Spectacular dunks, no-look passes, ankle-breaking crossovers and beautiful three-pointers will always make the highlight reels, but it is a well-known fact that defense wins championships. The Los Angeles Lakers are no stranger to this as even though their championship teams were known for amazing offensive players like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, they got stops when needed.
While some newer statistics have helped in better measuring the impact of individual defenders, one of the best ways is simply to ask other NBA players. Who better to judge the best defenders than the players they are going up against on a nightly basis.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype recently asked a number of current and former players who were the best defenders they faced. Former NBA veteran Dorell Wright mentioned a couple of former Lakers amongst his toughest defenders:
“Tony Allen, Ron Artest (also known as Metta World Peace) and Kobe Bryant were the toughest. Kobe would try to get into you and move you. And Tony and Ron were so good […] They were really aggressive; they’d get into you, they’d turn you and direct you where they wanted you to go.”
While Wright was the only one who mentioned Kobe, World Peace (or Ron Artest) was mentioned by a few other players, including former lottery pick DerMarr Johnson:
“Ron Artest because his size, strength and long arms. He made it hard to get anywhere on the floor.”
Additionally, both Maurice Evans and Ricky Davis also mentioned World Peace as one of the toughest defenders they faced and it isn’t hard to see why. In addition to being extremely strong for a wing, World Peace had very quick feet in his younger days and was always right in the face of his opposition.
Overall, World Peace made All-Defensive First Team twice in his career, and second team another two times while winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. Kobe, meanwhile, made nine All-Defensive First Teams and three second teams.
With Luke Walton wanting to get the Lakers back to their running ways, defense will be even more important. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, and Larry Nance Jr., the latter of which has spoken about his desire to be in the DPOY discussion, will be looked upon as the catalysts for this.