NBA Draft 2011: Kemba Walker and 10 Best Defensive Prospects
If you want to win, you need defense. One of the quickest ways to improve your team defense is to draft wisely and find the top defensive talent. So who are the best defensive prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft?
The NBA is slowly shifting some emphasis back on defense, which is nice after seeing scores of 115 and 120 regularly in the early 2000s.
Teams are beginning to look to apply tremendous defensive pressure during key moments in a game, which means they need top level talent in the NBA Draft that can understand when and how to shut down an offense.
The Chicago Bulls, considered a legitimate contender before the 2010-2011 season, earned elite status because of their commitment to defense. They wrote the blueprint for teams that want to achieve more sooner.
Here's the ten guys that you need to keep an eye on.
No. 10: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is not going to be a lottery pick in Thursday's NBA Draft solely because of his defensive abilities, but the San Diego State star is as good as any big man on the defensive end.
He was named to the 2011 Mountain West Conference All-Defensive Team (among others) with his 10.6 rebounds, ninth most in the nation.
Leonard scrapped 1.4 steals per game, which is just gravy from a guy with a wingspan of 7'3".
In order to really excel defensively in the NBA, he needs to improve his shot blocking. He spent a lot of time on the perimeter in college but will be expected to guard the low post at the next level.
No. 9: Sam Muldrow
Don't forget, this list is all about defense. That's why I'm able to include South Carolina's Sam Muldrow.
Muldrow is very limited offensively, shooting a dismal 29.5 percent from the field last year.
But his 3.4 blocks per game were good for fifth in the nation, and he added 7.3 rebounds per game as well. Muldrow is 6'9" with a huge wingspan. His physique is NBA-ready for defense.
At 23-years old, Muldrow is unlikely to experience any major changes in his size and strength, so he'll have to learn to use his body better and bring in more rebounds at the next level.
No. 8: Damian Saunders
Damian Saunders was awarded with his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year for the well-respected Atlantic-10 Conference in 2011.
The defensive stud from Duquesne actually saw a slight decrease in his numbers his senior year, dropping from 11.3 to 7.9 rebounds per game, but he still showed up on the biggest stage.
Saunders averaged 7.5 rebounds, three steals, and four blocks per game in the postseason, proving that his regular season slump in defensive stats is nothing to worry about.
No. 7: Marcus Simmons
Don't look at Marcus Simmons' stats to justify his ranking. They don't even come close to explaining what he did for the USC Trojans defensively.
With just 2.8 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game from the guard position, you have to wonder how he was named the 2011 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
But in his 25.5 minutes per game last season, Simmons was asked to shut down the opponent's top scorer.
He was successful in doing so by holding Washington State's great scorer Klay Thompson to just 12-35 shooting, 34.3 percent. Stanford's Jeremy Green could only muster 5-22 shooting, 22.8 percent.
I could go on with all of the scorers he limited, but you get the idea.
No. 6: Dogus Balbay
Dogus Balbay is another basketball prospect from Eastern Europe where the game of basketball has become more physical over the years.
Balbay is no exception. Texas coach Rick Barnes called him "a strong perimeter defender" when he signed with the Longhorns, and his words proved to be clairvoyant.
Balbay was named the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year for the Big-12 Conference (now with only ten teams but that's a different discussion) and was lauded by many college basketball analysts.
On ESPN.com, Jay Bilas called Balbay the finest perimeter defender in the college game. That kind of ability goes a long way in the NBA with the threat of so many great three-point shooters.
No. 5: Chris Singleton
After an injury sidelined him for the entire month of February, Florida State's Chris Singleton made a valiant effort to return during the NCAA Tournament.
Singleton averaged 6.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game, the latter of which was the second most of any pure forward. He was on his way to another ACC Defensive Player of the Year when he broke his right foot.
Upon his return, he averaged only 13 minutes per game after his first two games back. Finally healed, he contributed nine rebounds and a steal in 32 minutes during a losing effort to Cinderella Virginia Commonwealth.
He was the 2010 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and finished second in the voting for 2011. Singleton is a complete player and shows great potential to be a stopper at the next level.
No. 4: JaJuan Johnson
JaJuan Johnson's defense was more critical than ever when Purdue lost Robbie Hummel's scoring for a second straight year. He didn't disappoint.
The 6'10" native of Indianapolis rattled of 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while also maintaining a highly effective offensive game.
The two-man game that was the Boilermakers strategy (with E'Twaun Moore) depended on Johnson's ability to alter guards' driving lanes as well as bigs' low post shots. There is no doubt that it worked.
After a senior season that included leading the Big Ten in scoring and blocks, Johnson was named the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
No. 3: Rick Jackson
Anyone who is named the Defensive Player of the Year of their respective conference deserves a shot at making this list.
Anyone who is named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year is a must for this list.
Thus, we arrive at the Syracuse Orange's dominant center, Rick Jackson.
Jackson is one of only three players to rank in the top twenty nationally in both rebounding and blocks. With 10.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, he is a huge reason why the Orange were about to win 27 games last year.
Perhaps most impressive is his huge improvement from his solid junior year in 2009-2010.
Jackson saw an increase of three rebounds and half a block per game and should continue to improve as he gets more playing time at the next level.
No. 2: Kenneth Faried
If you've read any of my work before, you know that I'm big on Morehead State's Kenneth Faried.
Faried led the nation in rebounding with 14.5 per game. He backed that up with a strong 2.39 blocks per game and an impressive 1.9 steals per game, which was the most of any center in the nation.
At 6'8", he is a little small for center in the NBA, which downgrades his value. I think he's best fitted to play power forward in the same way that Kevin Love plays the position for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The three-time Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year won't be the offensive player that Love is becoming, but he'll scrap rebounds for years in the NBA.
No. 1: Kemba Walker
Defense is all about passion and energy.
After missing out on a bye in the Big East tournament, the UConn Huskies had to run the gauntlet of five games in five days to be crowned conference tournament champions of the nation's deepest league.
The incredible run wasn't done there. UConn ran through the NCAA Tournament defeating Arizona, Kentucky, and Butler on their way to an impressive championship.
Kemba Walker was the undisputed leader of the entire surge for the Huskies.
He averaged six rebounds and 1.5 steals per game during the NCAA Tournament and completely disrupted Kentucky's Brandon Knight and Butler's Shelvin Mack by holding them to 6-23 and 4-15 shooting from the field.
That's equates to 26 percent from the field for two of the nation's best scorers.
Walker's offense is excellent and will thrive in the NBA with the ball in his hand, but it's his defense that really sets him apart.