The NBA is full of multi-talented ball players who have one skill that sticks out much more than others. The players on this list epitomize this at their core, at least at this point in their careers. They all have one thing in common, DEFENSE. They may have an opportunity to change this list but for now meet the five players who have to play both sides of the ball but need to focus on one way more than the other.
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Murray isn’t known for his offense, well at least not yet, the Spurs could unlock his potential there this season. But what matters is the 6’ 5” point guard is a menace on the defensive end. His size allows him to guard both guard position and the occasional small forward which is perfect for all your defensive switching needs.
After being named to his first all-defensive team there seems to be no reason why there won’t be more selections to come. Murray gets play time because of his smart decision making but he stays on the court and more importantly out of Popovich’s doghouse thanks to his defense.
Murray separates himself from other options at this spot because of his lack of offensive production. 8 PPG and 3 APG don’t scream starting PG. Other elite defensive PGs are able to score at least 12 PPG. Murray, stuck out at this spot due to his almost one-sided play on the court.
Roberson may as well be a tumbleweed on the offensive end. If he’s shooting the ball, most fans should cringe unless he’s slashing to the basket with his nearly 7’ wingspan. Luckily, he exerts 110% of his energy on the less glamorous side of the court. Roberson’s foot speed and length allow him to guard 1-3 and small ball fours to very substantial results.
Roberson seemed to be the cog that made the OKC defense turn last season. Once Roberson was injured, the team’s defensive rating fell to as low as 27th in the league without him. And due to his lack of impact on offense, there was almost no change in their offensive output. Metrics like the ones listed above are the reason why Roberson makes the list; his stamp is squarely placed on one side of the ball.
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Covington falls in this position simply because there aren’t enough shots to go around on the 76ers. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will dominate the ball and with a healthy Markelle Fultz, you can’t blame Covington for not being aggressive. Covington was the lowest scoring starter for the team last year, but at 6’9, his obvious role is his versatility on the defensive end. And he’s done just that last year after making his first all-defensive (see a trend here?).
Covington’s per 36 numbers don’t show any sign that he’d be a more dynamic scorer without the 76ers stars and that should suit their fan base just fine. Being a Swiss Army knife on a team with enough size to switch 1-4 at any given time is all that he needs to do. Save your energy on offense young man, you’ll need it for the daunting tasks of guarding the Celtics and the new Toronto Raptors franchise leader, Kawhi Leonard.
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Every NBA should know Draymond Green’s role on the Warriors all too well. He’s the most versatile defender in the league even though he’s relatively undersized for the 4 and 5 positions. As the 2017 defensive player of the year, he anchored one of the best defensive teams in recent history and he was nearly a repeat winner if it wasn’t for the next guy on the list. With the addition of Demarcus Cousin, there’s almost no need for Green to touch the ball on the offensive even though he is a great decision maker at the 4 spot.
After averaging a near triple-double at 11,7, and 7, expect those numbers to go down once Cousins is back in the rotation. Yes, Cousins may open the spacing for other teammates once he establishes himself in the post, but don’t expect that to help Green much. He’s shooting a career average of 32.7% from the three-point line and that’s with being with playing with the best shooting duo in history his entire career. His shooting percentage has even fallen since adding Kevin Durant in 2016. Warriors fans should be absolutely ok with that happening because that means he can conserve energy for where he is really needed during the game, the defensive end.
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When you’re the reigning defensive player of the year, do you even need to score? Well, Rudy Gobert sure doesn’t need to. His rim protection alone makes him one of the most valuable players on a court at any given time. Standing 7’1 with the second longest wingspan in the NBA, 7’9, Gobert has enough length to step out to the three-point line and be much more than serviceable.
Over the past two seasons, Gobert has taken a step forward with his scoring. But by no means is he an offensive standout at the position. Players like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid can challenge for this spot, but they mean too much to their teams offensively. If Rudy Gobert had more offensive firepower around him to lessen his load just imagine the havoc he could invoke on the NBA.