Andre Iguodola. Joakim Noah. Chris Paul. LeBron James. How about American hero, Tim Howard? Take your pick. Any one of these players can take an “offensive-minded” team and transition them into a top-10 defensive team. Throw in Kawhi Leonard as well. He did just help the San Antonio Spurs win another NBA championship.
“Defense wins championships.” That quote is said all over the world, yet no one ever pays much attention to it.
If you take a team that has an overload of offensive players but isn’t active on the defensive end, they’ll have plenty of highlights, but they won’t make it very far. Take that scenario, switch the offense with the defense, and you will get a playoff-bound team.
Just look at last season’s Chicago Bulls. Without Derrick Rose, they averaged the worst field goal percentage in the NBA, shooting 43.2 percent. They also averaged the league-worst 93.7 points per game, yet they somehow made the playoffs.
How, you ask? DEFENSE.
Here are a few of the top NBA players who helped lead their teams on the defensive end:
1. Joakim Noah
Noah has become a leader on the court and in the locker room. His defensive presence led the Bulls to win 48 games and earn the fourth seed, giving them home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Although the Eastern Conference has become the lesser of the two conferences over recent years, it doesn’t take away the accomplishments the Bulls have achieved. Noah averaged 1.2 steals per game to go along with 1.5 blocks per game, while holding his opponents to a 46.8 field goal percentage in the paint.
2. Roy Hibbert
In 2014, Hibbert made the All-Star team, but he also had one of the worst second halves by an All-Star, ever. That doesn’t change the fact that he is known around the league as a force to be reckoned with in the paint. He has mastered the technique of disrupting an offensive player in the paint without committing a foul. Limiting his opposition to 41.4 percent shooting and averaging 2.2 blocks per game puts him in the category of best defensive players.
3. Serge Ibaka
Ibaka has earned the nickname I-BLOCK-A, and I’m sure you can guess why. Over the past four seasons, Ibaka has averaged nearly 3.0 blocks per game, putting his career average at 2.6. He’s led the NBA in blocks in each of the last three seasons. Ibaka is rightfully known as one of the most feared defenders in the league not only for his blocking, but because he is very athletic and is pretty quick on his feet. It wouldn’t be surprising if he wins a Defensive Player Of The Year Award soon.
4. Dwight Howard
If you didn’t know, Howard is freakishly strong. You can tell just by seeing his body frame. The three-time Defensive Player Of The Year Award winner hasn’t been the same due to injuries over the past couple of seasons, most notably in 2012 when he had back surgery to repair a herniated disk. This past season, however, he seemed to be rounding back into Superman shape.
Howard’s presence on defense forces the opposing offense to think twice before they attack the paint. He blocks shots with ease, soars high to grab rebounds and overpowers most centers in the league. In his first season with the Houston Rockets, he averaged 1.8 blocks per game, his lowest since the 2006-07 season when he was with the Orlando Magic. Don’t let that fool you though; he is as much a shot blocker now as he was back then.
5. Andre Iguodola
Iguodala’s first season with the Golden State Warriors did not live up to the hype that most fans thought it would be. “Why did we spend so much money on him? He only averaged a measly 9.5 points per game. We could’ve spent that money on someone better.” Those fans couldn’t be any more wrong.
Although Iguodala only averaged 9.5 points per game, his defensive presence set a tone for the Warriors in 2013-14. His presence was never missed more than when he injured his hamstring on November 22nd, causing him to miss 12 games. Before Iguodola’s injury, the Warriors were the fourth best defensive team in the NBA. After the injury, they dropped to seventh. Upon his return, the Warriors skyrocketed into the third spot. He also led the league in the plus-minus category, averaging +9.0 differential per game.
Defense never gets the recognition it deserves. It is one of the most, if not THE MOST, underrated aspect in any sport. It may not give you the excitement that the offense provides, but it definitely plays a role in the outcome of the game.
This post was written by guest writer, Moises Gonzalez.