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The 2022-23 NBA All-Dawg team

Any player can have that dawg in him on any given night. But there's only a few true dawgs in the NBA, and we highlight some of the best.

Dawgs encapsulate mental and physical toughness, but it’s more than not avoiding a fight. A dawg sees their teammates as brothers and is willing to put themselves in the line of fire to protect their bond. Anyone can dive for loose balls, take hard fouls, and demand the most challenging defensive assignments. Dawgs do all this and more every single night. 

We’ve collected the most fearsome dawgs in today’s game. Most on this list are the next generation of this archetype, aged 25 and younger. We’ve also included a veteran who sets the tone for his team and might be one of the biggest dawgs in the history of the NBA. Let’s review which players are the backbone of their team’s defense and identity and the last guy you want to face on a jump ball or one-on-one situation.

Lu Dort: The silent Dawg

The moment Ruben Patterson proclaimed himself the “Kobe Stopper” he was doomed. No matter how skilled you are at guarding a specific superstar, or superstars, you should shut the hell up about it so no one finds out. Enjoy your abilities, but don’t brag about them. In this way, Lu Dort is a silent assassin.

The young Thunder wing has put on an array of successful defensive efforts against superstars since going undrafted in 2019. Most notable was his lockdown performance against James Harden in the Thunder’s first-round series against the Rockets as a rookie in 2020. In game seven of that series, Dort put Harden in a vice grip, limiting him to 27 percent shooting and eleven percent from three. 

But you’ll never hear Dort talking about his abilities. Even though he has every reason to brag, he just continues to put opposing players through hell when matched up against him. Dort is routinely found crashing into the stands for loose balls and battling bigs underneath the basket for rebounds. As he continually improves, the young stud is on his way to joining only a handful of perimeter players to win Defensive Player of the Year one day.

Dorian Finney-Smith: The Mavs’ secret weapon

Finney-Smith, or Doe Doe as he’s affectionately called by Mavs fans, is one of the most underrated defenders in the NBA. 

Last season, the Mavs locked in Finney-Smith to a four-year, $56 million contract extension, securing his services for the foreseeable future on a bargain contract. Finney-Smith is one of the few organically-acquired wins the franchise has had since owner Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000. He went undrafted out of Florida but was scooped up by the Mavs, becoming a key cog in their defense while improving every year. 

The Mavs have had an aversion to singing gritty, hard-nosed players in the past, opting for pasty, unthreatening players that often took them far but never quite to the promised land. Finney-Smith is a dawg on defense and is one of the few hard-nosed players on the team who inspires his team through tough defense and a won’t-back-down attitude. He’s a big reason why the Mavs look like serious contenders this season. 

Herb Jones: The missing ingredient in NOLA

Paired with teammate Jose Alvarado, the two second-year players give the New Orleans Pelicans one of the grimiest backcourts in the league. While Alvarado has made noise for his pesky defense, Jones is on his way to being one of the next great perimeter defenders. Last season, he posted a defensive rating of 111.5 as a rookie while averaging .8 blocks a game and 1.7 steals per game. Jones has an unlimited motor, and at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, Jones has all the tools to be an All-NBA Defensive player for the next decade.

Jones fell to the 35th pick in the second round of the 2021 Draft, providing the Pelicans with exactly the type of complementary wing they needed. With a star-studded lineup, the team needed a starter willing to throw it all on the line without worrying about shot attempts or points scored. Jones has filled this role and some. All one had to do was watch last year’s first-round, six-game series against the Phoenix Suns, where Jones seemed to guard all five positions, battling fellow two-way stud Mikal Bridges. The Pelicans are on their way up, and Jones can help take them there. 

Mitchell Robinson: The tentpole at the Garden

The current Knicks have worked hard to reverse the two-decade trend of ineptitude. When GM Scott Perry drafted Robinson in 2018 with the 36th pick, he was acquiring the first piece of what would be the team’s best young core in decades. 

Now in his fifth season, Robinson has become one of the most dominant defensive forces in the league. The “Blockness Monster” as Knicks Nation calls him has averaged two blocks a game for his career. He’s currently top five in offensive rebounds per game with 3.9. Robinson is quiet on the court, but his freakish athleticism, speed, timing, and intuition make him a terror in the post. Few modern bigs deter shots at the rim as Mitchell, who lets his defensive presence speak for itself. 

Jimmy Butler: The alpha Dawg

Butler is the ultimate combination of dawg and star. Dawgs are usually role players, sometimes starters, but rarely stars or superstars. And while Butler is not a bonafide superstar, he’s close enough for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. He’s surpassed all expectations of his career projections, leading his Heat to the 2020 Finals and coming within one shot of going back in 2022. 

No one can deny Butler’s will to win. His physical displays of effort are at the top of the list of any star player in the league. He’s shown he’s unafraid to engage his teammates or coach to be on the same page. Along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, Butler is among the best two-way players in the NBA. If you’re in the trenches with bullets flying and bombs bursting, Butler is one of the guys you want next to you.