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Asia region All-Defensive Team for 2017
MANILA - The doors are about to close on 2017, and so it is time to recognize the finest defensive players from the Asia region this year.
The following is a list of the five best defensive players who saw action at either of the two biggest continental events in 2017 - the FIBA Asia Cup in August and the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers in November. These rankings are based on the defensive statistics (defensive rebounds, steals and blocks) compiled from both these tournaments, with the top three frontcourt players and top two backcourt players making the list.
Hamed Haddadi (Iran)
Key stats per game: 7.5 defensive rebounds, 1.8 blocks.
The 2.18m Iranian behemoth skipped the Asian Qualifiers, but he was an absolute beast for Team Melli at the Asia Cup. He routinely dominated the defensive glass against Iran's opponents and was among the elite shot-blockers right behind Lebanon's Norvel Pelle and Iraq's Ali Hameed. This is a guy who will turn 33 soon, and he's still finding ways to be a dynamic defensive presence.
Andray Blatche (Philippines)
Key stats per game: 12.0 defensive rebounds, 2.0 steals, 4.0 blocks.
Your eyes don't deceive you. Those eye-popping defensive numbers are for real. He led all players at the Asian Qualifiers in both total rebounds, defensive rebounds and blocked shots. In addition, he was also the third-best center in terms of steals. He found it difficult to score a ton of points, but the numbers show that, defensively speaking, the naturalized Filipino big man was flat out brilliant.
Arsalan Kazemi (Iran)
Key stats per game: 7.1 defensive rebounds, 1.4 steals.
What makes Kazemi so good on the defensive end of the court is his ability to swoop in for the rebounds and get those steals. His size, agility and skill-set also make him able to play either forward position and maybe even center against smaller teams. He was among the top five forwards in terms of steals at the Asia Cup and was the best overall rebounding forward in both competitions.
Mitch Creek (Australia)
Key stats per game: 3.8 defensive rebounds, 1.5 steals.
As a team, Australia were the best defensive team this year, and Creek was their best defensive player. The 1.97m combo wingman maximized his edge in size over most of the players against whom he was matched, stifling his foes' ability to penetrate, create and score. He was routinely among the best rebounding wingmen in both the Asia Cup and Asian Qualifiers, and was also very aggressive in playing the passing lanes.
Demario Mayfield (Iraq)
Key stats per game: 6.0 defensive rebounds, 4.5 steals.
This man averaged an out-of-this-world 4.5 steals per game in the Asian Qualifiers. Not surprisingly, he led the entire continent in that department, but he must also be commended for leading all guards in rebounding. Mayfield was, simply put, a force of nature on defense, and he should be one to watch for the Iraq national team this coming year.