Ranking the 10 best defenders in the NBA ahead of the 2022-23 season

Thybulle Stephenson
Apr 9, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (6) dribbles the ball against Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Matisse Thybulle (22) during the first half at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

You know what they say: Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That’s why the top 10 best NBA defenders 2022-23 will have such a vital role for their squads this season, especially in a league that’s so full of offensive-minded talents.

Best NBA defenders 2022-23

The style, the pace, and the rules favor offense more than ever nowadays. But there are always those guys who’re willing to put their bodies on the line on every single possession, those who want to get a stop more than they want to get a poster dunk.

Even though they may not be the fanciest, flashiest players, these guys can still knock everybody off their seats. They can make game-winning plays on the defensive end of the floor and have earned every single minute of playing time.

So, without no further introduction, let’s take a look at our list of the top 10 best NBA defenders 2022. Let’s hope they don’t get to guard your favorite player.

10. Gary Payton II

Gary Payton II beat both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Alex Caruso for the 10th spot in this list. The Golden State Warriors will miss his ball-hawking instincts and how much he was willing to take a beating, a charge, and run through screens. He was one of the best NBA defenders 2022.

Just like his old man, Gary Payton II took pride in guarding the rival team’s best scorer. Despite his lack of height, he could hold his own versus bigger opposition, and he was way stronger than most guards, even checking rival bigs from time to time.

9. Ben Simmons

When healthy, Ben Simmons is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His defense and playmaking are his two biggest strengths, and the reason why every team would be glad to have him even if he never shoots a jump shot in his life.

Simmons is a gifted athlete, and his length, strength, and wingspan allow him to guard one through five like not many players in the league can. He can match up with forwards, take a beating in the paint versus big men, or stay in front of quicker guards.

8. Rudy Gobert

It’s kind of shocking to see Rudy Gobert, a multi-time Defensive Player of the Year, sitting at the eighth spot on our list. However, we just can’t ignore the fact that he’s often driven off the court in the playoffs because he’s blatantly unable to defend the perimeter.

Don’t get me wrong, Gobert is the most dominant rim protector in the league by a long stretch, and his interior presence is just unmatched. However, he’s been exposed year in and year out in the postseason, which is why we can’t deem him as the best defensive player in the league.

7. Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges was a legit candidate for Defensive Player of the Year last season, and he might be in for an even tougher workload this year once Jae Crowder is traded. He’s an elite backcourt stopper, but he can also get a stop versus bigger players.

Bridges’ quick hands make him deadly in passing lanes. He’s also quite efficient when he wants to force his rival to his weak hand and when guarding inbound passes or near the baseline. He embraces the challenge of guarding the best perimeter scorer in the rival team.

6. Matisse Thybulle

Matisse Thybulle is one of the best defensive players in the NBA right now. Think of him as a poor man’s Tony Allen or a better-scoring Andre Roberson. He’s a guy that’s not going to be an offensive factor but earns his dough on the other side of the hardwood.

Despite his height, Thybulle is an elite shot-blocker. He makes the most of his long arms and quick hands to disrupt shots and passes, and he can guard multiple spots on the floor thanks to his lateral quickness. You won’t catch him off guard too often.

5. Kawhi Leonard

Even though we didn’t see him at all last season, Kawhi Leonard still makes our list of the best NBA defenders 2022. His huge hands, instincts, and defensive basketball IQ make him one of the most disruptive defensive forces this game has ever seen.

Leonard can get stops versus the best players on Earth, as he introduced himself to the world by checking LeBron James long before he became a star. You’ll see him guarding Kevin Durant, James Harden, or even Stephen Curry any given night.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo gets a lot of heat because he’s rarely seen guarding the rival team’s best scorer. But that’s just what happens when you play with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, and all the advanced metrics back up Giannis’ case as one of the best stoppers on Earth.

Antetokounmpo is perhaps the most athletic player in the league. He’s got the length to play and defend all five positions on the court, and he’s one of the best team defenders ever. You just can’t put him on an island, or you’ll find your shot swatted all the way to the stands.

3. Draymond Green

Draymond Green claims he’s the best defensive player to ever do it. And even though we believe that’s a big stretch, he’s one of the greatest defenders in NBA history, at least in modern times. That’s why he’s been so valuable for the Golden State Warriors dynasty.

Green is the most intelligent player not named Chris Paul or LeBron James. He’s outstanding at picking apart his rival’s offensive sets and disrupting their offense with his brains and defensive versatility. He’s the best at guarding all spots on the floor.

2. Jrue Holiday

While he doesn’t get that much credit from the fans or the media, rival NBA players often deem Jrue Holiday as the best defensive player in the league. He sure looks like it when you pay attention to his game, as he’s just suffocating all over the floor.

Holiday has long arms and is quite quick with his hands and his feet. He can shut down passing lanes and force multiple turnovers while stepping in front of his rivals. Hopefully, he’ll finally get the praise he deserves after this season.

1. Marcus Smart

And unsurprisingly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year rounds up our list of the top defensive players in the NBA this season. Marcus Smart was the first guard to win this award since Gary Payton in 1996 and just the sixth guard to earn that distinction.

Don’t be fooled by his size. Smart is tough as nails and can even hold his own in the post versus centers and power forwards. He’ll run through screens for 48 minutes, and there’s just no way of shaking his pesky, suffocating defense off. He’s just way too intense.

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