We’re back once again with another NBA discussion. This time around, Sports Unbiased NBA writers Jr. Williams and Keith Rivas will take a look at the elite perimeter defenders thus far during the 2014-15 NBA season, and offer their thoughts on who are the best of the best. The players on this list represent a small group of individuals who put it all on line for the sake of causing the opponent pure hell on the offensive end of the court. Any team or player facing this list of individuals is set for a long night, and should prepare themselves mentally before stepping on the court. Ladies and gents, we deliver our list of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA.
Top Perimeter Defenders 2014-15
1. Tony Allen: Memphis Grizzlies
Tony Allen has helped the Grizzlies rise to become one of the top contending teams in professional basketball. One of the main reasons the Grizzlies are in the top four in the Western Conference is their defense– a defense lead by Allen’s example and ranked best in points allowed (94 per game). Defense wins championships, and clearly Tony Allen & Co. in Memphis took that to heart.
2. Andre Iguodala: Golden State Warriors
Andre Iguodala fits perfectly in the scheme that first year coach Steve Kerr has brought to the land of milk and honey. A league best record of 17-2 is a testament to the teamwork that goes into how the Warriors play ball–a go hard or go home mentality. Iguodala has been a huge boost to the Splash Brothers (Steph Curry & Klay Thompson), getting rebounds when it counts so that the team’s best shooters get the shots they’re looking for.
With the seventh best overall defense, the Warriors have depended a lot on consistency in the closing moments of games. Not choking under pressure is the sign of a true contender. So with the help of Iguodala’s three rebounds, three assists, and at least one steal per game, the Warriors look to go hard this postseason–because the last thing they want is to go home.
3. Kawhi Leonard: San Antonio Spurs
A major determining factor in Kawhi Leonard’s ability to make his first All-Star appearance is how he performs as a perimeter defender for the defending champion Spurs. Proving his worth last year against the likes of Damian Lillard and LeBron James, Leonard has only gotten better… And that should scare everybody.
Now averaging eight rebounds, two assists, and about one block per game, Leonard is tearing up what’s supposed to be the scariest of the two conferences. Not for San Antonio. As long as they keep this young developing star on their squad, I expect and predict more championships to be brought to the Lone Star state.
4. LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers
The move back home has so far been sweet for King James. Thankfully, he didn’t have to go it alone and has been joined by Kevin Love (from Minnesota) and Kyrie Irving (who took some convincing to keep around). That being said, a homecoming fit for a King better come with stellar performances and numbers to back up the trash talk–and trust me, they do.
Averaging a whopping nine assists, two steals, and five rebounds per game, LeBron & Co. have the Cavs on pace to do just fine in the East after a scary start (to say the least. Following a recent four game skid, the Cavaliers currently find themselves on a six game victory lap and don’t look to be slowing down.
A contest against Toronto in Cleveland’s building will be a true test to just how good the Cavs are as a team. Because if you ask me, LeBron has nothing left to prove after leaving everything on the court the way that he does during game time.
Top Perimeter Defenders 2014-15
1. Jimmy Butler: Chicago Bulls
Arguably the NBA’s most improved player and the best player for the Chicago Bulls in the wake of an injured Derrick Rose. Defensively Jimmy Butler shows no fear and is always looking to take on the most difficult defensive assignments. Butler lands the No.1 spot on my list because of his ability to raise his offensive level of play while maintaining his eliteness defensively. During the 2013-14 season, Butler ranked No.3 in steals per game. This season he’s currently No.2, trailing only behind Paul Millsap. The Chicago Bulls are the best defensive team in the East and one of the top defensive teams in the entire league. Overall, Butler is one of the toughest players in the NBA, and could find his name mentioned among players considered for the All-NBA Defensive First Team should the Bulls continue their dominance.
2. Chris Paul: Los Angeles Clippers
Its hard not to have a player like Chris Paul on my list considering the fact that he has been elected to three consecutive NBA All-Defensive Teams including his fourth overall. Even more astounding is the fact that Paul is among the league leaders in steals (1.9) for the fifth straight season, and the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
Head Coach Doc Rivers on Chris Paul: “I think he’s the best defender at the point guard I’ve seen–maybe ever”. Best ever, may be a stretch, however, Chris Paul should be mentioned among the greatest defensive guards after his career is all said and done. Paul continues to be the best perimeter defender for a Clippers team looking to make a splash during the 2014-15 NBA playoffs.
3. Kawhi Leonard: San Antonio Spurs
Leonard has been getting a lot of praise for his defense after minimizing the Heats effectiveness in games 3 and 5 of the 2014 NBA finals — a series that exploited the teams weakness for depending on a single player (LeBron James). A defensive tenacity combined with a high scoring average helped Leonard raise the 2014 NBA MVP Trophy, instantly transforming him into an NBA star and the future of the Spurs franchise. This season Leonard continues to improve his game. He ranks in the top-10 in the league in steals (1.9) while managing to contribute 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for a Spurs team looking to win back-to-back NBA Titles for the first time in franchise history. Leonard is another player who never shies away from the tough defensive assignments, and he is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. I haven’t seen a player he could not disrupt.
4. Trevor Ariza: Houston Rockets
I don’t think people give Trevor Ariza enough credit as a defensive player, but those who are privy to his skill-set know he has been a significant upgrade to a Houston Rockets team who ranked a lowly 23rd in opponent scoring during the 2013-14 NBA season. Fast forward to 2015 where the Rockets are one of the top-5 teams in the league in opponent scoring (94.6), surprisingly with an injured Dwight Howard. Ariza’s defensive tenacity and aggressiveness has completely changed the team culture, even James Harden (a player once known as defensive liability) has transcended his game to another level. Both Ariza and Harden are ranked among the top-13 league leaders in steals per game. After changing the culture of a team, its hard not to have this guy as a top perimeter defender in the NBA.