NBA top 100 defender rankings (10-1): Anthony Davis, Draymond Green and more fight for No. 1 spot on list

In case you missed Part I of this story, this list is an attempt to rank the top 100 defenders in the upcoming NBA season. That first part explained the methodology in detail — a little bit of advanced stats, voting results from last year’s awards and mostly my subjective eye test. It covered No. 11 to No. 100.

In Part II, we’re getting to the good stuff — the top 10. All of these players are world-class defenders with various strengths and weaknesses. Here’s the cream of the crop.


The 100 best defenders in the NBA: The top 10


Player Eye Test Rank DARKO rank   DPOY/All-Defense Votes
1. Draymond Green 1 1 123
2. Alex Caruso 3 4 127
3. Anthony Davis 4 5 9
4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 5 21 586
5. Brook Lopez 7 10 490
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo 8 6 74
7. Evan Mobley 2 62 233
8. Bam Adebayo 6 30 71
9. Jrue Holiday 9 30 200
10. Joel Embiid 12 11 22

1. Draymond Green

Green will go down as one of the best defenders in NBA history. He has eight All-Defensive Team selections, including one last season, and a Defensive Player of the Year award that he won back in 2017.

Even at age 33, Green is still one of the most versatile defenders in the league. He can guard out on the perimeter or bruise with bigs down low. He is the key piece that has made the Warriors’ defense shine throughout their dynastic run because of his ability to guard capably in so many different schemes.

Where Green really shines is in his masterful defensive feel. He’s the quarterback of the Warriors’ defense, calling out assignments and sending teammates to the right spots. And he might be the best 2-on-1 fast break defender of all time, baiting opponents into doing exactly what he wants.

When he finally hangs it up, defenders will study what he did for years to come.

2. Alex Caruso

Standing at only 6-5, Caruso should not be as impactful as he is, but he carried a Bulls team with poor individual defenders to an incredible No. 5 overall defensive ranking.

Caruso is impossible to screen — he darts all over the floor to disrupt what teams are trying to accomplish. His 5.2 deflections per 36 minutes ranked behind only Robert Covington last season among players that logged at least 200 minutes, per NBA Stats.

Along with creating turnovers like a madman, taking charges and locking up the best scorers in the league, Caruso makes his teammates better. His communication on the floor is elite. DeMar DeRozan once said of Caruso’s leadership that he’s “like that one college professor that’s always preaching a thesis or something.”

Caruso is a lot more versatile than you’d expect, too. He was the Bulls’ best option defending bruising scorers like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Julius Randle, getting stops against them in isolation situations. He’s the best pound-for-pound defender in the NBA.

3. Anthony Davis

When Davis is healthy, he has a strong case as the best defender in the league.

In leading the Lakers to a Western Conference Finals appearance, he showed how he can completely alter what an offense is trying to do. Every opponent that the Lakers faced tried to get him away from the paint. He averaged 2.0 blocks per game, the sixth-highest mark in the league.

Davis is also more than capable of switching onto guards. He showed that in the biggest moment against one of the NBA’s best players, stopping Stephen Curry’s game-winning attempts in the waning moments of a Lakers Game 4 win in the Western Conference Semifinals.

4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 

There are many reasons why Jackson won the Defensive Player of the Year award last season, but foremost was his rim protection. Jackson has led the league in blocks per game for two consecutive seasons. At 3.0 per game, he was a half block higher than Nic Claxton and Brook Lopez.

Even when Jackson isn’t getting a hand on shots, he’s forcing misses at a more frequent rate than almost anyone in the league. Opponents shoot 13 percent worst at the rim against Jackson, per Crafted NBA, which puts him in the 99th percentile of defenders.

Jackson is nearly impossible to score against in the pick-and-roll, and he’s a brick wall in one-on-one matchups. He can also capably guard on the perimeter as a switch defender.

His two weaknesses are his mediocre defensive rebounding and propensity to foul, but at just 24 years old, he’s only going to get better.

5. Brook Lopez

Lopez might play drop defense better than anyone else. His mastery of tagging and cleansing allows him to stay in the lane seemingly indefinitely, maximizing his rim protection ability and completely sealing off the paint.

That special rim protection led to him finishing as the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting. Lopez was tied for second in the league with 2.5 blocks per game. Opponents shot 13.5 percent worse at the rim against him. That was even stingier than Jackson’s 13.0 percent and in the 99th percentile of the league, per Crafted NBA.

Lopez might not fare quite as well in other situations because of his lack of mobility. On the Bucks, though, teams simply don’t challenge him for layups because of his timing on blocks, massive 7-1 height and elite positioning.

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo’s athleticism makes him a special player on both ends of the floor, yet his defensive impact recently has gotten short shrift. He failed to make an All-Defensive Team last season despite sterling defensive impact numbers in most all-in-one metrics.

While he is a good one-on-one defender, what makes Antetokounmpo special is his help defense. He’s able to wall off the paint from anywhere on the floor with his speed and 7-3 wingspan.

The Bucks allow him to roam around on defense, maximizing his ability to sow chaos and disrupt plays. He’s seemingly everywhere at once, plugging a ton of holes with his size and versatility.

7. Evan Mobley

It’s hard to believe that Mobley is just 22 years old given his high-level understanding of complicated defensive schemes. A future Defensive Player of the Year award seems like an inevitability for the Cavs big man.

Mobley is one of the best help defenders in the league. Big men aren’t supposed to be able to cover huge swaths of the floor in the blink of an eye like he does, yet he flies to any spot on the floor whenever a crack emerges in the Cavs’ league-best defense.

Mobley is also a terror when guarding isolations against bigs and guards alike. His mobility and length make it supremely difficult to get a shot off without a good challenge coming from him.

8. Bam Adebayo

Adebayo’s biggest defensive strength lies in his versatility. He’s a hybrid of the players above him on this list.

He does every job that a defender is supposed to at a high level, whether that’s quarterbacking Miami’s zone defenses, hanging back to protect the rim or switching onto guards. He’s a true jack-of-all-trades defender with few weaknesses in his game.

9. Jrue Holiday

The word to best describe Holiday’s defense is tenacious. The best scorers figure out ways to get to their preferred spots. Holiday is unwilling to give up a single inch without a fight.

That stickiness allows Holiday to get a ton of steals and deflections. He does so without gambling, using his strength and top-tier lateral movement to suffocate the best scorers.

He’s also one of the toughest players to screen because he is always attached to his man. His pattern recognition is elite, allowing him to guess what will happen before anyone else.

Add all of those skills up, and Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

10. Joel Embiid

Embiid would rank higher on this list if he brought more consistent effort. Given his load on offense, it’s understandable that he can’t play at his top defensive level at all times.

When he does hit that peak, as he did in the playoffs, he acts as a forcefield around the paint. His 7-5 wingspan makes it nearly impossible to get shots over him. Opposing players don’t even try to challenge him.

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