April 24, 2013 by Brandon Keller
Three and D is a name given to players who can play lockdown defense on the perimeter and nail an open three pointer, and is also the namesake for this site. In the playoffs, rotations shorten up, putting more pressure on role players to “stay their lane” and do what they do best. With that in mind, we rank the 10 best Three and D guys on the 16 teams still fighting to win it all.
1. Shane Battier
Battier is the best combination currently in the league of knockdown shooting from the perimeter and outstanding defense, both on swingmen and big men in the post. Battier’s ability to stretch a defense is the final piece that makes the Heat’s small ball lineup so terrifying, and if you combine all of that with his veteran savvy and superlative basketball IQ, Battier is the crown prince of the 3 and D court.
2. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi may not be a natural shooter, but under Pop’s watchful eye he has become a great corner three point shooter, similar to Bruce Bowen later in his career. Also similar to Bowen, Kawhi is an instinctive and active defender. Not so similar to Bowen, Kawhi can fly. Combine his elite athleticism with a burgeoning shooting stroke, and Kawhi should quickly outgrow his status as a role player and snag a few All-Star appearances.
3. Jimmy Butler
The Butler serves you defensive stops on a silver platter. A very talented young player, he has the length, athleticism, and coaching to continue to evolve into a defense force. He is a good shooter who should only grow better with time. His emergence this season, along with a career from Joakim Noah, allowed the Bulls to remain competitive without Derrick Rose.
4. Danny Green
Danny Green is probably the best pure shooter on this list. He shoots 39.6% or higher from all five of the main areas behind the arc (the corners, the wings, and top of the key), and not only can make shots but makes them at a high volume (8th in the league in makes). Green is also a 6’6″ athlete who can guard three positions with impressive results.
5. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd defies conventional wisdom. This guy came into the league without any semblance of a jump shot, so lacking a J he was jokingly nicknamed Ason. Now at the tail end of his career, he has reinvented himself as a three point specialist. Kidd has always been a great defender, more recently accounting for his glaring lack of athleticism with great footwork, hands, and knowledge of the game. When Kidd is hitting his jumpers, the Knicks are more dangerous than a Tiger in a Chicken coop.
6. Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee is a limited player, but his limitations make him a dangerous role player. He is a sneaky athlete who can be a pesky defender, and is a solid if not spectacular shooter from distance. Positioning himself as a key player on this Celtics team may be a bit of a stretch, but in the right situation he could be a high impact Three and D performer.
7. Mario Chalmers
So this is kind of cheating. Super Mario is more than a 3 and D player, as he has proven to be a capable penetrator and pick-and-roll creator when called upon. However, with LeBron and D-Wade doing most of the ball handling, Chalmers is relegated to being a spot-up shooter on offense, a role he plays well. Chalmers is not the best on-ball defender, often leading to LeBron guarding the elite point guards down the stretch, but he is above-average and can get steals that ignite the Heat’s unstoppable freight train of a fast break.
8. Matt Barnes
The word that best describes Barnes is feisty. Barnes is a passionate and energetic defender, who is a big part (along with Eric Bledsoe) of the turnover generating machine that is the Clippers second unit. He can play anywhere from shooting guard to small-ball power forward, and plays with a fearlessness that is Kobe-esque. His shot can be a bit streaky, but his lack of fear means that if he is open, he will shoot.
9. Gary Neal
So, three Spurs in the top ten; no wonder the Spurs are so good every season. Surrounding the Duncan and Parker pick-and-roll with shooters spreads out the defense and opens up driving lanes for Parker. Neal is a bargain basement find for the Spurs, and he is a perfect fit. He is a very good shooter and an adequate defender, the kind of player every team needs come playoff time.
10. Steve Blake
I feel dirty putting Blake here. He is a pesky defender and a streaky shooter, but honestly he is only average for his position in both categories. When Blake is on and hitting threes, the Lakers are a completely different team. The problem is that happens about as often as Nic Cage makes a good movie.
*Apologies to Wilson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, Klay Thompson and Paul George, who are all fantastic Three and D players, but are too good to be considered “Role Players”*