15 Biggest Matchup Nightmares in the NBA

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2013

15 Biggest Matchup Nightmares in the NBA

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    Generally speaking, all it takes is one player on an NBA team to start causing problems for opponents.

    If there's one guy who is so head and shoulders above the player who is guarding him, he will have any number of chances to score and dominate a game, allowing his team to go for a win.

    Of course, it makes it even better when a player is so talented that he's easily capable of playing multiple positions, eventually leading to desperate attempts to cover the guy while nothing more than some flailing and hoping goes on by the opposition.

    Those are the players that every team aches for, and if your team doesn't have one, then it's an incredible disadvantage.

    The NBA is full of guys who are either so talented or just so different for their position, but a select few stand above the rest. Let's check them out.

15. Anthony Davis

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    Anthony Davis is young, but it's hard to deny that he's an incredibly versatile basketball player.

    While he's plenty athletic—which is a pretty good way for a player to get his foot in the door—his skills go way past inborn talents.

    Before Davis enjoyed a growth spurt late in high school, he developed the ball-handling skills of a guard. When he gets out in the open floor, or even receives the ball at the top of the key, there's no telling what he's going to do.

    He's a fine passer and an incredible dribbler for a man his height. There are few big men who can guard him well enough to force him into a bad night

    And he's just a rookie.

14. DeMarcus Cousins

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    Sure, DeMarcus Cousins is a legitimate hothead, and he's starting to look like a borderline problem player, but his skill set is so immense that it's a crazy thought for the Sacramento Kings to eventually give up on trying to develop his game.

    While Cousins is still refining his game in the post, he's able to use his strength and athleticism enough to be a force.

    And once he bounces outside and starts shooting jumpers, he becomes a true dual-threat player. 

    He's still a very young, developing player. But once he gets everything going and starts hitting shots in the low post at a higher rate, he's going to be one of the league's most dangerous big men.

13. Tyson Chandler

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    It seems like a guy whose main goal is to keep opponents as far away from the bucket as possible wouldn't exactly be a "nightmare" as far as matchups go, but there are few centers in the NBA who are capable of playing the way Chandler does.

    While he scores mainly on alley-oops—and almost never when he's not having a player dump it down into his hands—his defense more than makes up for his lack of offense.

    What really makes him a remarkable defender is the fact that he's into his 30s, but he still has an incredible amount of athleticism.

    Chandler is fast enough to keep up with the younger bigs, he's strong enough to take a look at Marc Gasol or Dwight Howard and scoff, and he's so smart defensively that he knows how and when to help out if a perimeter player is beat.

12. Andre Iguodala

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    There are few players in the NBA as good on both ends of the floor as Andre Iguodala, and that's all thanks to the fact that he's so smart and so athletic.

    In as good a shape as anyone in the NBA, Iguodala would have no problem going at full speed for the majority of a game, but he's got the brain to know just how to use his energy to get the maximum output.

    His size is one of the most important parts of his versatility. He's a solid 6'6", which makes him ideal to play the shooting guard spot. However, he's fast enough to play against and keep up with point guards if need be, and he's strong and athletic enough to deal with small forwards.

    Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to see him perform well against a power forward or two.

    The athleticism gives him a tremendous advantage on offense as well as defense, and while it would be nice if he had a more consistent jumper, his versatility makes him unique.

11. Dwyane Wade

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    We've heard it all: He's lost a step; he's injury prone; he's not the player he once was. Even still, Dwyane Wade is one of the league's most impressive basketball players.

    Wade's ability to score is topped by just a few in the league, and it's all thanks to the fact that he knows how to get to the rim, using whatever tools he needs.

    Should he see himself lined up against a smaller, quicker defender, he can easily outmuscle or post his foe up. If it's a bigger guy, Wade has point guard-like ball-handling skills that give him the ability to get past his man.

    He could stand to shoot a bit better from the three-point line, but as far as that goes, he's taken to shooting long-range shots only when wide open. It's just an added bonus when he hits them.

10. Paul George

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    He may be the best pure athlete in the NBA, but as he's gotten more experience, Paul George is also becoming one of the league's best young players.

    There's just something about George that makes him more dangerous than most other players, and it's the fact that his game is so incredibly multifaceted.

    What George does as an athlete is borderline unparalleled, and this athleticism makes him able to leave a wide range of defenders completely bamboozled.

    He will only get better in the coming years as he develops and strengthens other areas of his game.

9. Josh Smith

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    When we're talking about athleticism, only one or two players can top Josh Smith. He's probably a guy who should be talked about when mentioning the most athletic players of all time.

    He's incredibly fast and has no problem outmuscling a bigger opponent. He also has a great first step.

    Smith's size suggests he should be playing on the upper end of the small forward scale, but he's been the Hawks' starting power forward for a huge chunk of his career.

