Kentucky Wildcats Basketball

NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving and the Top 10 Best Defensive Players

Tyler WickerhamCorrespondent IJune 13, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: Kyrie Irving and the Top 10 Best Defensive Players

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils attempts to steal the ball from Jordan Morgan #52 of the Michigan Wolverines in the second half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Are
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Defense wins championships.

    Or so they say.

    The Miami Heat were considered to be the better defensive team in the NBA Finals this year and they got beat in six games.

    Some may say it was the lack of effort on defense that caused the Heats collapse for example LeBron James was just walking around at the end of Game 6.

    But for teams to take the next step drafting a great defensive player may be the tipping point in making that franchise a dynasty. 

10. David Lighty

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    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25:  Terrence Jones #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats drives to the basket against David Lighty #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first half of the east regional semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Prudential
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    6’7” shooting guard Lighty is a great defensive player mainly because of his work ethic. Always comes to practice, always working to be a better player.

    That is what makes great defenders, elite defenders, the will power to work hard every day at practice to improve. Staying all four years at Ohio St. David does not have the DNA of a LeBron James, but he has the work ethic of a Michael Jordan.

    Given time David could turn into a Bruce Bowen-esque player that does not win a NBA championship for a franchise but that franchise could not have won the NBA championship without him.

9. Jimmer Fredette

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 24:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars reacts during their 74 to 83 loss to the Florida Gators in the Southeast regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2011 in New Orle
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Wait, that’s not right.

9. Jimmy Butler

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Marshon Brooks #2 of the Providence Friars brings the ball up court against Jimmy Butler #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfit
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    6’8” small forward Jimmy Butler helped Marquette make it to the Sweet Sixteen this past year with his shut down defense.

    Although Marquette got blown out by North Carolina, Marquette’s season this past year has been a success largely because of Jimmy.

    The reason Butler is not higher on this list is because he doesn’t excel in any one area but is great at everything.

    He is the Malcolm Galdwell’s dad pro-typical player, good at everything but not great at anything. 

8. Kawhi Leonard

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    TUCSON, AZ - MARCH 19:  Ramone Moore #23 of the Temple Owls drives past Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at McKale Center on March 19, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by H
    Harry How/Getty Images

    While Kawhi Leonard is known more for his scoring ability, Leonard is still great on the defensive end of the floor as well.

    Most of the time fans don’t recognize great defense in a player when they excel so much on the offensive end, ready at anytime to make another SportsCenter highlight. But Kawhi is much more of a player than just a spectacular dunker.

7. Kyrie Irving

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Tim Hardaway Jr. #10 of the Michigan Wolverines drives on Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils in the first half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Part of the reason why Kyrie is considered to be the overall No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the upcoming NBA Draft is not only because his offensive ability but also to come in and play great defense.

    It is Kyrie’s defense that really separates him apart from the other point guards in the draft including what is considered the next best point guard Brandon Knight.

    With the new era of point guards in the league as fast of Derrick Rose and Chris Paul having a point guard who can at least slow them down will be invaluable.

    Derrick Rose won an MVP award based on his offensive talents alone, Derrick Rose deserves to be on  a best defensive list about as much as those of us reading this list. If Kyrie can come in and play offensively about three quarters as good as Derrick Rose and add some great defense, Kyrie could be one of the greatest point guards ever.

6. Nolan Smith

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils and Brandon Tunnell #5 of the Hampton Pirates battle for the ball in the first half during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Although Nolan does not have the ideal size and strength of a two guard, Nolan Smith has come from the Coach K School of hard nose defense, sacrificing everything for the betterment of the team.

    Much like Shane Battier, Nolan Smith best case NBA career will be a journeyman that is a great defensive player. Nolan knows what it’s like to win and play in big games. Winning a national championship and playing North Carolina twice a year is enough experience for any player to learn how to play in the spot light.

    Just think if LeBron James could have acquired that pressure situation experience like Nolan has, then maybe the NBA Finals this past year could have been completely different.

