Dwight Howard and the 6 Best Defensive Studs in the NBA

Zach CampbellCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2012

Dwight Howard and the 6 Best Defensive Studs in the NBA

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    You know how people gripe about how the NBA neglects defense?  While that might be true, there are certain players who do lock their opponents down with relative ease.  Dwight Howard may be the first name that comes to mind.  

    The 6'11" Orlando Magic phenom has been the most feared defender in the NBA for several years.  His towering, freakishly athletic form casts a giant shadow across the floor that swallows up light and would-be scorers alike.  

    It also factors in greatly that Howard is a three-time defensive POY award recipient.

    Of course, it's not only Dwight Howard who commands the respect of players across the league.  There are a handful of other players who dominate night after night and fill up the defensive stat sheets.

    Here is a list of the five best defensive players in the NBA besides Dwight "Superman" Howard.   

Serge Ibaka, PF (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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    If there's one player in the NBA who lives up to his team's namesake, it may very well be Serge Ibaka. 

    When Serge pulls off one of his stunning blocks, he truly brings the thunder.

    Not only did the Zaire native lead the NBA in blocks last year with 198, he seems to be on pace to do just the same this year.  His 10-block performance last Wednesday night should be evidence of his not letting up one iota around the glass.  That was also the second time he's accomplished that feat this season.  It's something that hasn't happened since Marcus Camby did it in 2007-2008.  

    Choke on that, Dwight.

    Ibaka still needs a little bit of a boost in his rebounding figures but there is no denying that entering the paint against Oklahoma City is done at one's own peril.  Ibaka is simply that good at defending the shot. 

Kevin Garnett, PF (Boston Celtics)

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    "The Kid" has gotten a lot older on us in recent years but if there's one thing Kevin Garnett can still do well night after night, it's play defense. 

    Garnett is a general on the floor.  As the Celtics fall back into their man to man defense, you can see Garnett directing and orchestrating the other four players on the floor to try and engineer a stop.  Perhaps it's the unwavering tenacity, perhaps it's his being venerable now in his final years in the NBA. 

    Regardless, Kevin Garnett can still slap the floor and make it hard for anyone to score on him. 

    As a nine-time member of the NBA All-Defensive team and the 2008 defensive POY, Garnett doesn't dominate any one statistical category yet he makes his impact felt in just about every way imaginable. 

    Averaging 1.0 BPG and 0.7 SPG doesn't jump off the page, but Garnett continues to play with energy uncommon with his age.  True, he's gotten a rap as a dirty defender and I'm not here to argue that, but you can't deny that Garnett is still one of the best defensive players in the game, even at age 35.

LeBron James, SF (Miami Heat)

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    You can't get much more polarizing than LeBron James.  Aside from politics, religion and the economy, few topics can stir people into a frenzy quite like "The King" can.  However, of the few things that are certain about him, one is surely that he is a formidable defender. 

    Then again, how can he not be?  LeBron James is arguably the greatest physical specimen to ever play in the NBA.  This in turn allows him to be a constant migraine for opposing teams.  LeBron can jump passes and seemingly suffocate passing lanes at will.  Then there are the chase down blocks that we see at least once a week on SportsCenter

    As good as he is offensively, LeBron still manages to average 0.8 BPG and 1.8 SPG.  Then there is the more intangible side of his defensive game that one must see to believe.  That is, his ability to defend all five positions on the floor and do it effectively.  One second he could be in front of Dwight Howard in the post and the next second he's picking up Jameer Nelson in transition.  

    He can simply do it all.  

    As a three-time member of the NBA All-Defensive first team, LeBron James is arguably the most versatile defender in all of basketball. 

Tony Allen, SG (Memphis Grizzlies)

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    Tony Allen is by no means a household name but his effort on the defensive side of the ball should get more notice than it currently does. 

    Allen consistently plays on-ball defense against some of the premier perimeter plays in the NBA (see picture above) and is by no means a pushover in terms of defensive presence. 

    The thing about playing primarily on-ball, though, is that the stat sheets don't reflect the impact one typically has.  There are rarely blocks and steals are usually the biggest notch on the belt as far as stats go. 

    In that sense, Allen does fairly well having averaged 1.8 SPG this season.  Allen, though battling an injury right now, is currently in the midst of a scoring surge.  If he can stay healthy and keep progressing on the offensive end, a bright spotlight will shine on his defensive prowess.

    Allen may not be a front-runner for defensive POY, but he's an invaluable type of defender—the type who can match up on multiple positions and play tough every second he's on the floor.

Kevin Love, PF (Minnesota Timberwolves)

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    As if it's not enough that Kevin Love is double-double machine on offense, he's also a force on defense. 

    Where Kevin Garnett ruled the paint in Minnesota through the late 90's and early 2000's, Kevin Love has picked up his mantle as the most feared wolf in the pack. 

    While Dwight Howard and Serge Ibaka are the premier block artists in the NBA, Love has perfected the art of rebounding defensively.  Currently, he stands second in the league behind only Howard with 13.7 defensive boards a game. 

    That's called controlling the glass, ladies and gentlemen. 

    Love isn't the rare athlete that Howard and Ibaka are.  You'll never see him spring-boarding out of God's nowhere to throw a shot into the stands.  However, Love's game is fluid, controlled and calculated.  It's the same on both ends of the floor, really. 

    Kevin Love is simply always around the ball and he establishes his position as well as anyone in the game.  While he could probably elevate his game by collecting more blocks, Kevin Love is a model of playing good defense in the post and plays at a high level night after night.

Andrew Bynum, C (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Andrew Bynum has finally arrived, folks.

    The 7'0" tall Lakers center has finally emerged into a legitimate threat on both ends of the floor in the last year and no doubt LA is happy to have him. 

    This year alone, Bynum is averaging 2.0 BPG and 12.6 RPG.  This, of course, is all done while averaging 17.0 PPG on the offensive end of the court. 

    Some might point to the arrival of Mike Brown and his defensive minded brand of ball.  While that certainly factors in to some degree, Bynum also seems to have come into his own and to have developed his game to an elite level. 

    Bynum is long and uses every bit of his enormous frame to guard the paint.  He's also grown more aggressive.  The culmination of all these things have some analysts, Skip Bayless in particular, wondering if they wouldn't take Bynum over Dwight Howard to anchor a team's defense.     

    At the rate Andrew Bynum is going, I wouldn't be surprised if that argument picks up steam.  While Kobe is certainly the Lakers' offensive focal point, I give credit to Andrew Bynum for running the show on defense.  Aside from Dwight Howard, there isn't a better big man defender in the NBA.