When a player attacks the basket, his decision on how far and how hard to go may be swayed by the presence of the defenders waiting there. There are those elite rim-protectors or physical presences that some would-be scorers want no part of. Here is a list of 10 of the best intimidators we will see this season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Walter Tavares, Real Madrid
Reigning EuroLeague Best Defender Walter Tavares appears to be well on his way to rewriting the EuroLeague record books. It's not just his alarming 2.20-meter frame that causes opponents to quake in their shoes; Tavares is quicker than he appears and has turned shot blocking into an art form. He is already ninth on the all-time charts with 161 career blocks and is the only player in the top 10 with fewer than 100 games played. He owns two of the best four single-season shot-blocking totals (57 in 2018-19, 61 in 2019-20) and at age 28 is just entering his prime.
Kyle Hines, AX Armani Exchange Milan
Two-time EuroLeague Best Defender Kyle Hines is suiting up for a new team after seven seasons with CSKA Moscow, with which he won the second two of his four EuroLeague crowns. The veteran changed how the modern game is played as an undersized center who relied on speed and strength to get the job done. Hines can't be beaten on the pick-and-roll because he can switch to smaller perimeter players and his outstanding athletic ability has allowed him to be a rim protector at the same time as evidenced by his 232 career blocked shots, which rank third-most in EuroLeague history.
Arturas Gudaitis, Zenit St Petersburg
No player dominated the paint in the EuroLeague in recent years quite like the pre-injury version of Arturas Gudaitis. He ranked second in the EuroLeague in performance index rating per minute during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons behind only Luka Doncic. A torn ACL suffered in February 2019 ended that season and despite a successful return to action last year, Gudaitis did not recapture his peak form. However, with time to rest and fully recover, the 27-year-old should be back to his board crashing, shot-blocking and uber-efficient shooting self this season for Zenit.
Nikola Milutinov, CKSA Moscow
A throwback center, the new man in the middle for CSKA led the EuroLeague in rebounding last season and has collected the most boards in the competition over the past three seasons. Nikola Milutinov is not perceived to be a shot-blocking threat; however, his presence alone changes how teams attack the basket. The opposition knows it's not easy to get by him and if they miss their shot, there is no one better than Milutinov and vacuuming up rebounds.
Bryant Dunston, Anadolu Efes Istanbul
The two-time EuroLeague Best Defender is just 7 blocks away from catching Fran Vazquez for first place on the EuroLeague all-time shot-blocking charts. Bryant Dunston is the type of shot-blocking threat whose impact cannot accurately be measured because it’s not just about the shots he rejects, but also about those he alters or the way he causes opponents to change their entire mindset to avoid him. That is the true definition of intimidation.
Georgios Papagiannis, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
Once considered one of the top young centers in the game, Georgios Papagiannis returned home after a few rough seasons overseas to rediscover his form with Panathinaikos. Over the past two years, he has displayed flashes of brilliance thanks to his dazzling combination of size (2.20 meters), foot speed and mobility. Papagiannis joined Walter Tavares as the only player with multiple games of at least 4 blocks last season. He just turned 23 years of age over the summer and is only getting better.
Johnny Hamilton, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Johnny Hamilton took the 7DAYS EuroCup by storm last season with Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul. He blocked at least 3 shots four times in the regular season alone, during which he also collected more than 10 rebounds on four separate occasions. He led the competition in offensive rebounds (3.9 orpg.) and ranked among the leaders in shots blocked and performance index rating. A fantastic athlete for a player his size (2.13 meters), Hamilton's emphatic dunks and shot-blocking are things all opponents must beware of.
Kevarrius Hayes, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Last season saw Kevarrius Hayes make his debut in professional basketball and he did it in style by leading the Italian League with 2.6 blocks per game for Cantu. Before that, Hayes led the University of Florida in blocks for three straight seasons and finished with the second-most rejections in club history. His motor can also be seen on the glass, where he ranked second in Italy in offensive boards with 3.0 per game.
Ante Zizic, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
Unlike most of the players on this list, Ante Zizic's intimidation does not come in the form of blocking shots. Instead, his physicality and hustle combine to wear opponents down. The new Maccabi big man sets picks like a brick wall and his second-effort on the glass can demoralize the opposition. After three seasons in the NBA, Zizic returns to the EuroLeague as hungry as ever looking to leave his mark.
Tonye Jekiri, TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
As a EuroLeague rookie last season with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, Tonye Jekiri made an instant impact with double-doubles in four of his first five games. His 19-rebound effort against Crena Zvezda was the most by any player in nearly five years! Jekiri switched shirts over the summer to join Baskonia, where his physicality will continue to intimidate opposing big men this season.