5. Iman Shumpert

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10:  Victor Davila #14 of the Virginia Tech Hokies  looks to pass against Iman Shumpert #1 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first half of the game in the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Gr
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    6’6” Point guard is a very tall guard. Michael Jordan was 6’6”. Now point guards are coming into the league as tall as 6’4” and higher.

    The reason being tall is great for defense is because Iman has a 6’10” wing span to bother other point and keep them from seeing the court the way they are use to.

    Being that tall and that fast will benefit immensely in the NBA.

    Also playing in the ACC for three years has given Iman some great experience that other players in weaker conferences and players that played overseas will never get.

4. Bismack Biyombo

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    This 6’9” power forward with a 7’7” wingspan will engulf any ball that comes into the paint.

    Bismack is athletic and can get up and down the court without any trouble.  But it’s his blocking ability that is comparing him to Dikembe Mutombo. If he does in fact become the next Dikembe Mutombo then this ranking will be way off.

    The reason I have Bismack at No. 4 is because he is such an unknown when it comes to playing in the league. That’s the risk you take when you take with foreign players. It’s hard enough to predict which college players are going to be great, and it’s even tougher to pick foreign players because the lack of video on them.

    You could either get Dirk Nowitzki or you could get Darko Milicic. You just don’t know.

3. Malcolm Lee

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Kenny Boynton #1 of the Florida Gators attempts a shot against Malcolm Lee #3 of the UCLA Bruins during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. Florid
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Following the likes of Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison and Aaron Afflalo, Malcolm Lee is trying to fool the casual fan into thinking UCLA guards are not NBA-caliber point guards and then become a star in the NBA.

    Malcolm is an elite defender and can guard any player on the perimeter excluding Derrick Rose and Chris Paul because no one can stop them currently.

    But Malcolm is the best point guard coming into the NBA that can slow them down. Any team that is currently struggling to stop a team with a quick point guard, like Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans, that team, like L.A. Lakers, could use Malcolm to help them out on the defensive end and beat those teams next year. 

2. Chris Singleton

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 20: Tyrone Nash #1 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass against Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles in the first half during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the United Center on
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The star player for the Florida St. Seminoles last year was required to put forth a ton of energy on the offensive end and still Chris was able to play amazing defense.

    Similar to what Michael Jordan and Kobe Byrant do for their teams scoring most of the points and be asked to stop the other team’s best player, Chris Singleton was required to play that same role for his college team.

    I know it was at the college level but even the media love-child Jimmer Fredette could only play well on end of the floor.

    Chris Singleton could become a star in this league. Part of being a star player in the NBA requires you to play great defense along with great offense. Chris already is close to being great on defense. He doesn’t have to learn how to play defense like most rookies need to.

    Chris just needs to continue to work hard and never give up trying to get better.

1. DeAndre Liggins

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    HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies goes up for a shoot against DeAndre Liggins #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the National Semifinal game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at Reliant Stadium o
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Liggins college career did not start off great. His first year at the University of Kentucky was under the tutelage of Billy Gillispie. Liggins did not play very much because he did not work hard in practice.  Since that Kentucky team was not very good Gillispie did not have much of choice but to play him some.

    Then came John Calipari and his number one recruiting class. John Wall was now the unquestioned leader and point guard (DeAndre’s original position) for the Kentucky Wildcats. DeAndre did not adapt to the new coach very well.

    It took almost half the year for Calipari to play him; he never saw the floor during the early season blowouts where even the walk-ons play. But by the end of the season DeAndre was the sixth man for the Wildcats and not starting only because Calipari didn’t want to change the starting lineup of a team that had only lost two games going into the post season.

    DeAndre’s senior season was his most productive and showed how much of a great defender he actually is. Before Calipari, DeAndre did not have the work ethic or the proper mind set to be an elite defender. Now Liggins is a lock down wing man.

    DeAndre is the best prospect in this draft to be the next Bruce Bowen. He is not as good as Bruce Bowen yet, but with the new attitude instilled in him by Calipari, DeAndre has a chance to be even better than Bruce Bowen.

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