    If he attacked the rim more and settled less for jump shots, he would be one of the league's most dangerous players.

8. Rajon Rondo

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    As far as point guards go, Rajon Rondo is one of the league's most notable, and it's because he's able to do so much on the floor.

    Rondo has been improving his jump shot, even though he still isn't much of a three-point shooter. If he ever developed a consistent three-pointer, he would be unstoppable.

    He's got a wiry-strong body, and he's capable of motoring around the court at breakneck speed.

    Once he gets out and running, there is no stopping him.

    Combine that speed with an ability to see so many passing angles, and he's nearly impossible to game-plan for. Just give him space and hope to cut him off before he gets to the rim.

7. James Harden

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    There's a reason why the Houston Rockets decided to mortgage their future on James Harden.

    The biggest one being that he's an amazing basketball player.

    He's shorter than most of the people on this list, save a few point guards, but what he's able to do with his body in motion is downright jaw-dropping.

    Harden's inside-outside game is dependent upon him being able to get into the lane and score with contact, and he's able to do that as well as almost any player in the NBA. Throw in a solid three-point stroke, and he's a dangerous player.

    Going even further, Harden's skills don't end at just being fast, smart and athletic. He could be a bona fide point guard in this league if it weren't for the fact that he's played alongside either Russell Westbrook or Jeremy Lin for the entirety of his career.

6. Chris Paul

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    One of the reasons people get so excited when somebody compares a young point guard like Kyrie Irving to Chris Paul is because Paul is such an amazing player. He's to the point where he transcends the title of "point guard" and becomes simply an elite basketball player.

    The biggest reason for this is the fact that he can alternate between scoring at will and running his team's offense with extreme efficiency.

    Combine that with a terrific inside-outside game, some athletic big bodies to throw alley-oops to and some stellar defensive instincts, and he's no longer just the guy running the point; he's the guy the other team has to put together a game plan for.

5. Russell Westbrook

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    While Chris Paul is amazing because of his skill set, Russell Westbrook is amazing because he is such a profound athletic specimen.

    As Derrick Rose led the way for the über-athletic point guards, Russell Westbrook followed in his footsteps and completely dropped jaws along the way.

    He's so fast and athletic that he's able to drive past any other player on the floor, plus he can get up to rim level quickly enough so that he's not a mouse in the house of the giants in the paint.

    Give him a deadly three-point shot, and he'd be impossible to contain.

4. Kobe Bryant

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    He's getting older, he's starting to slow down a bit, and he's had knee issues over the past few seasons, but Kobe Bryant is as hard to deal with as he's ever been.

    The only thing you can bet on going into a game is that he's going to be shooting the ball a lot during the course of the evening, so be prepared to deal with a ton of shots.

    Whether you've got a taller guy, a faster guy, a stronger guy or even multiple guys covering Kobe, he's going to find a way to score. It's inevitable.

    There's a reason he's put up over 30,000 career points.

3. Carmelo Anthony

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    Some would call him the best pure scorer in the NBA, and now that he's realizing his ability to overpower guys rather than just get shots off over and around them, he's becoming even better.

    Carmelo's skills go beyond being a good shooter, which he very much is this season compared to past seasons. He's able to absolutely destroy whomever has the task of of trying to stick with him on defense.

    Whether it be working a guy with low-post moves, beating them around with a series of jab steps and fakes or just crossing them over and blowing right by them, Carmelo has a way to beat nearly any defender in the league.

    It's getting to the point where it looks like he could end up leading his Knicks to a championship one of these days.

2. Kevin Durant

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    Sometimes a guy scores a ton and a defender can still feel like he did a decent job for the game. Usually, the person doing all the scoring is Kevin Durant.

    Take Durant's game against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week, for example. He scored a career-high 52 points, sank all 21 of his free throws, made the game-winning shot and completely dominated. But if you just look at his shooting from the field (13-of-31), you wouldn't think he had over 50 points.

    The fact is, Durant is just too good at getting to the rim, drawing fouls, hitting three-pointers and making ridiculous shots late in games.

    Just think about having to cover a guy who is nearly seven feet tall, has the ball-handling ability of a guard and can sink shots from anywhere on the floor.

    There's almost nothing you can do to slow him down, let alone stop him.

1. LeBron James

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    Forget the fact that he's an absolute freak of an athlete. A less athletic player blessed with LeBron James' basic skills on the basketball court would make a fine professional.

    However, when you mix in the fact that he just may well be the most athletic player to ever step foot on a basketball court, then you've got yourself a player for the ages.

    On top of being a top-tier defensive presence and someone who can guard multiple positions, he is such a complete player on offense. He's a very willing passer, and he punishes double-teams thanks to his great vision.

    There may not be a single person in the NBA who is able to consistently and successfully guard LeBron throughout an entire game, and even if they do, he's going to end up with a dozen assists instead of 30 points.