They say defense wins Championships, right? No team has ever won an NBA title without good defense. Sometimes it's more important to stop an opposing superstar than it is to have one of yours make a big shot.
Some teams are geared towards creating a structured defense while others prefer to focus on offense. Oftentimes it depends on the kind of talent you have on the roster. These guys may be the key to their team's success this upcoming season.
Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks is obviously one of the most athletic players in the league. His quickness at the power forward position allows him to play defense on the perimeter while his height at 6'9" helps with blocking shots down low.
Al Horford is a solid defender as well but Smith's athleticism gives him the edge here.
Ask who the best on-ball defender is in the NBA, and most people within the league will tell you it's Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics. His speed and quickness are his biggest advantages.
Kevin Garnett is another good candidate for Boston, but Bradley edges out the veteran big man here.
Garald Wallace's contract with the Brooklyn Nets this summer was huge, and many people wondered if he is worth it. While his offensive game might not be as polished as the Nets would like, it's his defense that Brooklyn is really eying.
His combination of size, athleticism and quickness allows him to guard at least three different positions.
One bright spot for Charlotte Bobcats fans last year was the defensive presence of Bismack Biyombo. His shot blocking ability gives them a much needed defensive weapon.
They have been collecting offensive players like Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon, and Ramon Sessions, so they will continue to lean on the big man in Charlotte.
As irritating as Joakim Noah can be, you cannot deny his defensive abilities. Most will note his shot blocking skills, but he actually has quick hands and feet on the perimeter as well.
Luol Deng is another great defensive weapon for the Chicago Bulls, but Noah is mainly there for defensive purposes.
The signing of C.J. Miles was huge for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This gives them a great perimeter defender on a team otherwise comprised of mediocre defensive talent.
Miles can guard three positions, so his versatility on defense is a huge asset for the Cavs.
Shawn Marion has been the Dallas Mavericks' staple on defense ever since Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler left. They have asked him to guard some of the best offensive players in the league almost every single night.
Whether it's shot blocking or perimeter defense, Marion's ability to guard three positions is such a positive for the Mavericks.
Andre Iguodala, recently traded to the Denver Nuggets this summer, has always been known for his defense and for good reason. Iggy is the ultimate defender, being able to guard four different positions on the floor.
He and Tyson Chandler were vital to Team USA's Gold medal-winning efforts this summer in London. The Nuggets are not only deep, but they have one of the best defenders in the game.
The Detroit Pistons drafted Andre Drummond this summer with the hopes that he could be their defensive center of the future. This means Greg Monroe will be moving to power forward where he should fair even better than last year guarding smaller players.
Detroit still has Ben Wallace, but he's just a shell of the dominant defender he once was.
If you've seen Festus Ezeli play basketball, you know this choice for the Golden State Warriors was a no-brainer. The big man is freakishly athletic, and he will be one of the best shot blockers in the league this season.
Head coach Mark Jackson has been preaching defense ever since he took the job. Now he has an incredible piece to work with.
It's no secret that Omer Asik was grossly overpaid by the Houston Rockets, but he does give them some great value inside. Before he was traded to the Rockets this summer, he was a great presence down low for the Chicago Bulls.
One of the talented rookies could take over this spot in the near future, but for now it goes to the big man who has proven he can defend.
The Indiana Pacers know how important it is to keep talented big man Roy Hibbert as shown by the max contract he was offered this summer.
His presence inside, especially around the rim, is what fuels their defense. His main objective is to prevent guys like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade from driving to the basket at will.
Caron Butler was known for his defense during his days in Dallas. His defensive play was lost behind Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion to some extent. Despite his injury last season, he has given the Los Angeles Clippers some much needed defensive help.
DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are also great defenders, so you can't go wrong with any of these three. I just gave the edge to Butler because I think his role this year has to be their defensive stopper.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was the easy choice here. The offense for the Lakers will be fine with or without him. How far this team goes in the playoffs, however, depends on the defensive play of Howard.
Ron Artest (that is his name) is still a decent defender, but he's not what he used to be when he won the award in 2003 with the Pacers.
One of the main reasons why Tony Allen started over O.J. Mayo when he was still in Memphis was because of his defense. Allen is quick but also much stronger than you would think.
