Avery Bradley was back in uniform for the Celtics on Wednesday, re-assuming his title as the league’s best perimeter defender. His return did not keep Mike Conley from going off for 23 points or prevent the Grizzlies from shooting better than 60 percent in the first half, but the Celtics were encouraged by Bradley’s play in his season debut nonetheless. Conley admitted he felt a sense of “relief” when Bradley left the court.
Playing defense comes in more than one category, though. Few defensive players understand schemes like Kevin Garnett, read passing lanes like Chris Paul or clog the paint like Dwight Howard (every year but this year). Still others are athletic shot-blockers but poor overall defenders like JaVale McGee, savvy old veterans like Tim Duncan and underrated beasts like Derrick Favors.
Then there are those with the versatility to simply shut down an opposing player, making them the elite one-on-one defenders in the game. It is tough for a big man to crack this list, due to all the helping responsibilities post defenders have, but a few guys are as capable of locking down a player in the paint as on the perimeter.