Defense wins games, wins championships...earns Call-Ups? Well, that's not exactly how the old saying goes, but for the top defensive talents in the NBA D-League it's something they wish to be true. Offensive bursts have always been highlighted more so than any noteworthy defensive effort. However, NBA teams are constantly looking for defensive stoppers, and with the talent that lies in the NBA D-League, a Call-Up for a defensive specialist is always a hanging possibility.
The top defensive teams in the NBA D-League based off opponents points allowed are the Canton Charge (92.1), Santa Cruz Warriors (93.9), Erie BayHawks (96.1), and Tulsa 66ers (97.5). On these teams are some of the most talented pick pocket specialists, and swat artists in the entire league. Below is a list of the players who have helped their team lock it down defensively on a nightly basis.
Gutierrez and Eric lead the way defensively for arguably the league's toughest defensive team. Gutierrez swarms to the ball better than anyone in the NBADL. His aggressive style which has translated nicely from his days at Cal, is proving to be successful at this level. Gutierrez is averaging 2.0 steals per game, and his defensive efforts have certainly played a role in leading Canton to an impressive month where they have gone 7-2.
Eric is a 6-10 forward who has a knack for deflecting shots, but lately has been contributing with steals as well. After going the entire month of December without a steal, Eric has tallied 7 steals adding to his 22 blocks for the month of January.
A defensive duo similar to the aforementioned Canton Charge's tandem, Hannah and Gladness make it tough for their opponents to score the ball every single night. Hannah is no stranger to getting recognition for his defensive skills, and the Mizzou product is at it again this season. Hannah is averaging 1.9 steals per game, and hasn't gone without a steal in a contest since December 15.
Gladness provides plenty of length for the Warriors when penetrating guards dare hoist up a shot in the lane over the big man. This season, Gladness is averaging 2.4 blocks per game, and currently ranks third overall in the NBADL. Gladness is among impressive company and NBA talent only trailing the likes of Jerome Jordan and Fab Melo in the blocks category.
Erie BayHawks - Henry Sims and DJ Kennedy
Kennedy is averaging a whopping 40.0 minutes per game, and there is good reason for head coach Gene Cross to let the challenging length and speed in which Kennedy possesses to shine that long on the court every game. Kennedy's athleticism makes it difficult for his opponents to deal with, and his 1.5 steals per game average doesn't speak entirely for every deflection that Kennedy amounts as well.
Sims is a top prospect in the NBA D-League for his services at the post position. Georgetown has certainly provided the NBA with top centers, and Sims is another talented big man product from the school. Sims is averaging 1.5 blocks per game, but has recently been turning it on by averaging 2.6 blocks in his last 6 games.
Tulsa 66ers - Dominque Sutton
Sutton who was crowned Slam Dunk Champion at the NBA D-League Showcase, let's his athletic qualities shine as much defensively as he does offensively. The 66ers have benefited from their assignment players, most notably Daniel Orton, in regard to their team defense. But Sutton is a bit of an under the radar defensive contributor, mainly due to his ability to leap out of a gym on any given night, which is easy to focus on.
As long as Sutton can curtail his ability to log a number fouls occasionally, the 6-5, 212 pound guard is a pest for opposing teams. His high energy and feisty play has enabled him to be considered a top defensive player in the league. Sutton is currently tied with four other players averaging 2.0 steals per game and ranks third overall in the NBA D-League.