Who are the most impactful 3-and-D players in the NBA?
Wing players have been a staple in the NBA over the years. While they were relied upon to only defend and cut to the basket, the role has changed. With the innovation of the Three-and-D role, here are the top stars who shine in the league.
When the NBA is discussed, the top stars are always the number one topic at hand. There are good reasons why they are talked about most of the time but the rest of the supporting casts are overlooked. 3-and-D players are usually overlooked because they stay within their role and they do not go out of their way to force shots.
In the past, NBA teams were reliant on star players to shoulder the offensive and defensive load while the role players were in the background. Nowadays, there is solid attention given to some role players because NBA fans are getting smarter and they see the value of the supporting cast. Now, let’s discuss the players who shine in the 3-and-D role as of late.
OG Anunoby - Toronto Raptors
Ever since he was drafted in 2017 by the Toronto Raptors, OG Anunoby has always been a stellar defender. At six-foot-eight, OG has the size to keep up with both big men and he has the foot speed to defend smaller guards who are quicker than most players. OG’s defence always stood out as his best asset because he loves playing in his role.
As his career progressed, his playstyle has evolved because he turned from a reliable defender to becoming a solid shooter as well. His jump shot was a problem when he was in college but he kept on working on it. The Raps shooting coaches helped with this as they turned him into one of the most reliable shooters on the roster.
Back in the 2020-21 season, OG started to show signs of evolution. He was only seen as a spot-up shooter in previous seasons, but in that campaign, he started to improve. His self-creation ability was not seen as a strong asset because he had limited dribble moves and he preferred to play within his role.
Raps head coach Nick Nurse won an NBA title with Kawhi Leonard as his big star in 2019. Kawhi is built in the same mould as OG. Nurse believes that his youngster can become the next Kawhi with his improved dribbling and self-creation qualities. Even if he doesn’t shine in that role completely, you can always rely on OG to be one of the top 3-and-D players in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
Mikal Bridges - Phoenix Suns
In terms of quality, Mikal Bridges is probably the most prototypical 3-and-D player in the league. He does not step away from the role that he plays because he knows that playing as the reliable wing defender helps his team win. Back in the 2018 Draft, the Phoenix Suns were desperate for a reliable wing and they traded for Bridges.
That move turned out to be one of the most important trades in recent history for the Suns as Bridges is the future of their wing position. He is not only a stellar defender but he is a reliable cutter who can finish in the paint. When it comes to his shooting, Bridges has a good track record of consistently hitting shots from beyond the arc. It helps that his trainer is Phil Beckner who is widely known as superstar Damian Lillard’s personal coach.
When talking about Bridges, Beckner is always supportive of the young wing from Villanova. As he entered the NBA, Bridges knew that he needed to improve his jump shot because that is the weapon he can use to stand out. With the arduous training sessions, Bridges became a reliable shooter and is now a standout for the Suns’ performance as a top contender.
Jerami Grant - Detroit Pistons
Even if the Detroit Pistons are one of the worst teams in the NBA, Jerami Grant should always be appreciated as a reliable player. Back in the day, he was only seen as a lockdown defender who loved to make hustle plays. While that was a solid role to play, Grant knew that he could emerge as a solid 3-and-D player and evolve into a top role.
Grant believed in himself when he signed for the Pistons as he embraced a new starring role. This was a different version of him from years before because he managed to become one of the most improved players in the league. He not only became a top option but he also improved his offence.
He truly became a reliable 3-and-D star which is one of the hardest transitions to pull off. He was sick of playing the hustle player role and he believed in himself so much that he took a risk. It was a calculated risk for Grant because he knew that he had a deep bag of tricks and it worked out for him even if his team is not a contender.
While his future might not be with Detroit for the long term, he started to turn a corner when he signed for the Pistons. He can be a reliable 3-and-D player for years to come due to his evolution at Detroit.
Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson is arguably the best 3-and-D player of all time. The Golden State Warriors have been one of the most successful players in the 2010s because he was the perfect running mate to Stephen Curry. While Steph struggled on defence, Klay was the player who took the harder defensive assignments.
Klay is also widely known as the second-best shooter of all time because he has a pure jump shot that can be called poetry in motion. This kind of reliability is the reason why he’s so highly regarded and you can expect his influence to be bigger than most people think. When you want to find the best example of a premier 3-and-D player, look no further than Klay.
Words: Cholo Martin