Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Marcus Smart and Anthony Davis are five of the deadliest defenders in the NBA. Each guy is always locking up his opponent on a nightly basis and getting praised for it by pundits.
However, there are some other really good defenders in the NBA that experts and fans don’t talk about enough.
With that said, let’s take a look at the five most underrated defenders in the NBA today.
5. Shaquille Harrison
The Chicago Bulls have been a joke since the Jimmy Butler trade, but the franchise may have a defensive gem in Shaquille Harrison.
A Missouri native, Harrison is 6-foot-7 and can guard positions one through four. He’s currently averaging 1.1 steals in his short NBA career.
Harrison plays hard, has great feet, great hands and is athletic. In fact, Bulls point guard Kris Dunn calls him a “dog” on defense.
4. Jonathan Isaac
Jonathan Isaac suffered a severe sprain and bone contusion in his left knee and was only able to play in 32 games for the Orlando Magic before games were suspended in March. The 22-year-old was averaging 12.0 points, 6.9 boards and 1.4 assists.
Isaac also averaged 2.4 blocks (which was second in the NBA in 2019-20) and 1.6 steals — good for a combined total of 4.0 per contest. No one else in the NBA was doing that prior to Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test.
3. Royce O’Neale
The Utah Jazz have the best defensive center in the NBA in Gobert, but Royce O’Neale is a tremendously talented defensive wing, too.
O’Neale has great feet and balance. He doesn’t reach much on defense and always stays composed due to his physicality and mental toughness. The 27-year-old forward has had success in the past guarding Houston Rockets superstar James Harden.
2. Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball is 6-foot-6. For a point guard, that’s pretty tall.
The former No. 2 overall pick is averaging 1.5 steals per game with the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans. Ball has tremendous lateral foot quickness, which allows him to stay in front of all these quick guards we have in the NBA.
At one point during the 2018-19 season with the Lakers, Ball was holding opposing point guards to 32.5 percent shooting over a 27-game span. The Pelicans, with Ball and Jrue Holiday leading the way in the backcourt, are going to be terrifying on defense for the next couple of years.
1. Matisse Thybulle
Before the 2019-20 season started, NBA rookies picked Matisse Thybulle to be the best defender from the 2019 NBA Draft class.
Philadelphia 76ers superstar Ben Simmons once said he “hated” going up against Thybulle in practice since the youngster was harassing him and the rest of the Philly starters.
Prior to games getting suspended in March, Thybulle was averaging 1.4 steals per game.