At season's end, when they vote for the Best Defender Trophy winner, Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches will have a difficult choice between the spectacular and the consistently solid. With fewer stats to guide them, the coaches will recall those opposing defenders who made scoring most difficult for their teams, of which there are plenty examples across the league, but several who stand out at this point in the season.
5 + 1 midseason awards candidates: Best Defender
John Brown, UNICS Kazan
As the runaway leader in steals and a new record-holder already, the UNICS power forward has made a splash in his first EuroLeague season. He has broken the single-season mark for total steals with 67, surpassing Manu Ginobili's 64 in 2000-01, and his current average of 2.8 is the EuroLeague best in 15 years. His 7 steals in a Round 22 home win over Barcelona matched the league's highest single-game total since 2014 and the second-highest since 2008.
Pierria Henry, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Last season's steals leader is now ranked second behind Brown with 1.8 per game. His ball-hawking skill anchors Fenerbahce's third-ranked defense, which is allowing just 72.6 points per game. As the point man of that defense, Henry has spent the most time on the floor this season of any Fenerbahce player. Although he just joined the team over the summer, he already has more games with 5 steals or higher than any Fenerbahce player in the last 15 seasons.
Kyle Hines, AX Armani Exchange Milan
The two-time former winner of the Best Defender Trophy, four-time former EuroLeague champion and All-Decade Team member continues excelling, at age 35, as the man in the middle of the league's best defense. Milan is holding opponents to 70.4 per game, the fewest in the EuroLeague since the 2013-14 season. Hines is the undoubted leader of that defense even if his rankings of seventh in total blocks (18) and 15th in total rebounds (122) only hint at his enormous impact.
Georgios Papagiannis, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
The Greens may not be listed among the season's best defenses, but Papagiannis is doing his best to change that. The 24-year-old center ranks first in total rebounds (7.8 per game) and defensive rebounds (5.6), while ranking second in blocks (1.4). He is also tied for the most defensive rebounds of those estimated to be available to him, with 23.8%. And since no defense is complete until you take possession again, that makes Papagiannis even more valuable.
Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
Four the fourth consecutive season, Tavares is the EuroLeague's runaway blocked-shots leader, and if they counted intimidations, he'd probably hold a world record. It's a direct line from Tavares's presence in the paint to Real having the EuroLeague's second-best points-against defense (72.1) and it's very best against two-point shots (49.0%). Tavares also ranks second in total rebounds (7.4) and fourth on the defensive glass (4.7). Which means that if he makes you miss, he's probably getting the ball, too.
Sleeper: Nick Weiler-Babb, FC Bayern Munich
With the most minutes played on this season's fifth-best defense, Weiler-Babb has been essential to Bayern's climb-back from a 0-4 start to playoff contention. His 29 steals lead Bayern and are tied for ninth-most among all EuroLeague players. As a premier on-the-ball perimeter defender, he is an essential part of a defense that has held opponents to the league's second-lowest totals of three-pointers attempted (493) or made (171) so far this season.