Chicago Bulls: 15 best defenders of all-time

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Artis Gilmore, Chicago Bulls
Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images /

. Center. 1976-1982, 1987. Artis Gilmore. 8. player. 24

Most defensive schemes are designed around the team’s center.

If the center is a defensive liability, the rest of the players have to cover up for that fact — it stretches a defense because the center protects the most important area of the court, the rim.

If a center is a defensive force, the rest of the team is freed up from that pressure because they know they have coverage behind them.

In Artis Gilmore, the Bulls of the late ’70s and early ’80s had a true defensive force on the back line. That was important, as the talent around him was significantly lower than the contending groups before and after him. Yet, despite the context, Gilmore was a dominant force at the rim for Chicago.

No player in Bulls franchise history averaged more blocks per game than Gilmore at 2.1, and his block percentage of 3.4 is top-5 as well. When an opponent’s shot missed — due to his block or not — he was sure to end the possession, an underrated part of a defensive possession. His 24.8 percent defensive rebound percentage was tops in the not-Dennis-Rodman category of mortals.

Gilmore made just one All-Defensive First Team, a reflection of the competitive position he played more than his lack of elite impact. No player in Bulls history is within even 200 blocks of his career 1029 mark. Although Gilmore never had the teammates in Chicago to reach great heights on the team level, individually it’s hard to argue with his defensive impact.