Bad defense will plague teams like nothing else. Some of the most talented players in the NBA are also some of the biggest liabilities for their teams.
The best offense is a good defense. It’s not just a cliché. There’s a reason that the Chicago Bulls held the NBA's best regular-season record last year despite their ridiculous injury problems: They play defense.
That said, it’s incredible how some of the best superstars in the NBA still have one-dimensional games.
Most elite players are elite because they play well at both ends of the floor well. But there are some players, like Carmelo Anthony, who approach elite status merely on the merits of their offensive talents.
Besides Anthony, here are five other top NBA players whose legacies have been tarnished by their defensive reputations.
The Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer is one of those players who just doesn’t have a defensive bone in his body.
He’s actually a very talented offensive player, but his defense has long kept him out of the discussion of which players make up the NBA's elite.
In 2012, Boozer had a decent season. He averaged just 15 points per game but contributed heavily on the boards, bringing down over eight rebounds per game.
But his ineptitude on defense did not sit well in defensive-minded Chicago, where fans expected him to contribute enough on both ends of the court to make up for the absences of Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton.
He didn’t meet those demands, and his defensive woes made him a fan punching bag.
Carlos Boozer will never be the defensive player that the Bulls want him to be. He’s still a very capable big man, but his defense has cost him any chance of being one of the best.
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Andrea Bargnani is a top player, but if you look at his stats it’s easy to see how much potential he has.
Last season with the Toronto Raptors, he played 33.3 minutes per game, averaging 19.5 PPG, and 5.5 RPG.
Those may not be Dwight Howard-like stats, but Bargnani's scoring average ranked him second among centers and fifth among power forwards.
There’s a reason that you won’t hear his name mentioned with Howard or Andrew Bynum, though. His defensive numbers stand out just as much as his scoring numbers—only they stick out for all the wrong reasons.
He averaged just .5 blocks per game. For comparison purposes, Dwight Howard averaged 2.2, and the 6’4” Dwayne Wade averaged 1.3.
Bargnani isn’t impressing anybody with his defensive numbers. He’s not a bad player, though; I’d really like to see how good he could be if he were to acquire some defensive savvy.
Not too long ago, Amar’e Stoudemire was considered one of the premier power forwards in the league. Simply put, he’s an electrifying player with the ball in his hands.
That’s where it ends, though. While his offensive game can still be among the NBA's best, his deficiency at the other end of the floor remains a cold, sobering truth.
Early in his career, he was at least active on defense and had the major hops to make up for his lack of defensive know-how. Now, watching him play defense is like watching a gargoyle. He’s stiff, he doesn’t move quickly. At times, he’s a statue.
His career would be more highly regarded if not for his notorious indifference to protecting the rim.
Monta Ellis is one of the most electrifying scorers in the NBA. His court vision and ability to get to the rim are on par with the best in the game.
He played for two separate teams last season. Overall, he averaged over 20 PPG for the season, as well as contributing a very healthy six assists per game. His offensive capabilities are unquestioned; he’s one of the best shooting guards in the game today.
Unfortunately, we can’t just leave it there. His disinterest in playing defense prevents him from being mentioned among the elite of NBA off-guards.
There’s really no reason for him to be a bad defensive player—his athleticism is undeniable. It all comes down to attitude and tenacity.
Ellis could easily be one of the best all-around guards in the league if he would put some effort into excelling on both ends of the court.
With his elite court vision, Steve Nash epitomizes what it means to be a pass-first point guard.
Nash is the player to whom every pass-first NBA point guard hopes to eventually be compared.
Last season with the Phoenix Suns, he averaged 12.5 PPG, and 10.7 APG. He also only managed to nab .6 steals per game. By comparison, Boston's Rajon Rondo averaged 1.8 SPG.
Defense is Steve Nash’s handicap, although he hasn’t let it get in the way of having a successful career.
But a Steve Nash who could lock down on defense would be scary. Maybe we’ll see some of that in his 17th season!
When it comes to possessing mad offensive skills, there aren’t many in the NBA who can compete with Carmelo Anthony.
His defense has always been his glaring weakness, it was especially evident in the playoffs last season against LeBron James. Not that LeBron is easy for anybody to guard, but Carmelo didn’t do a lot to hold him.
Carmelo Anthony is an absolute terror on offense, and if he manages to figure out things on the defensive end, he could contend for a league MVP.