Projecting Magic's Best Defenders in 2017-18

By Josh Cohen
Aug. 6, 2017

#8 Khem Birch

Birch is a rim-protecting big that can also switch onto perimeter guys. He has superb timing when he rises up to block a shot and he moves around very swiftly on the defensive end of the floor. Birch has the tools to be a very effective weak side help defender.

#7 Arron Afflalo

Here are the field goal percentages from several marquee players when Afflalo was the closest defender last season:

James Harden: 0 percent (0-of-7)
Paul George: 20 percent (2-of-10)
Andrew Wiggins: 30 percent (3-of-10)
Klay Thompson: 40 percent (4-of-10)

Afflalo says he has already dropped 15 pounds this offseason, which will help him guard more athletic and spry opponents.

#6 Terrence Ross

Ross is the ultimate 3-and-D guy. He’s versatile enough to defend positions one through three. Ross also has really quick hands, which helps him come up with a lot of deflections. He totaled 173 deflections in Toronto and Orlando combined last season.

#5 Bismack Biyombo

Biyombo can at times be a shot blocking machine. He had three blocks or more in 13 games last season. He has excellent timing and anticipation. Biyombo also has the lateral foot speed to contain explosive guards.

#4 Shelvin Mack

Mack is pesky, strong and tireless. Playing on elite defensive teams the past few years in Atlanta and Utah will help him in Orlando. He does an excellent job fighting over screens and it’s hard for opponents to back him down in the post.

#3 Jonathan Isaac

Isaac has the physical tools to be an elite defender. He has tremendous length, timing and quickness. While it will take some time for him to polish up his offensive repertoire, Isaac should have a fairly significant defensive impact right away.

#2 Jonathon Simmons

Simmons is gritty, tenacious and resilient. He did a marvelous job against James Harden in last season’s conference semifinal playoff series. He plays with boundless energy and relentless determination. It’s rare for any opponent to outwork him.

#1 Aaron Gordon

Here are the field goal percentages from several marquee players when Gordon was the closest defender last season:

Paul George: 15.8 percent (19 shot attempts)
Carmelo Anthony: 30.4 percent (23 shot attempts)
Kawhi Leonard: 38.5 percent (13 shot attempts)
Andrew Wiggins: 30 percent (10 shot attempts)
Tobias Harris: 20 percent (5 shot attempts)

Gordon is a terrific perimeter defender. He needs to add some strength to be a better low-post defender, however.

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