20 of the Toughest NBA Players Right Now

20 of the Toughest NBA Players Right Now

NBA players are a unique, gifted, and talented breed, but the toughest NBA players are the ones that everyone wants to play with and no one wants to play against. They’re a valuable asset in the league today and are often difference makers on playoff- and championship-caliber teams.

The toughest NBA players are known for a lot of things, such as not missing games, playing a lot of hard-nosed minutes, physicality, strength, mental resilience, never taking a play off, bending but never breaking, defending well, sticking up for teammates, and much more. 

In order to be considered one of the toughest NBA players in the league, you must hold a combination of those traits — if not all of them. You need to exemplify what it means to be tough every given night, that way you can instill that same level of toughness in your teammates. 

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Who Are the Toughest NBA Players Right Now?

20 of the Toughest NBA Players Right Now
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From a fan’s point of view, all NBA players are physically and mentally tough. While that’s true, there’s always a special group of players in the league that take it to another level. They’re not just considered the toughest NBA players by the fans, but by their teammates and opponents.

Every NBA team has a player known for their toughness — in fact, some teams have several. These players have a crucial role and responsibility, whether they’re starting or coming off the bench. They not only help set the tempo, but know how to get the most out of their teammates. 

There are a lot of tough players in the league today, but the toughest NBA players stand out above the rest. As a way of showing our appreciation for their hard work, continued effort, and overall toughness let’s take a look at 20 of the toughest NBA players in the league right now. 

20. Marcus Morris Sr. 

Years: 2011-present (11 seasons)

Teams: Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks

Career Stats: 666 games, 26.9 minutes, 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Marcus Morris Sr. was drafted 14th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2011, but has never spent more than three years with one team. While he’s not a feature player on the court, he’s known for his effort plays, cocky attitude, trash talk, and always sticking up for his teammates. 

Morris has played for a number of great franchises and has played alongside some of the greatest players in the league. He’s still searching for his first championship, but he’ll likely get one before he retires. Every team wants him for his toughness, attitude, and work ethic. 

19. Kawhi Leonard

Years: 2011-present (11 seasons)

Teams: San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers

Career Stats: 576 games, 31.3 minutes, 19.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks per game

Championships: 2 (2014, 2019)

Kawhi Leonard is one of the superstars in the NBA today and is consistently in contention for a championship at the end of each season. While he’s not much of a vocal leader and isn’t very obnoxious on the floor, his quiet demeanor is just as intimidating — if not more — as others. 

He’s one of the best defenders in the league, not many players are as mentally tough as him, and he plays hard every minute he spends on the court. If it weren’t for his ‘load management’ and constant injuries, he would definitely rank higher on our list of the toughest NBA players. 

18. Trae Young

Years: 2018-present (4 seasons)

Teams: Atlanta Hawks

Career Stats: 211 games, 33.1 minutes, 24.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Trae Young is just in his fourth season in the NBA, but he has already marked his territory with the Atlanta Hawks and established himself as one of the toughest NBA players right now. He loves pressure, isn’t afraid to express himself on the court, and doesn’t back down from anyone. 

The NBA community got to see this on full display during the 2021 playoffs. He was viewed as one of the villains that everyone wanted to see fail, but he ignored the hate and put on an impressive playoff run. He never loses his confidence and knows how to get up when he falls.

17. Serge Ibaka

Years: 2009-present (12 seasons)

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers

Career Stats: 849 games, 28.3 minutes, 12.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.4 steals, 2.0 blocks per game

Championships: 1 (2019)

Serge Ibaka has been one of the most dominating big men of his generation. He’s one of the better defenders down low, averaging 2.0 blocks per game in his career, and knows how to control the tempo of the game. You love him as a teammate, but hate him as an opponent. 

He gets the job done on the floor, especially when his team needs it the most. He has averaged more than 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in each of the past nine seasons and contributed to the Raptors’ championship run in 2019 — along with Kawhi Leonard and another man on this list. 

