Even though he’s an undersized center, his athleticism, hustle, and energy make up for it.
Expect a much more improved Adebayo this season with a contending Heat team.
4. Anthony Davis
When healthy, Anthony Davis is easily one of the best defenders in the league. At 6’10”, he has the lateral quickness, strength, and verticality to guard 1-5 positions. He’s a major factor in why Los Angeles was ranked first in defensive rating.
Injuries derailed his campaign last season but he still managed to put up 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks on 36 games.
Now finally healthy and with an improved roster, expect Davis to bounce back this season.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
There’s no other player in the league who has the complete physical tools as a defender. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s combination of size, length, strength, and athleticism is simply unfair.
Last season, Giannis amassed 9.4 defensive rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. At 6’11” with a 7’4″ wingspan, he simply covers a lot of ground which disrupts passing lanes and alters shots.
Giannis is still young and hungry for more. He’ll continue to become a defensive menace in his pursuit of another championship.
2. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is one of the best NBA defenders right now because of his ability to guard multiple positions. At 6’11”, his defensive versatility to guard opposing wings and forwards is what makes him an elite on-ball defender.
Last season, Simmons averaged 5.6 defensive rebounds, 1.6. steals, and 0.6 blocks. The stats may not show it but he’s always on the task to guard the opponent’s best player—no matter what position.
Don’t count Simmons out to win DPOY this year despite the trade rumors in Philadelphia.
1. Rudy Gobert
The number 1 on this list is no other than the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. It was rightfully so as he led the league in total blocks (190) and defensive rebounds (720).
This is why he was a pivotal piece in Utah’s success in the regular season. Without him, the Jazz wouldn’t boast one of the best defenses in the league. He ranked first in defensive rating (101.6) and defensive win shares (5.2).
There’s no reason why Gobert can’t continue to produce this season. Without any setbacks, expect him to finish inside the DPOY finalists once again.
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