The 5 best young defenders

It would be fair to say that the NBA today is more focused on the offense. Offensive efficiency, pace of play, and all other offensive stats have steadily increased. It doesn’t help that a certain Stephen Curry added to that even more by influencing the league to maximize the three-point line. The name of today’s game seems to mark the ball.

As such, defense still seems to be shunned by modern basketball, as “old” basketball fans are always eager to point out. Young players just aren’t as fierce defensively as Michael Jordan, Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant, among others.

This is far from being the truth. The NBA has a host of great defenders who could rival the courage of the players of the day. The likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard are among the league superstars who pride themselves on their skill on the defensive side of the ball. The future of the league also looks bright in terms of defensive players, with more and more guys entering the league who are more than willing to fight in defense.

In this article, we rank the top 5 defensive players in the NBA today aged 25 or under. All players under the age range are eligible, except players who haven’t played this season (yes, we’re thinking of Ben Simmons here, but he’ll be an honorable mention nonetheless).

Honorable mentions: Ben Simmons (excluding for personal reasons), Herbert Jones, Jonathan Isaac (excluding injury), Deni Avdija, Davion Mitchell, OG Anunoby

5. Luguentz Dort

It’s no longer a secret now that Lu Dort is one of the best young defensive players who have entered the NBA in recent times.

That hasn’t always been the case for the 6’3 ” goaltender, however. Dort was actually not drafted after leaving Arizona state, only to be signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He would have a quiet first regular season, averaging around 7 points in 22 minutes of playing time.

However, it was during the 2020 Playoffs that he made himself known to the NBA world at large, during the Thunder’s tight 7-game affair against the Houston Rockets. Not only did he increase his production to around 13 points and four rebounds, but he also put in a huge defensive effort against none other than James Harden.

Houston won the series due to a Harden clutch block on Lu Dort, but the young gun still came out of the series brilliant regardless. With his guts and perimeter defense efforts rivaling that of Marcus Smart, Dort quickly became a certified fan favorite.

Already one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, Dort only looks better after every game, even on offense. He could very well be one of the best undrafted players in the league for years to come.

4. Jarrett Allen

The ‘Fro is one of the best-known rim protectors in the league. It’s not for nothing, notice; he will challenge and try to block every shot that comes his way. Yes, that led to him being the target of a few nasty poster dunks courtesy of Kawhi Leonard and more recently John Collins.

However, this willingness to jump with any player has given us several nasty blocks against Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James himself.

As young as he is, this willingness to challenge even some of the greatest players in league history has helped Jarrett Allen become one of the most intimidating rim protectors in the NBA. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a wingspan of 7’5 “, which is above average length for crosses. At a height of 6’10” – 6’11 “, his mobility isn’t bad either.

The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly got a gem from the Brooklyn Nets by acquiring Jarrett Allen. He has the potential to be their established big man for over a decade, during which time he can become the most formidable shot blocker in the league.

3. Dejount Murray

The San Antonio Spurs have All-Star potential with Dejounte Murray.

The 6’4 “keeper became Spurs’ indisputable centerpiece following the departure of DeMar DeRozan. He did very well, averaging 19 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists all the time. improved since his rookie year, where he averaged just four points, the former University of Washington has turned into a good offensive player.

However, he is mostly proud of the defensive side of the ball. Not only does he have defensive courage and drive, but he also possesses quick hands and the ability to read passing lanes effectively. Combine that with his above-average point guard height and massive 6’10 ”wingspan, and we ourselves have one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, arguably the best on this list.

Murray has consistently averaged over 1.5 steals per game since his injury in the 2018-19 season. He’s currently averaging 2.1 steals, a career-high.

The sky is the limit for Murray, who holds the record for the youngest All-Defensive selection in NBA history (a record previously held by Kobe Bryant himself). What a draft steal, he was only 29th overall.

2. Myles Turner

Perhaps the best young indoor rider in the league.

Myles Turner is a tall, versatile man with both formidable inner play and the ability to stretch the floor. He’s as versatile as they come in attack.

However, Turner is even more formidable in defense. He currently leads the league in blocks per game, with 3.1 blocks per game. It’s almost a block from Mo Bamba, second.

It’s safe to say that Turner is one of the Indiana Pacers’ most important players and overall their most important defenseman. He serves as his team’s defensive anchor, as does Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert. He’s their primary inner protector and he excels with his immense athleticism and 7’4 “wingspan. This deadly combination of size, athleticism and talent makes driving in the Pacers’ paint a daunting task.

With Turner averaging around 13 points and 7 assists for his career, he’s already an above-par offensive player in the NBA. However, he has yet to have that All-Star breakout season fans have been waiting for yet. Nonetheless, he is already a perennial All-Defensive selection with tons of attacking potential. His time has come soon.

1. Bam Adebayo

Bam takes the number 1 spot for his overall defensive grandeur and versatility.

The tall athletic 6’9 ” man looks to be the future of the Miami Heat and the league in general. He is certainly one of the brightest young players in the NBA from an offensive standpoint; he can catch lobs, shoot midrange, put the ball on the ground and make plays exceptionally well. However, it is his sensational defensive ability that truly sets him above the rest.

Usually, great men impose presences in the paint that constantly threaten to block fire, but are not particularly viable defenders in the perimeter; this has been the constant criticism of guys like Rudy Gobert struggling defensively as they move away from the rim. For Bam, as a rather undersized center, he has little problem keeping the guys on the perimeter while also being responsible for maintaining the paint.

As such, it greatly reduces any weaknesses attacking players can exploit. Supporting Adebayo on the block would be difficult for any center, while passing him to a smaller player won’t be as effective either. It’s that defensive versatility that makes the young center forward such a good defensive anchor for the Miami Heat. Please refer to his save block against Jayson Tatum in the 2020 Eastern Conference final to see how excellent Bam is in defense overall.

Miami’s top young player is surely poised to add to his two NBA All-Defensive caps as his career progresses, as well as grab a few Defensive Player of the Year awards.

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