NBA's Iron Curtain: Top 10 Defensive Specialists
Michael Jordan said the toughest defender he ever faced was Joe Dumars. Even if Dumars never scored a single offensive point, you'd have to respect Dumars' defensive play.
Along those lines, here are 10 present-day players who fit Dumars' mold, guy who are great on the defensive end but not really known for any offensive prowess. Some of the players on this list are hovering just along All-Star status, while others have a role as defensive players specifically.
There are a bevy of great players that would make a list of 10 best defensive players. Among those are Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Dwight Howard. This instead is a list of guys who have a specific purpose of playing on the defensive side. Anything extra on the offensive end is candy. They are all solid professionals that would be great for team chemistry.
With that criteria being placed, here are the 10 that form an Iron Curtain specialty.
10. Joel Anthony
Anthony is now entering his third year in the league. He continues to become better every year under the radar. Many people don't know who he is, but he happens to be a league leader in Blocks Per Game (1.4) each of the past two seasons.
His offense is a work in progress, but with the additions of Chris Bosh and LeBron James, his focus can now sway permanently to contributing on the defensive end. He is one of the best hustling players in the game and many shots he doesn't block will still be altered by his presence.
It should be fun this year seeing LeBron and Anthony trying to run down and block an opponent going for an easy bucket on a fast break. The circulating rumor that Erick Dampier might join the team could limit his minutes, along with Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He still should be able to have production in his limited minutes.
9. Kirk Hinrich
The former Kansas Jayhawk has been a productive player in this league, averaging 13.4 points per game to go with 5.8 assists per game. Not gaudy numbers, but they are respectable for the NBA. He holds a place though in the steals category, where he has averaged 1.3 throughout his career, making him annually one of the best takeaways in the game.
Hinrich has a slight edge to him, as he is not afraid to mix it up with other point guards such as Rajon Rondo or Deron Williams. His talents are now being taken to the Washington Wizards and it can only be wondered how many minutes he will receive behind John Wall and Gilbert Arenas. He might still be able to portray what great defense is while playing sixth man for the Wizards.
8. Samuel Dalembert
Dalembert, the 6'11'', 250 lb. center from Seton Hall, is always among the league leaders in blocks. This was on a team that is not always seen as the greatest as a whole defensively in the 76ers. Dalembert is a menace for driving guards such as Devin Harris as they try to get a step on Sam.
Now with the Sacramento Kings, we will have to see how he works his way against those driving into the paint. Upping his rebounding totals 9.6 per game has made him a near double-double machine. Now at 28, Dalembert is entering the prime of his career on the West Coast. On a young and rising Kings team, he will need to offer support against big men such as Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum, Yao Ming, and Al Jefferson in the Western Conference.
7. Chris Anderson
The Birdman flies through the thin skies of Denver every game on his way to swatting away a jam or reaching high for a board. Chris Anderson is a blocking machine when he stops out onto the court. In 2008-09, Anderson averaged 2.5 blocks per game while only playing 20 minutes per night.
Anderson has great off-ball awareness and weak side help. Nene and Kenyon Martin may happen to be down on the block with Anderson, but the Birdman is the one relentless in raking havoc in the paint. Like many on this list, he has the length in his wing spread and unbelievable hops to make him an imposing defender.
6. Trevor Ariza
Ariza is entering his first season with the Hornets in the 2010-2011 season. He will now get a chance to return to the defensive force on his team as he was when playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. His great defense was a major component of what helped the Lakers capture the 2008-2009 NBA title. His energy against the opposition's best wing man while on the defensive side allowed Kobe Bryant to reserve energy on the offensive end.
Trevor is always a threat like a cornerback in the passing lanes. He turned himself into a thief as he was among league leaders with 1.8 steals per game this past season. With Chris Paul leading the Hornets again this season, it will be intriguing to see how Paul and Ariza work on the defensive end.
5. Shane Battier
The veteran from Duke has been a nuisance since he came into the league with the Grizzlies. He is a tough, in your face, on ball defender. I can't think of a player who has given Kobe Bryant more fits defensively than Shane Battier. The seven-game series in the 2009 playoffs between the Lakers and Rockets was strongly due to Battier's play on Kobe (Aaron Brooks' play didn't hurt either).
Shane's great defensive strengths don't show up in the stat sheets; rather they show up by actually watching him play the game. His great awareness of where the ball is on the court and denying his opponent the ball through the passing lanes are fine examples of his focus. Battier is a solid and dependable asset to a team.
4. Roy Hibbert
The Georgetown product is on his way up as any player in the NBA. Hibbert actually played all four years in college which actually hurt his stock in the Draft. He was selected 17th overall by the Raptors and subsequently would be traded to the Raptors for Jermaine O'Neal.
His first year in the league was slightly rough as we were becoming acclimated to the pro game. In his sophomore campaign, he began to show the promise that many saw in him. He only averaged 5.7 rebounds per game, but he was only playing 25 minutes per game.
Even with only 25 minutes per game, he was able to produce 1.6 blocks per game or 131 for the season. Hibbert should be on the rise this year given that he's given more minutes to up his averages.
3. Marcus Camby
Mr. Reliable Marcus Camby continues to hit the boards as well as he has throughout his career. The former Minuteman of UMass has played with the same vigor and energy throughout his 14-year career. The former Defensive Player of the Year (2006-2007), Camby brought his high level D to Portland from L.A. and picked up for a team lacking a center due to injuries.
Camby can use his lanky wingspan and wiry strength to block shots and redirect them. His jump shot isn't the prettiest in the world, but he makes up for it by keeping his body around the rim. As long as he's healthy, Camby can to be an underrated player this year for the value he brings to a squad at the defensive end.
2. Kendrick Perkins
Perkins, as shown in this pic, takes a beating every time he goes out on the court. It makes sense then that he always looks angry during the game. Any close in on Perkins' face will show the grit and determination on his mug.
The forgotten fifth member to go with the big four of the Celtics, Perkins has been a vital part of the Celtics on both sides of the court. Where Boston cherishes having him though, is on the defensive side. This off season is a perfect example of Kendrick's value. After suffering a knee injury in Game 6 of the Finals, Perkins won't be back until midway this season.
With the declining health of Kevin Garnett, the Celtics got not only one, but two O'Neal's (Jermaine and Shaq) to try and ease the burden put on by Perkins being gone half this season. Who knows how Game 7 of the Finals would have gone if Perkins plays. All of these are ifs, but they are worth debating because Perkins is that great of a low post defender.
He made Dwight Howard play like a mortal and was causing plenty of problems for Andrew Bynum as well. He has to be among the top choices when talking defensive specialists.
1. Ron Artest
He continues to take on the toughest player on the opposing team and flourish. Whether that's a LeBon James in the regular season or Paul Pierce in the NBA Finals. Artest hit some key shots in the past year's Playoffs, including his Western Conference Finals Game 5 four-foot winner against the Suns. He also hit a clutch three in Game 7 of the Finals.
Those taken off the charts, his tough D could be attributed to Paul Pierce having a slow Finals for the most part. Also, his partial defense of Ray Allen, which made him look like a pre-schooler on the court minus Game 2, was on note.
Artest is a former Defensive Player of the Year and he still plays with the desire and determination of a man to prove something. All the more reason to believe in his ability is the solid 6'6'', 250 pounds he has to bully defenders at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Ron might be selling his Championship ring for charity, but he hasn't given up his skill at playing defense.