The Memphis Grizzlies have some quality defenders in their front court, but when it comes to their best overall defender, it's clearly Allen.
When he wants/needs to be, LeBron James is the best defensive player on the planet. His combination of size, speed and athleticism cannot be matched by anyone. There are probably only two players (Howard and Bynum) in the world that he might have trouble guarding.
Shane Battier is a well-known defender, but LeBron is younger and can guard all five positions.
The former Tar Heel, John Henson, is going to be the future defensive weapon for the Milwaukee Bucks without question. That may come as early as this year for the rookie.
Milwaukee's first round pick in the draft should make an immediate impact this season by demonstrating his incredible shot-blocking skills.
The best defensive player for the Minnesota Timberwolves is not clearly identifiable. They aren't a horrible defensive team, but there isn't one player that really stands out above the rest.
Andrei Kirilenko makes his return to the league this year and may very well be the guy, but for now, Derrick Williams has the potential if he can stay healthy.
Obviously, this was an easy choice; the New Orleans Hornets don't have many great defenders as it is. Anthony Davis has shown why he could be the best defensive player in the NBA in the near future.
The Tyson Chandler comparisons are well documented, but remember he is also quick on the perimeter and can move much better than most big men.
The league's reining Defensive Player of the Year is the clear winner here. Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks has always been known as an elite defender and for good reason. His defense helped lead Team USA to Gold this summer in London.
If Iman Shumpert can return to his old self this year after his injury last season, he could be another great defensive weapon for the Knicks.
Perhaps the best shot blocker in the league, Serge Ibaka, knows the Oklahoma City Thunder can rely on him for defense. The freakishly athletic big man is the obvious choice in Oklahoma City, with apologies to Kendrick Perkins.
Ibaka averaged 2.4 blocks in his second year in the league and an astonishing 3.6 blocks per contest last season.
Arron Afflalo has never backed down from guarding anyone. He relishes the opportunity to guard guys like Kobe Bryant every night. The Orlando Magic did lose a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard, but they still have an elite defender just at a different position.
The Magic have always been about offense, but with the services of Afflalo, they should be more balanced this season than expected.
While most people concentrate on Andrew Bynum's offense, perhaps it is his defense that sometimes goes unnoticed. With one of the biggest bodies in the league, Bynum knows how to defend the paint, and his impressive wingspan definitely helps.
The Philadelphia 76ers lost an elite defensive player in Andre Iguodala, but adding Bynum to this roster should make everything okay.
Though he hasn't had the career many people thought he would, Wesley Johnson could turn some heads this season in Phoenix. Statistically speaking, Johnson's blocks per game and steals per game should top all Phoenix Suns players this season.
The Suns have always been about offense, so it's no surprise there isn't a single player that stands out on defense.
Playing in the West, guarding a player like Dirk Nowitzki can be tough for any team. Not many teams can match up with him, but the Portland Trail Blazers can. LaMarcus Aldridge has always been an underrated player, and his defense is also overlooked at times.
Portland has added some young players, so the defensive load will once again be on Aldridge's shoulders.
He may not have the best attitude, but DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most talented players at his position. Known primarily for his offense, his defensive skills are better than most people would think.
There are plenty of other decent defenders on the Sacramento Kings roster, but none of them really stand out. Cousins can be a great defender when he wants to be.
The San Antonio Spurs have some good defensive talent but none better than Stephen Jackson. For whatever reason, Gregg Popovich knows how to get the best out of him.
Jackson's role as the defensive player for this team is vital to their success. It's crucial for him to be able to guard the best wing players in the league night in and night out.
There isn't a more underrated player in the league than Kyle Lowry. He quietly had a phenomenal season last year with the Houston Rockets where he led the team in most statistical categories.
Traded to the Toronto Raptors—a team loaded at the guard position—Lowry will be looked upon to anchor the defensive pressure on opponents this season.
The big men in Utah determine how much success the franchise will have. With Al Jefferson leading guys like Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, the Utah Jazz have plenty of defense inside.
Raja Bell is still on the roster, but his future with the team is up in the air. His career has been all about defense, so he could very easily get the spot here, too.
Going back to his days with the Denver Nuggets, Nene has always been a force inside. He is a premier shot blocker, and players have a hard time driving around him.
The Washington Wizards have some other quality defenders in Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, but recently added Nene gets the nod.