NBA Free Agents 2011: 8 Defensive Difference-Makers on the Open Market

Matt CoanCorrespondent IIJune 9, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: 8 Defensive Difference-Makers on the Open Market

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    DALLAS, TX - JUNE 07:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 7, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    While this upcoming Offseason's free agent class isn't as star-studded as last year's, there are still some quality players that will be available for teams to try and sign.

    Of those players, there are a couple of very nice defense difference-makers that will be able to help teams and possibly push them to the next level.

    Defense wins championships in the NBA and teams are always looking to improve on that end of the court.

    Here is a list good defensive players that will be on the open market this offseason.

Kurt Thomas

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 17: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs moves against Kurt Thomas #40 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Spurs 109-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Yes. Kurt Thomas did make this list.

    While Thomas is considered an old man by most, his veteran presence and toughness could benefit any NBA team. Thomas would bring depth to the center position and the ability to defend most big men in the game.

    Thomas started 37 games for the Bulls last year and proved he still has the legs to endure the long marathon of the NBA season.

    Thomas' age will be a question for any team looking to sign him but since he should only want the veteran's minimum on a one year deal he wouldn't be much of a risk at all.

DeShawn Stevenson

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    DALLAS, TX - JUNE 07:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat moves the ball against DeShawn Stevenson #92 of the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center on June 7, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Deshawn Stevenson has made a big impact on the Mavericks and helped them to become the great defensive team they are today.

    Stevenson is quick and has good footwork. He plays with a reckless abandon and tries, sometimes to much, to jump passes and get steals which can, at times, allow his man to get by him.

    That being said he is capable of stopping opposing perimeter players and when he isn't jumping passing lanes he is very tough to get around and penetrate through.  

    While Stevenson has developed a reputation of being somewhat of a headcase, winning a championship with Dallas would maybe reduce that label to simply, "crazy", which can be a good adjective in the NBA.  

Tayshaun Prince

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24:  Tayshaun Prince #22 of the Detroit Pistons attempts to block the pass of Gilbert Arenas #1 of the Orlando Magic during the game at Amway Arena on January 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Tayshaun Prince has been MIA since the Pistons have gone into rebuilding mode, but everyone remembers Prince playing a big part in the Piston's championship run.

    Prince was once the shut down defender on a championship team and for that reason, and his ring, his credentials are as good as anyone's.

    Prince has extremely long arms and astounding length to his body which helps him cover a lot of ground and defend passing lanes without having to shade off his man.

    Changing teams could be just what Prince needs, breathing new life into his game and recreating him as one of the leagues best defenders. 

Greg Oden

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 01: Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches from the bench as his teammates take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 1, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Trail Blazers 110-98. NOTE TO USER:
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Greg Oden still has a chance to prove he isn't a bust. 

    Oden is a restricted free agent and if Portland decides to part ways with the oft-injured center, he should benefit from a change of scenery.

    If Oden can stay healthy, and that is a big if, with some work he can become a very good low post defender and someone who can protect the rim for a team.

    His size and shot blocking ability would make for a great combination and while it may be a stretch to say, he could become one of the best defensive centers in the league.

    Oden is just 23 years old and there is no doubt that he will get a second chance with another NBA team next season. 

Jeff Green

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 07:  Jeff Green #8 of the Boston Celtics tries to get the ball from LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat  in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Another guy with a lot of defensive potential is Jeff Green.

    Green has a good defensive body, has the size to guard the four spot and the speed to guard the three. His versatility is an asset anyone could use and as he gains more NBA experience he will become a better defender.

    Right now, Green seems to be almost all potential and will need to put a lot of work in to become the defender he has the chance to be.

    If Green can end up in the right place, which may be staying in Boston, he could become an all league defender someday.  

Grant Hill

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 27:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mavericks defeated the Suns 91-83.  NOTE TO USER: User expres
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Another veteran makes the list.

    Since recovering from his multiple early career injuries, Grant Hill has reinvented himself as a defensive stud.

    Hill can guard 4 positions and his combination of size and high basketball I.Q. makes him a difference maker on the defensive side of the court.

    Hill is a high character guy who plays hard and doesn't take any plays off. Hill will set the tone for a team's defense and set a great example for any young players lucky enough to play with him.

    Hill has a solid offensive game as well and should be targeted by a lot of teams this Offseason.

Shane Battier

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    MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 07:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Shane Battier #31 of the Memphis Grizzlies reach for a rebound in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 7, 2011 in Memphis, Te
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Shane Battier plays excellent perimeter defense, excelling against quicker opponents due to his ability to cover a lot of ground with his length. His experience makes him unafraid to guard the best players in the league.

    We've seen Battier defend Kobe Bryant many times while he playing for the Houston Rockets and did as well as anyone could to slow Bryant, even in the playoffs.

    Battier has the size to also play some solid post defense, although we rarely see him guarding opposing power forwards.

    Battier gave the Memphis Grizzlies a huge boost after being traded and helped them make their Cinderella-like run in the Western Conference Playoffs.

    Battier's experience and overall ability on both ends of the floor should have a lot of teams chasing after him and it will be very interesting to see where he ends up.

Tyson Chandler

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks stands during the performace of the National Anthem against the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Tyson Chandler is a huge reason why the Dallas Mavericks are in the finals, fighting for a championship, today.

    Chandler can dominate the paint on defense, and is a force on the boards. He also has good shot blocking ability which scares opponents into shooting more outside shots in fear of getting blocked at the rim.

    If Chandler chooses to leave Dallas, he will make the same defensive impact for his new team.

    Almost all great teams have had great defensive players in the middle. Players to protect the rim and stop easy baskets. Chandler will fill that role for any team he plays for.