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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / NBA’s Best Perimeter Defenders of All Time: Top 10 Perimeter Defensive Specialist Ranked

NBA’s Best Perimeter Defenders of All Time: Top 10 Perimeter Defensive Specialist Ranked

Publish Date: 02/28/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Today, we will look at the most excellent perimeter defensive players in the history of the NBA. Different eras are hard to compare as the game has changed so much. Before 1980, the game was more of an inside game with no three-point shot, and as the years have passed and with the inclusion of the three-point shot, the game has changed, especially on the perimeter.

Criteria

Defensive stats are what matter here, as do defensive awards, as those tell the tale of defensive greatness. Also, being a team defender and fitting into the system of defense your team is running is also a vital factor.

10) Alvin Robertson

He earned himself a strong reputation as an all-around player who once completed a quadruple-double. He was perhaps best known for his ability to secure steals on his man, both at the lane and from the perimeter. Check out our list of the top 10 best NBA players of the 1980s!

He made theft an art, yet could remain on his target while searching for ways to pickpockets quickly – a significant factor in earning this award, which goes to those defenders that made a substantial contribution on “d”.

  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year 1986
  • 4 Time NBA All-Star
  • 6 Time All-Defensive Team
  • NBA Most Improved Player 1986
  • 3 Time NBA Steals Leader
Video: ALVIN ROBERTSON PICKPOCKET

ALVIN ROBERTSON PICKPOCKET

9) Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was known for his scoring prowess and outstanding perimeter defensive skills throughout his career. Boasting superb footwork, quick hands, and intelligent positioning skills; Kobe became an effective perimeter defender.

Through hard work and perseverance, Bryant made himself one of the toughest defenders to face in the NBA, quickly becoming one of its top premier defenders. He possessed an extraordinary knack for reading passing lanes and coming up with timely steals – often leading to fast break opportunities for his team. This, combined with his offensive prowess, made Bryant an integral player and an invaluable part of the Los Angeles Laker’s success. Bryant was part of one of the best backcourts in NBA history!

  • 5 Time World Champion
  • 18 Time All-Star
  • 9 Time All Defensive-First Team
Video: 13 Times Kobe Bryant CLAMPED His Opponent 🐍 Lockdown Defense

13 Times Kobe Bryant CLAMPED His Opponent 🐍 Lockdown Defense

8) Scottie Pippen

Legendary teammate Michael Jordan may often overshadow Scottie Pippen, but he was no less of a defensive force himself. Renowned for his versatility and basketball IQ, Pippen could easily guard multiple positions due to his combination of length, quickness, and anticipation.

Pippen’s defensive skills proved crucial during Chicago Bulls championship runs of the 1990s; disrupting passing lanes, blocking shots and locking opponents down earned him multiple All-Defensive Team selections, establishing him as one of the premier defensive players of his era.

  • 6 Time World Champion
  • 7 Time NBA All-Star
  • 10 Time NBA All-Defensive First team
  • NBA Steals Leader 1995
Video: Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender

Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender

7) Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard has quickly established himself as one of the premier perimeter defenders of his generation. Boasting length, strength and basketball IQ, he guards multiple positions effectively, and his quick hands and instincts have yielded numerous steals and deflections throughout his career – especially during championship runs with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors when taking on guarding the opposing team’s best player as one of his primary defensive responsibilities.

  • 2 Time World Champion
  • 2 Time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2 Time NBA Finals MVP
  • 5 Time All-Defensive First Team
  • NBA Steals Leader 2015
Video: Kawhi Leonard Defensive Highlights

Kawhi Leonard Defensive Highlights

6) Walt Frazier

Walt Frazier was an integral member of the New York Knicks championship teams of the 1970s. Known for his exceptional perimeter defense with quick hands, agility, and defensive instincts that enabled him to consistently disrupt opponents’ offensive flow, guard multiple positions simultaneously without fouling, and stealing without fouling, Frazier became one of the most accomplished guards during this era.

  • 2 Time NBA World Champion
  • 7 Time NBA All-Star
  • 7 Time All-Defensive First Team
  • 2 Time NBA All StarGame MVP
  • NBA Steals Leader 1975
Video: Walt Frazier: The UNDERAPPRECIATED STAR of the NEW YORK KNICKS GOLDEN ERA | FPP

Walt Frazier: The UNDERAPPRECIATED STAR of the NEW YORK KNICKS GOLDEN ERA | FPP

5) Joe Dumars

Joe Dumars was an unforgettable Pistons legend who played an integral part in helping win two championships during his time there; he was an exceptional teammate and overall very successful player who was affectionately known by all as Joe D. – not for nothing did his nickname become so famous!

Dumars was awarded his “D” designation due to his incredible defensive play and is widely considered one of the great defensive players in the history of the NBA!

Michael Jordan acknowledged Joe as the most formidable defender he had ever played against during his legendary basketball career.

