The general perception today is that the NBA has become soft. The league was once ruled by grown men who viewed landing a forearm shiver to another player’s chest in the open court on the same level as scoring a basket. The league then was oozing with machismo, resulting in a style of game that looked as though it was being played by five Muhammad Alis on one side and five Joe Fraziers on the other while 14 Marvin Haglers and Thomas Hearns sit on the benches.
These days, there is not much room for players to be dirty on the court. Tighter and layered rules, as well as hefty fines for goonish conduct, have significantly cut down the population of dirty players in the NBA. That’s not to mention that referees nowadays so easily blow their whistles upon seeing players, who were merely tapped on their shoulders fly into the stands as if they were Baxter being punted into the river by Jack Black. Flopping, they say.
But, make no mistake about it. There is still a group of guys out there that proves that the breed of tough and dirty players in the NBA is not extinct — at least for now. They are not scared to get tossed from the game or to get their bank accounts pinched if it means helping their teams turn the tide in their favor by way of harming their opponents.
Pachulia is barely alone in that category, however. It’s even fair to say that he’s not the dirtiest. If not Pachulia, then each of the following five players could be more Pachulia than Pachulia in terms of causing bodily harm on the court.
5. Steven Adams
We know Steven Adams for being the underrated player on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s roster. After all, he is surrounded by three alpha males in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.
Attention won’t go his way often with teammates whose stars definitely shine brighter than his, but if there’s one thing he can do better than any of those guys other than rebounding the ball, it;s putting bruises on opposing players’ bodies.
Adams does not take a day off on the floor. He plays so physical that he is being perceived as a dirty player. One Western Conference head coach once described Adams’ style of play as though he was scouting a mixed martial arts fighter, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
“The stuff that he does is not cool,” a West coach said. “He throws elbows, extra hitting dudes away from the ball, hitting them with the chicken wing [elbow] and trying to get a rise out of them. That kind of stuff.”
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal certainly did not find it cool when Adams, inadvertently or not, nearly castrated him with a kick to the groin.
4. Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk has been called dirty going back to his days in Spokane playing for Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs, though that’s largely because of his disheveled long locks and orc-like features. In the NBA, he’s called that for a completely different reason.
Since coming over to the pros, Olynyk has regularly shown that he’s capable of following in the footsteps of Pachulia. There may not be a bigger and clearer reinforcement of the idea that the current Miami Heat power forward is a serious health hazard on the court than when he injured Kevin Love’s shoulder back in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs while going after a loose ball.
Then again, that’s not the only evidence one could present in proving that Olynyk is a dirty basketball player. He nearly ripped another man’s arm out of its socket when he tried to do the same move he did on Love against Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez while going up for a rebound.
Kelly Olynyk about to do it!! pic.twitter.com/GEJIcaBG05
— Per Sources (@PerSources) April 19, 2017
Notice the concentration on Olynyk’s face there. That’s the look of a man hell-bent on sending a person to the hospital. Olynyk is a dangerous player who will not hesitate to twist someone’s arm like a chicken wing just to get a rebound.
Olynyk has also been called dirty by Draymond Green (we’ll deal with him later). Real recognize real.
3. Matthew Dellavedova
Matthew Dellavedova might not be the most talented player on this list, but he tries to cut more skilled players than him down to size and to his level – sometimes literally – by reaching down to his bag of cheap shot tricks.
Delly likes to dive after loose balls, a move that endears him to fans of his own teams but also one that poses great risk to opposing players’ lower extremities.
Delly ended Kyle Korver’s season before when he rolled into Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter’s ankle during a playoffs series. He almost took out another Hawk later in that same series when he hit Horford’s legs in a loose ball play.
That might just be scrappiness on Delly’s part, but his style of play could leave someone requiring an operation.
Dellavedova was voted by his fellow players and NBA coaches as the dirtiest player in the league back in the 2015-16 season, with one head coach associating him with the “D” word.
“He’s as dirty as they come,” a Western Conference coach said. “When you’re hurting people, that is not OK.”
2. Patrick Beverley
Like Dellavedova, Patrick Beverley is as intense as anyone when going after the ball.
Beverley is a menace on defense. When one watches Beverley play, it’s impossible not to think that he’ll get into other player’s nerves.
He is as sticky as rice on defense and is all over his man like sauce on spaghetti. He does it in a relentless way, often ending up tangling his limbs with those of the player he is defending.
Even Stephen Curry failed to keep his emotions in check when he got a taste of PatBev’s brand of defense. Beverley is also one of the most hated men in Oklahoma City for causing Russell Westbrook’s torn meniscus injury back in 2013.
In a separate incident, Beverley tried to unseat Jerry Lawler as the wrestling king of Memphis when he appeared to put the Grizzlies guard in a headlock.
1. Draymond Green
Don’t act like you’re surprised. No degree of Daniel Day-Lewis method acting shenanigans would convince us that you clicked on this link not expecting Draymond Green on this list.
Our estimate is that if all the people who think that Draymond Green is a dirty player gathered in one place, there would probably be enough to start a new nation. The least surprising thing on this list is that Green is included here.
Green has hit plenty of players in the family jewels, was caught chopping James Harden’s wrist, and he was suspended for a game in the 2016 NBA Finals, which was a key factor for the Cleveland Cavaliers pulling off an improbable title victory after trailing in the series, 3-1.