San Antonio Spurs All-Time Lists

Spurs' 5 Best defenders of the 21st century

Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen
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Dejounte Murray / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

5. Dejounte Murray

Dejounte Murray was drafted with a lot of potential, but it was clear that the young man would be a good defender from day one. In just his second season, he was named to his only All-Defensive Team so far and has since improved and led the league in steals. Murray is no longer a Spur, so we can look at his time in the Silver and Black with a sense of completeness. 

Murray only had one All-Defensive nod and was never seriously in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, but I don't think I have ever seen a player who racks up one-on-one steals around the perimeter as he did. His massive wingspan allowed him to swipe balls away on dump-off passes, straight from the dribble, or with simple rips of the ball.

His long arms and athleticism made it almost impossible for players to shoot over him even if they created separation, which almost never happened. 

After he returned from his ACL tear in 2019, Murray came back even better than before. He got more steals and established himself as truly the best defensive player on the team. Frankly, it wasn’t even close. At age 25, he could and will have a great career as a defensive specialist, but there’s no telling just how good he would have been.

Murray and the Spurs parted ways a bit too early for my liking, as he just started to break out as a real two-way star. The Hawks seem like a good fit for him, but with a staff that emphasizes defense as much as the Spurs, there’s no telling what heights he could have reached.