They say that defense wins championships and having a lockdown defender can go a long way toward a team achieving its goals.
Top contenders to be this season's EuroLeague Best Defender
Last season, the EuroLeague Best Defender award was won for the third time by EA7 Emporio Armani Milan's Kyle Hines, who previously secured the prize in 2016 and 2018 during his time playing for CSKA Moscow. With the 2022-23 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season fast approaching, there are several serious contenders to take this award from Hines in the coming campaign.
John Brown, AS Monaco
AS Monaco's signing of John Brown over the summer caught the attention of many following his excellent defensive performances with UNICS Kazan in the EuroLeague in 2021-22. Brown only played 25 games last season due to the Russian clubs' suspension from the competition, but he still finished with the highest number of steals with 69, which were 16 more than Scottie Wilbekin in second, even though he played 10 games more. His average of 2.76 steals per game was the highest in the EuroLeague in 15 years. There is no reason to believe he will any less dominant on the defensive end in Monaco.
Nick Calathes, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul has undergone plenty of changes this summer, with one of its signings being Nick Calathes from FC Barcelona. Last year, the 33-year-old finished in third place in the EuroLeague Best Defender race, so he will be determined to bring that same level of defensive activity to Ulker Sports and Event Hall. Calathes already knows new Fenerbahce coach Dimitris Itoudis well from the Greek national team, which should put him in good stead to be a defensive force at the guard position.
Kyle Hines, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan
Despite now being 36 years of age, last year saw Kyle Hines anchor Milan's defense en route to his third EuroLeague Best Defender award. The expectation levels have gone up at Milan over the summer after a number of notable additions were made to the roster, so head coach Ettore Messina will hope that Hines can turn the clock back once more. The arrival of Brandon Davies should mean that Hines can play slightly less, which then frees him up to exert even greater energy on the defensive end of the floor.
Georgios Papagiannis, Panathinaikos Athens
In addition to leading Panathinaikos Athens as its team captain, Georgios Papagiannis also inspires his teammates with his defensive effort on the court. The 25-year-old took his game to the next level in the last campaign as he recorded 50 blocks in 29 games, which gave him the highest blocks average in the league. Papagiannis also led the league in defensive rebounds with 6.0 per game and doubled his number of steals from 11 in 2020-21 to 23 in 2021-22. Another similar campaign – or better – could see Papagiannis take home the EuroLeague Best Defender award.
Dyshawn Pierre, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Widely regarded to be one of the toughest defenders to come up against in the EuroLeague, Fenerbahce's Dyshawn Pierre should take to Coach Itoudis's defensive instructions like a duck to water. His energy and hustle on that side of the ball are skills that all teams want and a successful season for Fenerbahce could vault Pierre into contention to be named EuroLeague Best Defender for the first time. If he can continue the growth that he has shown from year one to year two, year three could be a memorable one for Pierre.
Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
One of the favorites to steal Hines's EuroLeague Best Defender crown is Real Madrid center Walter Tavares, who won the award in 2019 and 2021. The 30-year-old is set to be Real's lynchpin in the paint yet again, as Sergeant Swat scares opposing players from driving to the rim. After leading the EuroLeague in blocks last year with 60, 10 more than the next highest player, Tavares will be out to at least match that figure as Real attempts to return to the Final Four for the second year in succession.
Thomas Walkup, Olympiacos Piraeus
Taking on the responsibility of guarding the other team's best player is something that only a few can manage, yet Olympiacos Piraeus's Thomas Walkup regularly took this assignment last season. The Reds made it to the EuroLeague Final Four in 2021-22, with Walkup playing a decisive role defensively during the campaign and then in the playoffs, particularly during the series against Monaco. If Olympiacos is to do something similar, Walkup will have to once again make life difficult for opposition stars.
Nick Weiler-Babb, FC Bayern Munich
Going into his third season with FC Bayern Munich, Nick Weiler-Babb has the chance to build on a strong showing with Germany at this summer's EuroBasket, where he displayed his defensive prowess. He was often a menace for opposition players during the last EuroLeague season, too, such as when he recorded 6 steals in a game against ALBA Berlin in late January 2022. The EuroLeague Best Defender trophy could be possible for Weiler-Babb if he takes a further leap defensively, which would also aid Bayern's playoff chances.