We have several defensive categories here, and these are the most crucial for team defensive success in the NBA. What is shown is the overall ranking each team sits at in comparison to the rest of the league. Most of these stats are going to be stats that are allowed, such as points, rebounds, and assists. You can also break down how good a team is at rebounding. If a team is allowing 115 points per game, then they are going to rank lower on the list. Teams will have green, yellow, and red tabs to show you if they are in the top third, middle third, or lower third of the league.
Defenses are also going to rank by stats like steals and blocks, which are going to be on themselves. Now, this isn’t a complete way to view defense as you can see some struggling defenses generate a lot of blocks or steals, while some defenses don’t, but limit points against. One of the crucial areas is limiting shooting percentage from the field and from three, which is shown in the table above. Defensive rating is an overall look at how good a defense is, and one of the better stats to evaluate how good or bad a defense is.
What Good Defenses Excel At
There are a lot of factors that go into being a strong defense, and there are still quite a few teams that pride themselves on playing defense. While it may not be every night, the top ten here are going to limit production against them most nights. One of the key areas we notice some consistency in is rebounding. Good defenses are strong rebounding teams on both sides of the ball. There might be an outlier here or there for any of these stats, but rebounding is one thing that ties into a good defense. You are not giving up second-chance points and it is also going to transition into more offensive chances.
Allowing a low three-point and field goal percentage is going to be big for defenses. This of course translates into a lot of other stats where you are not allowing a lot of points or assists because the shots of course aren’t going in. Having teams shoot for a low field goal percentage is going to make their offense inefficient, especially with the three-point craze there is nowadays. These are going to correlate with field goals and three points allowed. It also will go hand in hand with defensive rating. Now when a team plays at a higher pace they might allow more threes and field goals but can still make it tough on offenses percentages.
Now steals and blocks are not necessarily telling for a good defense as you will see some of the defenses in the top ten do not have great block or steals numbers. Some on the lower half will. While it certainly helps a defense forcing turnovers and blocking shots, but it isn’t a must for being a good defense. Overall defense is going to be more about making it tough on your opponent through their shooting, rather than turnover stats.
Looking at the table and seeing how these teams are built, there are a lot of similarities. For one, a majority of the top ten teams have a strong rim protector to lock down the middle and make it tough on teams to score at the rim. They also have a lot of length at their wing positions and have a few guys that specify more on the defensive side compared to being offensive players. They also play a great team style of basketball that moves the ball around offensively, but they also work well defensively and are not selfish. When looking at the bottom of the table here, you see a lot of inefficient teams on both sides of the ball and are also just missing defensive personnel from their roster.
How Pace Affects Defensive Rankings
Not all teams play at the same pace, and that is going to affect their defensive rankings. For example, a team that plays at a slower pace will have a slight edge in field goals and three-point shots made against them. However, they may not have more steals or blocks because of fewer chances, and also not grab a ton of rebounds because the pace knocks them off a bit. Other teams that have a high pace will have more field goals and three points allowed, but also might have more turnover stats because their game style creates more chances. Pace can give more volume to certain stats, so it is important to factor that in when looking at some of these rankings.
Is There Correlation Between A Team’s Offense And Defense?
No matter the sport there is usually some correlation between offense and defensive numbers as they rely on each other to be productive. In basketball, having a great offense isn’t as meaningful for a defense, and vice versa. As we look at the current table above, there are a few teams that have high scoring offenses but have some of the worst defenses in the league. The same goes for top defenses where they have average to below-average offenses. Now, of course, the elite teams in the league are going to rank in the top half on both sides of the ball, but there isn’t a high correlation between offensive and defensive rankings.
This comes down how teams are built. For example, the Portland Trail Blazers are built with more offensive firepower and don’t have a lot of defensive presence to bail them out of games where the offense isn’t firing. The same goes for the Orlando Magic who have a lot of strong defensive players, but scoring has been a struggle for them over the last few seasons. Teams of course want players who play well on both sides of the ball, but that isn’t always the case. Then it is up to them to put together a strong roster of players who can mesh well.
