With the NBA Finals behind us, more and more focus is being directed towards the upcoming draft. And now, with the Dallas (no longer "-allas" with no D) Mavericks left standing alone as champions, more emphasis should be put on defense.
Sure, plenty of attention will still be given towards offensive standouts and/or guys who have attracted a seemingly overplayed obsession (Jimmer!), but the true value picks of the draft may be those who offer more on the other end of the floor.
So who presents the most defensive value out of this year's prospects? Here are five noteworthy players—one at each position—who should make an impact in that regard.
Brandon Knight's statistics won't tell you much about the defensive presence he has on the court. He averaged just 0.7 steals and 4.0 rebounds per game during his only season at Kentucky.
But the low steals total does tell you about one of his strengths: intelligence.
According to NBADraft.net, Knight is a "very smart defender who doesn't gamble for steals a lot." But what he does do is use his quick feet and length (over a 6.5-foot wingspan) to stay in front of his man and prevent easy drives to the basket.
Running the offense for a school like Kentucky, Knight is highly composed and makes good decisions on the court. Scouts also cite his good work ethic and desire to improve, which should undoubtedly translate into him honing his skills on defense.
Perhaps Kyrie Irving should be mentioned here; he average 1.5 steals per game and is the likely No. 1 overall pick. But his limited time playing college ball—he played just 11 games during his only year at Duke—is likely to prove most damaging on the defensive end, where he'll have to adjust on the fly to NBA-caliber offenses.
Okay, so being a combo guard, Malcolm Lee isn't the pure shooting guard who should be profiled in this spot. But his versatility plays into this discussion nevertheless.
Like Brandon Knight, Lee's defensive numbers won't wow you. He had 0.7 steals and 3.1 rebounds per game last season. But, also like Knight, his court smarts are very high, and he uses his physical strengths to his advantage.
In particular, NBADraft.net praises his knowledge of team concepts, which he undoubtedly developed over three years at UCLA.
Lee also has great length and lateral quickness, which allows him to stay on his man with ease. He can cover both point guards and shooting guards, making him a particularly strong asset late in games when one player may take charge on the opposing offense.
Like his fellow Bruin Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt can be played at multiple positions, but he is likely to be drafted as a small forward.
He is lanky (6'8" and 187 pounds), but his height and jumping ability combine to make him a strong shot-blocker for a wing player. He averaged 2.1 blocked shots per game during his sophomore season to go along with almost a steal per contest.
With his length and athleticism, Honeycutt can make a lot of big plays on defense and can be a difference-maker in that regard, much like Detroit Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince during his prime.
Honeycutt is also a strong rebounder who averaged about seven boards per game during his two years at UCLA.
Thompson is a little on the short side for a power forward (6'9"), but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in athleticism and strength.
He averaged 2.4 blocks per game, during his only year at Texas, as well as almost a steal per game.
Thompson can also be a potent help defender, as his length and quickness allow him to "slide over from the weak side to block and contest shots around the basket," according to NBADraft.net.
He is a strong rebounder as well, averaging 7.8 boards per contest during his one year in college.
Possibly the biggest (literally and figuratively) wild card of the draft, Biyombo's upside on the defensive end is tremendous.
Though only 6'9," Biyombo has a remarkable wingspan (7'7") that grants him his premier shot-blocking abilities. He averaged 2.3 blocks per game in only 17 minutes at the senior level in Europe.
While scouts do consider Biyombo to be fairly raw, they also believe his skill set should develop rather easily once he's on the pro level. He is an intense player who hustles and who will be willing to get better.
His offense is not particularly strong as of yet, a product of his lack of experience, and it may turn out that Biyombo becomes nothing but a shot-blocking specialist. That said, he could be a very important defensive tool for any NBA team.