NBA Top Defensive Teams

When we think about the best players and teams in the history of the NBA, we often focus on scorers like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan or offensive juggernauts like the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat during LeBron’s time with the team. But defense plays just as crucial of a role in winning basketball.

Defensive specialists like Tony Allen and Dikembe Mutombo have become icons of the game not for scoring but for the impact they had on the defensive end, shutting down the top players on opposing teams night after night.

That leads to the question – What are the NBA’s top defensive teams today? Keep reading to find out.

How is Defensive Efficiency Calculated?

A complete discussion of NBA defensive rankings by the team has to go beyond the anecdotal. We need stats to reinforce what the eye tells us to be genuinely confident about how good a team or player is on the defensive end.

Defensive efficiency is the primary metric used to track overall team efficiency. It measures how many points a team gives up per 100 possessions. You calculate it like this:

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Defensive Efficiency Formula=100*(Points Allowed / Possessions)

The benefit of this stat is that it normalizes defensive data across teams with different playstyles and games with different rhythms. For example, some teams play very fast and have many possessions in their games. Other teams play slowly and have fewer possessions per game.

This stat removes that noise by comparing points allowed across possessions instead of games. It’s the best way to get an accurate picture of the top defensive teams in the NBA.

Current Best Defensive Teams in the NBA

Current Best Defensive Teams

Now that we know why we use defensive efficiency to measure the best defensive teams in the NBA let’s look at the top 5 at this point in the season:

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers may be the surprise team of the NBA season so far. Few thought they would be serious contenders this year, but they have one of the best records in the NBA, thanks to the impressive play of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. 

The team’s defense is anchored by Center Jarret Allen, who’s having an NBA All-Defensive Team level performance so far this year.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have had an up-and-down year, but the team is on the up as of late. 

With Joel Embiid locking down the middle in an All-NBA Defensive Team 2022-level performance and players like Matisse Thybull and Tyrese Maxey roaming the perimeter, the 76ers have one of the best team defenses they’ve had in years.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have an impressive collection of individual defenders, with Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton in the starting lineup. 

These players, and the team’s supporting cast, have given the Bucks a level of defensive dominance that stands out among the best in the league.

LA Clippers

The LA Clippers have two of the best wing defenders in the game, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. They also have Ivica Zubac patrolling the paint and some role players who have done well on the defensive end as the team continues dealing with some injury challenges.

The Clippers may be better defensively down the stretch of the NBA season as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George get back into the lineup more consistently.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have elite rim protection thanks to the outstanding defensive performance of Jaren Jackson Jr. They’ve also got a young and energetic core of talent that competes hard on the defensive end every night. You get one of the league’s top-performing defenses when you put those two facts together.

Best Defensive Team in NBA History

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No discussion of the top defensive NBA teams would be complete without taking a look at the best defensive team in NBA history. Of course, you could make an argument for a few different squads. But there’s no denying the dominance of the 2003-4 Detroit Pistons, who rode the best defense in the league to an impressive championship victory over the stacker Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pistons that year had a defensive rating of 95.4. To put that into perspective, it’s a full 10 points better than the top defensive team in the league this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The squad was anchored in the center by Ben Wallace – one of the most dominant and tough defenders the league has ever seen. But everyone on that year’s Pistons team played tough defense, including wing stars Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Chauncey Billups.

The team even had a stretch of 5 games near the end of the season in which it held every opponent under 70 total points scored. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a modern team repeat that – especially considering all of the game’s changes since then.

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Finding a Job with an NBA Team

Defensive dominance is just one aspect that makes the NBA a joy to watch. But you can do more than watch the game from home. The NBA needs talented professionals to help with basketball operations and other roles.

Whether you want to be an assistant coach who helps to create some of the NBA’s top defensive teams or you’re interested in getting a job as a social media specialist managing a team’s social accounts, there are job opportunities. You just need to know where to look.

That’s where comes in. We maintain an up-to-date list of the best sports jobs around the country. We can notify you as soon as an NBA job becomes available in your field of interest. And we can do the same for college and high-school-level basketball opportunities as well.

So why wait? You can take the first step towards fulfilling your sports job dream by signing up today. Create an account with us to get started.