Today is a day where you get to gripe about the usual twists of fate and blame the day instead of whichever deity you identify with. It’s also the day that inspired one of the best movie franchises in horror history: Friday the 13th. In honor of Jason Voorhees and his ilk, we thought we’d provide 5 of the scariest defenders in the NBA. It’s Friday the 13th, and that black cat running across the landscape is really just a defender getting ready to swipe the ball.
We could have talked about NBA players who can be legitimately terrifying in certain instances (like going to a strip club with Stephen Jackson), but instead we thought we’d run down the 5 scariest defenders â€” who are often more paralyzing for opponents than an empty bully. These defenders aren’t mean mugging players as they bring the ball up the court. They play such fighting defense, offensive players are always leery of their presence. While Jason Voorhees terrorized campers, these guys terrorize the NBA’s best offensive players. Watch out.
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Possibly the hardest working defender in the league, Bradley has no qualms running 94 feet right on the hip of whichever point guard is unlucky enough to have drawn the wrath of the 22-year-old out of Texas. Sure, the Celtics don’t scare many teams in the Eastern Conference after the departure of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this offseason, but Bradley is always waiting, ready to pounce when an offensive player loses track of his presence. Once an opposing player has been lulled into a false sense of security with the ball, the 6-2 guard is in their pocket lifting the ball like a world class thief. Pest isn’t the right word for him, he’s more like an ever-present shadow never abating until he’s sucked the life out of your offense. With Rajon Rondo back this upcoming season, Bradley can slide over to off-guard and focus on frustrating opposing ball-handlers until they have choice but to call for that mid-court screen to get some elbow room to run the offense. Before they know it, Bradley will be right back on them, bodying them until they can’t even breath.
The gangly 7-footer and two-time NCAA champion at Florida, Joakim Noah might sport a goofily gnarled frizz on his head, but in Tom Thibodeau‘s defense, there aren’t many big man that are more frightening. He’s mobile (even while struggling with Plantar Fasciitis last season) and he’s long. But more than that he takes a special pride in his defense, like all the tormenters on this list. The son of a tennis legend and a supermodel mom, Noah could have lived off his pedigree, but after starring at Florida, he’s become a disciple of Thibodeau’s tough, no non-sense approach as a paint blockade. Noah might not ever get the due he’s owed because many claim it’s the Chicago system more than the player, but there isn’t a more perfect post presence to run Thibodeau’s fundamental approach. Sure, others might play at a more frenetic pace, but Noah’s P&R work when he shows on that guard trying to turn the corner can give even the fastest backcourt’s nightmares. Just watch as he switches on to Dwyane Wade here and stifles what Wade thinks is a mismatch. There aren’t many scarier.
This is a somewhat traditional choice since the once-pudgy Gasol brother was the NBA’s 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year. But Gasol’s is not an act of brinkmanship; it’s a studied approach to the fundamentals. Much like Noah in Thibodeau’s stay-at-home system, Gasol is the ringleader for a grit n’ grind crew that was the second stingiest in the league last year. When you watch him on defense, you’ll notice his superior footwork and the little shuffle-steps he performs to close windows of paint space almost before they open. But you’ll also notice his mouth working overdrive. He NEVER stops yammering. That, more than anything, is why he was so deserving of DPOY honors. Communication is the hallmark of good team defense, and if you’re a perimeter defender with the Grizz, you’re never on an island. He’s chattering behind you about where the pick is coming and which way to force the ball-handler; whether to go around the screen or over it; even what an offensive player’s tendencies might be. Rarely is there a Memphis defensive breakdown because Gasol simply won’t allow it. Whether it’s with Spain, or with the Grizzlies as they look to continue last season’s success under a new coach in Memphis, Gasol is the fulcrum for all the Grizzlies’ defensive tentacles. There’s a reason he’s anchored one of the toughest defensive teams of the millennium these last few years. His defense isn’t just scary, it’s scary good.
Always fear because Tony Allen might be near. While Gasol is the rock in the key for the Grizzlies, Trick or Treat Tony is everywhere else, often all at once. Avery Bradley might wear down an opponent, but Allen confuses, trips up and downright embarrasses even the most talented offensive players. When Allen was playing for the Celtics through the first six years of his career, LeBron James â€” 4 inches taller and almost 40 pounds heavier â€” appeared both forlorn and angry every time the athletic Allen appeared in front of the MVP, low on his haunches and ready for any move ‘Bron might try. While Allen can sometimes be out of control on offense, that same exuberance is important on the defensive end. How else to explain his new four-year $20 million contract this offseason for an off-guard that should probably never take a three-pointer. While Allen’s shooting woes restrict the Grizzlies’ spacing on offense, his hyperkenetic joy on the defensive perimeter works in perfect balance with Gasol’s smarts in the paint. Tony Allen might sometimes look like a knucklehead, but you don’t want to meet him at midcourt when you’re bringing the ball down.
The Bucks signed Sanders to a four-year, $44 million extension this summer and that’s not because of his low-post moves, it’s because he’s turned into one of the most feared shot-blockers in the league. While some â€” like the Dwight Howard‘s of the world â€” rely on an adonis physique to intimidate, Sanders is the thinking man’s shot swatter. Larry talked at length with CBS Sports’ Matt Moore about the various angles and techniques running through his head as he defend’s some of the league’s best. Like, say, the aforementioned D-12.
But he’s also a competitive 6-11 native of Florida that wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school, and whose defensive tenacity in the pros turned into something of a cult following (with Grantland’s Zach Lowe leading the way with his exclamative SANDERS! moniker). The cult of Sanders is like the people who worship Jason Voorhees; except, Sanders isn’t an ethereal demon victimizing 20-somethings around a lake, he’s a humble center victimizing athletic 20-somethings around a basket. That’s scary for anyone going up against Milwaukee for the foreseeable future, so opponents better not neglect the footsteps anytime they’re near the bucket while he’s on the floor.
Who is the scariest defender in the NBA?
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