There's an old adage that defense in basketball is 90 percent effort and focus. While that will always hold some truth, the fact remains that some athletes are better suited as stoppers than others.
Whereas the best defenders in the NBA used to begin with rim-protecting big men, the changing nature of the game puts a premium on long players who can both guard the perimeter and pack the paint.
With that in mind, here are the top five defensive specialists in this week's draft.
At first glance, the Canadian is undersized at 6-foot-8, with an identical and unspectacular wingspan. However, he may be the most active defender in the draft, constantly swarming to the ball and utilizing great instincts on the weak side. In 37 games at Gonzaga, Clarke averaged 4.5 blocks and 1.7 steals per 40 minutes.
You don't see many 6-foot-4, 235-pound guys with 7-foot-1 wingspans, but that's where Horton-Tucker's brilliance begins. His length allows him to corral opponents on the perimeter, and his bulk lets him bang in the paint. He was able to guard four positions with ease at Iowa State, a highly transferable skill in the modern NBA.
Hayes is the only true center in this group. He logged a 10.6 block percentage (an estimated rate of two-point shots a player blocks while on the floor) in 32 games at Texas. He also demonstrated a keen ability to defend in space, using his 7-foot-4 wingspan to record nearly a steal per game.
Hunter is arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft and projects as a prototypical NBA 3-and-D wing. His college stats don't jump off the page, but he was the backbone of Virginia's top-ranked, national championship defense. In two seasons with the Cavaliers, he routinely shut down opponents while showing a knack for getting over screens and disrupting passing lanes.
Thybulle has been compared to Andre Roberson by virtue of his shutdown defense and relatively weak offensive game. So the fact he's expected to go in the first round is a good indicator of just how much of a terror he is defensively.
The Seattle native led the Pac-12 in steals for three straight seasons, and at just 6-foot-5, is also an instinctual shot-blocker. He averaged an eye-popping 4.5 steals and 2.9 swats per 40 minutes this past campaign.