NBA Free Agents 2011: The 12 Best Defensive Players Available

Sebastian BellittoCorrespondent IMay 29, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: The 12 Best Defensive Players Available

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    In a league dominated by superstars, it has become evermore imperative for teams to add defensive-minded players that can make an impact on the other end of the court.

    Even a high-powered team like the Miami Heat has adopted a defense-first mentality, which has led them to within four wins of an NBA championship.

    Whenever basketball returns, as a lockout is all but certain, teams will be looking to adopt a similar game to compete for a title.

    Here are 12 of the best defensive players available on the free-agent market this offseason. 

Chuck Hayes

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    Standing just 6'6", Chuck Hayes is an undersized center in every sense. However, he has proven to be able to defend players much taller and bigger than he on the low block.

    Hayes had a career year in 2010 with the Houston Rockets, posting career highs in points (7.9 PPG) and rebounds per game (8.1 RPG).

    For a team looking for a defensive presence, Hayes will be able to provide a spark with his lock-down defense. 

Nene Hilario

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    Over the past three seasons, Nene Hilario has blossomed into a force on both sides of the ball for the Denver Nuggets. 

    The 6'11" center dominated on the low block in 2010, averaging 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds a contest. 

    A punishing force in the post, with the strength to push around almost anybody on both ends, many teams will be vying to acquire Nene in free agency.

    Although he has a player option, it is likely that he will choose to test the waters in free agency.

Tayshaun Prince

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    As the Detroit Pistons have become obsolete in the NBA over the past several seasons, Tayshaun Prince's value has been largely unappreciated around the league by casual fans. 

    While Prince no longer possesses the skill set to lead a team to a championship, his stellar defensive ability would be a welcome addition to many NBA rosters.

    Prince averaged 14.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG for the Pistons in 2010. These numbers alone would be desired by many teams for a role player, but it is his defensive ability that does not show up on the stat sheet that will be most highly sought after. 

Shane Battier

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    Shane Battier is quite possibly the best-known player in the NBA in terms of defense. Battier is an excellent defender who can guard nearly any position well.

    While Battier's utmost focus is placed on defense, he can still get his team solid numbers. The 6'8" small forward averaged 7.6 points and 4.5 boards a game for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010. Because of his defensive prowess, any offensive productivity is simply a bonus for whichever team acquires him this offseason.

    Beyond the court, Battier is well respected and known as a great teammate, which is always a welcome addition in a league of superstars and egos.  

Tyson Chandler

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    Tyson Chandler reignited his career in 2010 with the Dallas Mavericks, in a magical season for the franchise, which will continue Tuesday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. If Chandler can remain a force in leading the Mavs to the title, his stock will only rise in free agency.

    Chandler averaged 10.1 PPG and 9.4 RPG for the Mavericks in 2010, while dominating the paint on the defensive end.

    Chandler will be a hot commodity once free agency opens. At 7'1", the 28-year-old center provides a low-post presence that cannot be found on every NBA roster. 

Tim Duncan

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    For those who have watched Tim Duncan's career from his early days with David Robinson, it is hard to imagine him in any uniform other than that of the San Antonio Spurs.

    Duncan, 34, has certainly begun to age, averaging just 13.5 points and 8.9 boards per contest in 2010. However, many teams would love to have Duncan in the post, both offensively and defensively.

    Though he has slowed down considerably, Tim Duncan could provide a team with a large, physical body on the defensive end, and still be able to chip in offensively.

Kenyon Martin

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    Kenyon Martin is another player whose high-energy game will be highly sought after in the free-agent market. While his play is energetic and contagious in firing up his team, such a volatile game has limited his production due to numerous injuries over his 11 NBA seasons. 

    The 6'9" power forward averaged 8.6 PPG and 6.2 RPG in just 48 games for the Denver Nuggets, in what was another injury-plagued season for the veteran.

    Martin is a physical force down low who will not shy away from contact, especially with high-profile players jockeying for position on the block. For teams who are looking for a spark on the defensive end, Martin will certainly be able to provide energy if he is able to remain healthy.

Greg Oden

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    Even more so than Kenyon Martin, Greg Oden's career has been drastically impacted by chronic injuries.

    Since being drafted with the first overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007, Oden has played in just 82 total games—61 of which occurred in the 2008-09 season, with the other 21 coming in the 2009-10 campaign.

    Nevertheless, if Oden is able to stay healthy, he could finally be able to put his skills on display.

    At 7'0" and just 23 years old, the restricted free agent's presence could be felt immediately barring any setbacks to his health. He has been projected to be one of the league's best defensive forces when healthy.

    It would be a shame to see such talent go to waste because of injury. 

Yao Ming

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    To keep the trend going, Yao Ming is yet another example of a big man with great defensive skill who has been limited by numerous injuries.

    Yao played in just five games in 2010-11 after missing the entire 2009-10 season. It has been rumored that Yao has considered retirement because of his laundry list of injuries.

    Nevertheless, is Yao can get and stay healthy, it would be interesting to see the impact he could have for teams lacking a defensive presence in the post. Even with a decrease in athleticism, his 7'6" frame would be a welcome addition to many lineups.

Ronny Turiaf

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    It is no secret that Ronny Turiaf provides virtually nothing on the offensive end. However, his defensive skill as a role player will likely get the attention of many NBA general managers this offseason.

    With the New York Knicks in 2010-11, Turiaf averaged 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. 

    Though he provides nothing offensively, Turiaf can give valuable minutes off the bench in wearing down the opponent's big men on the block.

Matt Barnes

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    The Los Angeles Lakers signed Matt Barnes last offseason in order to provide another defensive stopper to take some of the workload away from Kobe Bryant. While he was limited in helping the Lakers due to injury, he is a great option off the bench for many teams looking for such a player.

    In just 53 games, Barnes averaged 6.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG for the Lakers. 

    At 6'7", Barnes is able to guard a variety of players, and can play a similar role in taking the defensive workload off a particular team's superstar.

Nazr Mohammed

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    A player of Nazr Mohammed's size will always be desired in the NBA. When such a player is as dominant as Mohammed on the defensive end, he is even more valuable.

    After coming over to the Oklahoma City Thunder midseason in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats, Mohammed averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 boards per contest for the Thunder, but it was his work on the defensive end that helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference finals before many experts and fans expected.

    At 33 years old, Mohammed has the ability to give a team a nice defensive option in a reserve role.