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NBA's 10 Best Defensive Players

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After winning his second consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has clearly established himself as the best stopper in basketball

Howard made NBA history when he led the league in rebounding (13.2) and blocked shots (2.8) in consecutive seasons (2009 and 2010). The 6-foot-11, 275-pound All-Star center was a near unanimous choice as the league’s top defender, garnering 110 of a possible 120 first-place votes.

The best way to measure a player’s worth on defense is how his team ranks defensively. Howard’s presence allows the Magic to be one of the top defensive teams in the league as Orlando yields just 95 points per game (4th) and opponents shoot just 43.8% from the field (1st). Howard joins Ben Wallace, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman and Sidney Moncrief as back-to-back winners of the defensive player of the year award. ranks the five best defenders in the NBA (regardless of position):

1) DWIGHT HOWARD, Orlando Magic, center
Howard stops and alters shots like a great goalie in hockey. Orlando’s entire philosophy on defense is to funnel all the scorers to Howard, and more often than not Howard ends up protecting the basket with his incredible jumping ability and intimidating raw power. No big man in the league defends the paint better than Superman II.

2) GERALD WALLACE, Charlotte Bobcats, forward
Wallace finished 13th in the rebounds (10.0), which is very impressive for a small forward. He also ranked 17th in steals (1.5) and 42nd in blocks (1.09). He earned the nickname “Crash” for his penchant for crashing to the floor, the stands and the basket padding. Wallace is a solid one-on-one defender, but he is even better as a weak-side defender.

3) RON ARTEST, L.A. Lakers, forward
Age may have robbed Artest of his quickness but definitely not his power. Ron-Ron uses his hands very well, and he has extremely strong hands. At 250 pounds, he likes to put his body on opposing scorers to take away their air space and thrives on physical contact. But his biggest strength is probably his reputation, as most players are afraid to go at him.

4) LeBRON JAMES, Cleveland Cavaliers, forward
James learned to play one-on-one defense from Kobe Bryant when the two were teammates on the U.S. Olympic Team. His signature blocks from behind have become regular highlights on SportsCenter and NBATV, and his intensity has picked up on the defensive end, LeBron is the only guy on this list who can defend all five positions.

5) RAJON RONDO, Boston Celtics, guard
Rondo is the leader in the NBA in steals (2.33) and has one of the quickest hands in the game. Boston’s defensive scheme doesn’t highlight Rondo’s one-on-one defense because they prefer to use him as a free safety. He tends to gamble a little too much, but Doc Rivers will live with that as long as he gets two or three steals a game.

6) KIRK HINRICK, Chicago Bulls, guard
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said that Kirk Hinrich is the best on-ball defender in the league. That’s high praise for a guy who doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to make it extremely tough on perimeter players to score. Just ask Dwyane Wade, who always struggles against the Bulls mainly because of Hinrich’s defense.

7) KOBE BRYANT, L.A. Lakers, guard
Because of injuries and wear-and-tear on the body, Kobe has lost some of his aggressiveness on defense. But when Phil Jackson needs to apply the glove on an opposing team’s scorer, he often calls on No. 24. Bryant’s best attribute is his preparation and intelligence. He does his homework off the court and scouts his competition.

8) KENDRICK PERKINS, Boston Celtics, center
Perkins is big and strong (6-10, 285) and is tough to root out of the post. Then, you combine his size with effort and you have a unbelievable post defender who plays his role to perfection. He rebounds, he blocks shots, he steps out on pick-and-rolls, and he also plays with a huge chip on his shoulder.

9) JOSH SMITH, Atlanta Hawks, forward
Smith has grown into a borderline All-Star player and his defense sets the tone for the Hawks. Mike Woodson said, “You think back six years ago, Josh Smith has come a long way. I tip my hat to him because he’s worked over the years and has developed into a player.” Smith averages eight rebounds, nearly two steals a game and is the only forward in the NBA ranked in the top 20 in blocks (2.06).

10) JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls,
When Noah was sidelined with an injury, the Bulls struggled. When he returned, the Bulls made a playoff push. Noah plays with great energy and a vocal leader. He not only defends his position, but he also helps his teammates. He is among the league leaders in rebounds (11.0) and blocks (1.6) and loves to compete.

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