  • 2 Time NBA World Champion
  • NBA Finals MVP 1989
  • 6 Time All-Star
  • 4 Time All-Defensive First team
Video: Joe Dumars vs. Chicago Bulls | True Highlights (Offense, Defense, Guarding Jordan and more)

Joe Dumars vs. Chicago Bulls | True Highlights (Offense, Defense, Guarding Jordan and more)

4) Chris Paul

Chris Paul has long been known for his exceptional court vision and playmaking abilities, yet he also excelled as an exceptional perimeter defender during his career. Despite being shorter in stature, Paul’s quickness, anticipation, and basketball IQ allowed him to disrupt opposing guards quickly while amassing steals at an impressive rate – often placing among league leaders in terms of steals collected each season – making him one of the premier point guard defenders of his generation.

Paul will go down as one of the best point guards in NBA history!

  • 11 Time NBA All-Star
  • 9 Time All-Defensive First-Team
  • 6 Time NBA Steals Leader
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
Video: Chris Paul Defensive Highlights | 2019-20

Chris Paul Defensive Highlights | 2019-20

3) Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest basketball player ever, was an offensive force and a phenomenal perimeter defender. His combination of athleticism, quickness, and basketball IQ made him a formidable force on both ends of the court; Jordan made life miserable for opponents on both ends with his lockdown defense that consistently shut down some of the league’s greatest scorers with timely steals that kept opponents at bay. Jordan earned numerous defensive accolades that further established his status as an NBA icon.

During the Bull’s run to six titles, they had one of the best defensive teams ever assembled, as Jordan was surrounded by great defenders like Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper, and Dennis Rodman.

  • 6 Time World Champion
  • 5 Time NBA MVP
  • 14 Time NBA All-Star
  • 9 Time All-Defensive First Team
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year 1988
Video: Michael Jordan Defensive Highlights | MJs Most Iconic

Michael Jordan Defensive Highlights | MJs Most Iconic “Lockdown” Defender Plays

2) Sidney Moncrief

Sidney Moncrief was a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year known for his quickness, lateral movement and tireless work ethic as a perimeter defender. Known for his quickness, lateral movement and relentless work ethic – Moncrief often frustrated opponents with his suffocating defense, using athleticism to disrupt passing lanes and accumulate steals – his commitment to defense was integral in Milwaukee Bucks success during his tenure.

He never won a World Championship, and it was not his fault as the Celtics, Sixers, and Pistons, three all-time great teams, owned the Eastern Conference in the 1980s.

  • 5 Time NBA All-Star
  • 5 Time NBA All-Defensive First team
  • 2 Time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 3 Time NBA Steals Leader
Video: Sidney Moncrief: The Greatest Perimeter Defender Ever?

Sidney Moncrief: The Greatest Perimeter Defender Ever?

1) Gary Payton

Gary Payton was one of the greatest perimeter defenders in NBA history, earning himself the moniker “The Glove.” Payton played primarily for the Seattle SuperSonics during most of his career; Payton quickly established himself as a defensive stalwart through relentless on-ball pressure and exceptional anticipation skills that allowed him to disrupt opponents’ rhythm and frustrate even their most skilled guards.

Payton wasn’t limited to individual skills either – his abilities extended across team defense, too, and were instrumental in their success during the 1990s.

  • NBA World Champion
  • NBA Defensive Player of the Year 1996
  • 9 Time NBA All-Star
  • 9 Time All-Defensive First Team
  • 2 Time NBA Steals Leader
  • NBA All-Rookie Team
Video: How Good Was Gary Payton REALLY?

How Good Was Gary Payton REALLY?

Honorable Mentions

Tony Allen

Tony Allen was revered as one of the premier perimeter defenders of his generation, making a living mostly playing defence for the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies teams. Allen enjoyed taking on the challenge of guarding the opposing team’s best player.

Dennis Rodman

Rodman was more of a post defender, but I included him here because he was great defending the perimeter also. He was long, quick and athletic. As I said, he could defend the perimeter if needed, and I did not want to leave him on this list, he deserved at least a mention.

Michael Cooper

Michael Cooper was one of twelve iconic Lakers players from “Showtime” who belonged to an exclusive club: legendary defenders like Shaq and Magic Johnson. Michael Cooper stood among these legends on defense.

There is no doubt about it… the 6’5 athletic, quick and skilled Cooper was widely recognized for his exceptional defensive efforts.

Consistency was key in his success and earned him the Defensive Player Of The Year award in 1987 along with 8 All-NBA Defensive Teams selections, including 5 First and 3 Second!

Dennis Johnson

Johnson had various strategies to deny opponents on the defensive side of the court, but we’ll focus on his defensive abilities specifically. His tough physique and athleticism made Johnson one of the greatest defensive guards ever seen in basketball history.

He became legendary for thwarting Earvin “Magic” Johnson during the 1984 NBA Finals – an effort instrumental to his second title victory.

 

 

 

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