Best Defenses In NBA History
The Boston Celtics have produced some of the best defensive seasons of all-time, and have done it in multiple eras. Going back to the 1963-64 season, the Boston Celtics dominated defensively, and Bill Russell was a major reason why. They had a defensive rating of 83.8 and won 59 total games. Most teams struggled to even get 80 points against this Boston squad. The year after the defensive rating was at 84.2, and they won 62 games. Once against Russell was one of the top names to mention here, but names like Sam Jones, and both Tom Heinsohn and Tom Sanders were strong frontcourt options. During this Boston run, they produced each season with some of the best defensive ratings in the history of basketball. Jumping to another era, the Celtics in 2007-08 were one of the best teams of all-time. They won 66 games and had a 98.9 defensive rating. This was the year the big three came together and Doc Rivers was sitting at the helm.
In the early 2000s we saw powerhouse dynasties in San Antonio and Los Angeles. However, the Spurs had one of the best defenses of all-time with a collective effort from names like Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen. The Spurs cleaned up the defensive categories compared to the rest of the league, allowing only five teams to score more than 100 points. The 1992 New York Knicks had names like Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and John Starks. They had a 99.7 defensive rating that season and were a team that relied on blocking shots and causing a lot of turnovers. They were also one of the best rebounding teams in the game. The year after they had another strong defensive season.
Detroit had a few eras where the defense was their top priority. During there run in the mid-2000s, they had one of the best defenses of all-time and ruined the NBA’s reign of the big market teams winning championships. The Pistons had a defensive rating of 95.4 that season and were led by names like Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Chauncey Billups. Another San Antonio team that crushed was the 1998 team who had David Robinson and a young Tim Duncan, who had one of the best defensive seasons ever for a player below 25 years old. A hard-nosed team in the Eastern Conference is the Indiana Pacers and the 2013 season they had one of the best defensive ratings in NBA history.
There have been a lot of Spurs and Celtics teams on this list, and that is because they have been powerhouses over several decades. There have been some one-off teams to produce strong defensive seasons too. The 1974 Washington Bullets had a 91.3 defensive rating and one 60 games, this was also during a time when we saw more defensive play and offenses were not as good as they are today. The Chicago Bulls in 2010 had a defensive rating of 100 and won 62 games. This team allowed over 100 points just 15 times and had a lot of strong defenders on this roster. The 2006 team a few years before also produced a strong season. The same goes for the Celtics and Spurs during that era.
Who Has The Best Defense In The NBA 2019?
The Milwaukee Bucks have the best defense in the 2019-20 season, as they rank first in defensive rating but also allow the lowest field goal percentage to opposing teams. They also are a strong rebounding team and limit assists against them.
Who Has The Worst Defense In The NBA 2019?
The Washington Wizards have the worst defense in the 2019-20 season, where they rank bottom three in defensive rating, points allowed, and also in generating turnovers and blocks. They are also allowing some of the best three point and field goal percentages to opposing teams.
What NBA Team Is Allowing The Most Points?
The Atlanta Hawks rank 30th in points allowed this season, as their defense is bottom three in the league. Teams are shooting with ease against them, especially from three. They are also struggling to generate blocks and steals to force turnovers.
What NBA Team Is Allowing The Fewest Points?
The Los Angeles Lakers have limited teams to the fewest amount of points this season. No surprise with the length they have and some of the defensive names that can limit shooters. They also don’t allow a ton of second chance points.
What NBA Team Has The Most Blocks?
The Los Angeles Lakers have the most blocks in the NBA. The Lakers are one of the larger teams in the NBA and have several rim protectors on their team, starting with Anthony Davis. They have averaged over 6.5 blocks per game.
What NBA Team Has The Best And Worst Defensive Rating?
The Milwaukee Bucks lead the NBA in defensive rating, sitting below 102. This is the lowest defensive rating in the NBA, and the next closest is the Lakers who are three points behind them in defensive rating. Washington has the worst defensive rating, sitting over 115.