NBA Playoffs 2011: Power Ranking the Top 10 Defenders Still Alive
What a wild NBA playoffs these have already been!
And the back-to-back World Champion Lakers were swept by the Mavericks today, far from what any of the "experts" predicted before the series began. (It was even enough to spur on this website's creation: www.didthelakersgetswept.com)
Of course, many think of NBA basketball as an offensive-oriented game, but what shouldn't be missed is the defensive strategy and play by the best teams in the game.
Others, like Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis have some star defenders as well and it's no coincidence they're still alive in the playoffs.
Here's how the best defenders still alive rank.
Rajon Rondo is known for his exquisite passing skills, and there's no doubt he's an underrated defender.
Rondo's 1.29 steals per game are ninth among active players, and he's a pesky presence on defense.
Interestingly, his steals have gone down in the conference semifinals series against the Heat and the Celtics are in need of Rondo to turn up his defensive effort if they want a chance to still win.
Kevin Garnett may be aging quickly, but he's still got a lot to give to the game of basketball.
As the Celtics' veteran power forward, Garnett is still able to affect opponents on defense.
His 1.71 STPG are third-best among players continuing to compete, and he's got .86 blocks per game as well.
Garnett and the Celtics will never give up, and he's a monstrous reason they still have a chance of coming back against the Heat.
Joakim Noah has developed into a defensive gem for Chicago.
Tom Thibideu won the NBA's Coach of the Year award, mainly because the Bulls are so committed to playing defense, and along with Derrick Rose's superb stealing skills, Joakim Noah has become a beastly blocker.
Noah's 2.5 blocks per game are second among players still alive, which is up a full block over his regular season average.
Not only has Noah began to realize his potential, he's turned up his play in the playoffs, and he's a pivotal piece in the Bulls team to be sure.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the biggest surprise of the postseason for their thrashing of the San Antonio Spurs, and their dedication to defense is a reason why.
And a major player on the defensive end of the court is Tony Allen.
Allen is second among active players in steals per 48 minutes (3.38), and his 1.89 STPG are second to Derrick Rose.
Allen is known for his relentless effort on D. He was a major factor in the Celtics' defense last decade, and he's helping Memphis go deeper into the playoffs than they ever have in their franchise history.
Dwyane Wade is so spectacular on offense his energetic defense is overshadowed.
Wade's a hard-working defender, and he gets a lot of steals. He's averaging 1.5 steals per game in the postseason, good for fifth among those still playing—Wade has quick hands and gives effort to ripping his opponents of the ball.
And amazingly, Dwyane Wade averages more blocks (1.6) than steals in these playoffs—he may be flashy, but he is also dedicated to doing anything and everything it takes for his team to win.
Jason Kidd should be commended for the job he did against Kobe Bryant in the Mavericks' sweep of the Lakers.
Kidd's name in itself is ironic at this point, but the old man played very well against Bryant, one of the most dangerous scorers in the game, and he's played well in the playoffs overall.
Kidd's 1.3 steals per contest are seventh-best of players still alive, and he's actually averaging .6 blocks per in the postseason.
Oklahoma City's James Harden is an underrated defender that works his butt off during the course of every game.
Yes, he knows how to hit shots and can take the ball to the hoop for thunderous dunks, but he may be best on defense.
Harden does what his name suggests—he works hardand it gives the Thunder a boost when he comes off their bench.
Harden plays up on offensive players with the ball, he goes at defense with a definite physicality. He steals 1.38 balls per game, sixth of the players still alive, while he adds a block per game too.
The NBA's MVP has been flashy all over the court this season, and he's been amazing and outstanding on both ends of the court.
Currently, his two steals per game are tops for players still alive, and his 2.43 STP48 are fifth for those same players.
On the glass, Rose's 3.8 defensive RPG are almost a full rebound higher than his regular season average of 3.1 per.
On top of that, the point guard is averaging 1.2 blocks per contest in the playoffs, twice as much as during the regular season.
Derrick Rose is the engine that drives arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, and it's not just his 29 points and seven assists per game, it's his defense as well.
Marc Gasol is having a coming out party in the midst of Memphis winning in the playoffs.
Gasol's 2.2 blocks per game are third-best among players still in it to win it, and his 3.7 BPG are incredible during this series against the Thunder.
His 1.3 steals per are up from the regular season, and he's playing arguably the best basketball of his career currently.
Serge Ibaka, also known as Serge "I-Block-a" is an absolute and total beast around the basket.
Ibaka's defense has been show-stoppingly good for the Oklahoma City Thunder in this year's playoffs; he's averaging a freakish 4.62 blocks per contest.
For 4.62 times per game, he blocks an opponent's shot, he turns them around, defeated as he dominates on defense.
He nullified the Nuggets' Nene many times in the first round 4-1 win over Denver, and even though his team is down 2-1 currently, Ibaka is immensely affecting games with his shot-blocking abilities.
So, Who Do You Think Is Playing the Best Defense, Right Now?
The arguments are out there; these guys are truly playing incredible defense.
But, who was missed? Who should have made the list?
Let's get some intelligent conversation going on!
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com, a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos and a contributor to Blake Street Bulletin, part of ESPN's SweetSpot Blog Network.
Rich also manages K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.
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