It’s only fair we have an honorable mention given how many good defenders there are. It also helps clear the air a bit on why certain players do not make the top-10. Guys who make the honorable mention are among that group for injury reasons primarily.
C Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard had regressed as a defender the past two seasons prior to this one. Then all the sudden he again became one of the elite post presences, at least defensively. Unfortunately, he’s only played in 32 games this year (which only makes James Harden’s level of play this season that much more impressive).
But in those 32 games, he’s held opponents to elite defensive efficiency inside of 10 feet. However, if you get Howard outside of the paint, he yields much greater percentages—mostly on pick and pop action with fellow centers who can knock down a 15-20 foot jumper.
PF Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Serge Ibaka holds offensive players to criminally low field goal percentages. To understand the data, look to the column furthest to the right. If that number is negative that speaks well for the defensive player. And if that number is negative in the double digits, it is clear you have the elite of elite defenders on your hands.
Ibaka might be the best defensive player in the game currently. It’s a shame that he is now OUT for the rest of the season for the Thunder (assuming they do not play into May).
F Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
Iguodala doesn’t make the list mainly because he now comes off the bench for Steve Kerr’s squad. One of the purposes of this list is to recognize guys who are playing at or near 36 minutes per game (with one exception which will make more sense when we get there); Iguodala averages 27 minutes per game.
Iggy is still a great player, and specifically a great defender. He deserves recognition as such. But he’s probably the third most integral defensive player the Warriors have. There’s just not enough room on this list for him.
C Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Two reasons Noel finds himself on this list. First, he’s rookie who missed the majority of last season. And so he has just 66 games of NBA experience—which is significantly less than anyone else on this list. And second, if we do this list again next year, Noel will be in the top-10. He’ll get his due; it’s simply a matter of time.
By then he may be joined regularly in the frontcourt with Joel Embiid, and the Sixers may actually be an improved ball club overall. We’ll wait until that happens. But know we see Noel and can’t wait to see if he can keep it up.
C DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
That DeAndre Jordan is ultimately left out of the top-10 for NBA defenders is good and bad. It’s good in that it shows the NBA is strong in terms of quality defensive players. It’s bad in the sense that it means this could be a huge mistake leaving him out.
DeMarcus Cousins, seen nowhere on this list at all (not even honorable mention) actually defends the rim better based on percentages. The Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol could also make honorable mention or this list. But the strength of the league defensively is proven by the omission of Jordan in the top-10.
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