Jordan's gradual improvement into a top-flight defender is one of the cooler Clippers-related storylines of the past few years. You won't see him contest as many attempts at the rim as some of the NBA's other dominant rim protectors, but that's because of the Clippers' overly aggressive defensive schemes which send him way out to the perimeter. When Jordan is able to man the paint, the plays where he intimidates a ballhandler into not shooting at all are somehow even more impressive than the all-world swats he smacks into the backcourt.
TNS via Getty ImagesFort Worth Star-Telegram
Roy Hibbert, C, Los Angeles Lakers
It's amazing (and unfortunate) how radically the narrative around Hibbert has turned over the past few years -- just because he doesn't fill up the box score and isn't exactly self-aware on the offensive end. There's a reason the Pacers' defense still ranked in the top 10 last season even without Paul George, and it's the same 7-footer who's been responsible for much of Indiana's success over the past few years. This is the guy who perfected verticality and made jumping straight up to challenge shots at the rim a trendy thing for big men to do. Every year since, NBA officials have had to focus on verticality as one of their points of emphasis. When they adjust a rule because of your play, that has to count for something.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY SportsRobert Mayer
Andrew Bogut, C, Golden State Warriors
Those who tuned in for the NBA Finals might be surprised to see Bogut on this list. But the Golden State Warriors had the NBA's best defense for all of 2014-15, and it was never more fearsome than when Bogut defanged hopeless opponents on their way to the basket. No, literally -- the Warriors were at their best with their starting center on the court last year, allowing 95.2 points per 100 possessions when Bogut played. He doesn't tally a ton of blocks, and he doesn't need to in order to influence a game. But when he does erase a shot, it usually ignites Golden State's back-breaking offense the other way. There are always injury questions about Bogut, but for now he remains one of the best.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Oklahoma City Thunder
Remember this guy? Injuries to teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant took the spotlight off of the Thunder last season, and it felt like a lot of people forgot about Ibaka as a result. But under Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City was dominant defensively because Ibaka worked perfectly with Westbrook and Durant. The two perimeter stars had the freedom to ratchet up the pressure and try to force turnovers because they knew Ibaka was there to deny any offensive player who managed to break through. If everyone is healthy and if new coach Billy Donovan can learn the ropes of the NBA quickly, the Thunder will be back in title contention very soon -- and the league will get a rude reminder of just how good Ibaka is.
Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz
Having Go-Go-Gadget arms (a 7-foot-9 wingspan) will obviously help you alter a few shots. But what makes Gobert the league's best rim protector is the combination of that length with his shocking mobility and athleticism. He stands 7-foot-1, but he's not a 'stiff' in any sense of the word. Gobert can blow up pick-and-rolls on the perimeter, then gallop back to the paint to erase shots and stifle attempts with frightening speed. But it's not all about the athletic gifts. The fact that Gobert averaged fewer than three fouls per 36 minutes last year indicates his sense of timing as a shot blocker and his overall intelligence. Oh, and he's only 23 years old. Scary stuff.