Free Agency

The five best defenders available in free agency

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Marcus Smart and Paul George (Getty Images)

There are a number of defensive-minded players available in free agency this offseason. None of them have a Defensive Player of the Year trophy to show for it - not as of right now anyway - but this class is littered with All-NBA defenders who still have a lot to give on that end of the court.

From Marcus Smart to Paul George, let's take a closer look at five of the best defenders available in free agency.

MORE: The five best shooters available in free agency

Marcus Smart, Restricted Free Agent

The best defensive team in the NBA went to another level with Smart in the lineup this season. According to NBA.com, the Celtics went from giving up 103.0 points per 100 possessions when the Oklahoma State product was on the bench to 99.4 when he was on the court, the difference between an elite defence and an average one.

It's no surprise when you compare what Smart did in his minutes on the floor to everyone else on the roster. In addition to leading the way with 1.3 steals and 2.8 deflections per game, he drew 0.24 charges per game, the highest rate on the team and one of the highest in the league. It helps that Smart has never been afraid to put his body on the line and battle with players out of his position, which allows him to play bigger than his 6-foot-4 frame would suggest.

Smart has proven to be the type of player who can change games in short stints with his All-NBA calibre defence in Boston. There are several teams in need of someone with his skill set this summer, the Pacers, Suns and Mavericks being among them.

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Sure Not Now

Clint Capela, Restricted Free Agent

Capela contested more shots in the restricted area than anyone else in the league this season, Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert included.

While Capela wasn't quite as effective at altering shots as Gobert - few players were - opponents made only 56.6 percent of their shot attempts when the Rockets big man stood between them and the basket, 5.1 percent worse than normal. He was even better in the postseason, holding opponents to 54.6 percent shooting within 6-feet of the basket and blocking 2.1 shots per contest.

Capela's shining moment in the playoffs came in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals when he blocked five of the Jazz's shot attempts in the fourth quarter alone.

Capela is capable of switching onto guards, too, a rare skill for someone his size. He should only get better at protecting the rim and defending the perimeter considering he's still under 25-years-old.

Avery Bradley, Unrestricted Free Agent (Expiring)

This is contingent on Bradley making a full recovery from the injury he suffered at the end of the season and returning to his All-NBA self on defence.

When healthy, Bradley is built to shut down the best guards in the league. He's only 6-foot-2, but he has the speed and wingspan (6-foot-7) to harass the Stephen Currys and Kyrie Irvings of the world off the dribble. It's why the likes of Damian Lillard and Devin Booker - two of the league's best scorers at their respective positions - were shocked when the former Celtic wasn't named an All-NBA defender in the 2016-17 season.

This season, however, was one of the worst of Bradley's career. He dealt with injuries for most of the year and saw his effectiveness drop on both ends of the court. If it was nothing more than a blip, he could help a lot of teams next season. If it's a sign for things to come, it makes him a tricky free agent to evaluate this offseason.

Paul George, Unrestricted Free Agent (Player Option)

George missed out in making an All-Defensive Team this season, but he averaged a career-high 2.0 steals per game while finishing behind only one player in deflections and two players in loose balls recovered. At 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, the five-time All-Star has the size to match up with shooting guards and small forwards as well as the foot speed to stick with point guards, giving him the tools to thrive in a switch-heavy defensive scheme.

As an on-ball defender, George can use that length to harass primary ball handlers in isolation and pick-and-rolls.

As an off-ball defender, George can use it to pick off errant passes and create scoring opportunities in transition.

George was at his best this season when Defensive Player of the Year candidate Andre Roberson was healthy, allowing him to function more as a free safety on defense. It bodes well for the Thunder if George returns and Roberson makes a full recovery, and it bodes well for the teams expected to be in the running for him should he decline his player option for next season.

Chris Paul, Unrestricted Free Agent (Expiring)

Paul isn't the only reason the Rockets went from ranking 18th in defensive efficiency last season to 6th this season, but he's one of the main reasons. Not only does he consistently rank near the top of the league in steals - Paul is currently 13th all-time in career thefts - the North Carolina native is comfortable switching across the board, even if it means having to defend someone like Kevin Durant on the block.

Despite having a significant height disadvantage in those situations, Paul gives up little ground and knows how to use his speed to make players uncomfortable. And as soon as the offensive player is off-balance, he'll use his quick hands to create a turnover, much like he does here against the 6-foot-8 Trevor Booker:

Paul has been named to the All-Defensive First Team seven times in his career and the All-Defensive Second Team twice. Like George, he just missed out on making another All-Defensive Team this season, falling five points shy.

Even at his age, Paul is still one of best defenders in the league.

Honourable Mention

Luc Mbah a Moute for being the switchable defender every team could use.

Trevor Ariza for his ability to defend multiple positions as a starting small forward.

Fred VanVleet for how he pressures primarily ball handlers off the bench.

DeAndre Jordan for being one of the league's best shot blockers and a two-time member of the All-Defensive First Team.

Postseason LeBron James for his versatility on defense. The same for a locked in Kevin Durant.

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