16. Julius Randle

Years: 2014-present (8 seasons)

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks

Career Stats: 453 games, 30.6 minutes, 17.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Many people viewed Julius Randle as a disappointment after a mediocre four years with the Los Angeles Lakers. While he improved each season, he never quite lived up to his status as a No. 7 overall draft pick in 2014. Fortunately, he started finding himself after deciding to leave LA. 

After spending one year with the New Orleans Pelicans, Randle has spent the past three years with the New York Knicks and has established himself as one of the toughest NBA Players today. He never stops hustling, fights for every possession, and isn’t afraid to play big minutes. 

15. LeBron James

Years: 2003-present (19 seasons)

Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers

Career Stats: 1,316 games, 38.2 minutes, 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks per game

Championships: 4 (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020)

LeBron James is one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court. He was the No. 1 draft pick in a star-studded 2003 NBA Draft and made an immediate impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers. He plays hard, he doesn’t give up, and he leaves it all on the court. 

Since averaging 20.9 points per game his rookie season, James has averaged more than 25.0 points per game in 17 straight seasons. A true testament to his toughness came in 2016 when he helped lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA Championship after being down 3-1 in the series.

14. Kyle Lowry

Years: 2006-present (16 seasons)

Teams: Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets

Career Stats: 966 games, 31.8 minutes, 14.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Championships: 1 (2019)

We’ve already mentioned Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, but let’s talk about how tough Kyle Lowry is — especially for a point guard. He doesn’t mind a little contact, he’s not going to back down from any player, he’s always hustling on both ends of the court, and he’s very reliable. 

During the Raptor’s championship run in 2019, Lowry averaged 15.0 points and 6.6 assists in 24 games. He also averaged 4.0 personal fouls per game during that run, which shows just how much he loves to be in the center of the action. He’s one of the hardest workers in the NBA. 

13. Rajon Rondo

Years: 2006-present (16 seasons)

Teams: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers

Career Stats: 922 games, 30.3 minutes, 10.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.1 blocks per game

Championships: 2 (2008, 2020)

Many people considered Rajon Rondo the odd man out when Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen teamed up in Boston. Instead, Rondo ended up turning their ‘Big Three’ into a ‘Big Four’ and became a crucial part of their success from 2007-2014 — including a title in 2008.

Since being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2014, Rondo has played on seven different teams and has made a difference everywhere he has gone — eventually winning his second NBA title with the Lakers in 2020. He plays with an edge and knows how to come alive in the playoffs.

12. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Years: 2013-present (9 seasons)

Teams: Milwaukee Bucks

Career Stats: 597 games, 32.5 minutes, 21.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.3 blocks per game

Championships: 1 (2021)

They don’t call Giannis Antetokounmpo the ‘Greek Freak’ for nothing. He’s a freakish athlete that loves to push the boundaries, never takes a play off, and loves fighting for everything he earns. He has embraced the underdog mentality and gets a kick out of proving others wrong. 

Giannis gradually improved in each of his first three seasons in the NBA. He took a big step in his fourth season, finishing the season with 22.9 points per game. Since then, he has averaged more than 26.9 points per game each season and recently won his first championship in 2021. 

11. Dwight Howard

Years: 2004-present (18 seasons)

Teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards

Career Stats: 1,188 games, 32.5 minutes, 16.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.8 blocks per game

Championships: 1 (2020)

Dwight Howard entered the league as the Orlando Magic’s first overall draft pick in 2004. He immediately proved his value in the NBA, using his strength, athleticism, and fearless attitude to pulverize those that matched up against him. He was a force to be reckoned with every game. 

He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time rebounding champ, two-time blocking champ, eight-time All-NBA player, and five-time All-Defensive player. Howard averaged more than 12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in each of his first 14 seasons in the league. 

10. Jae Crowder

Years: 2012-present (10 seasons)

Teams: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies

Career Stats: 674 games, 25.0 minutes, 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Jae Crowder is one of those players that every coach wants on their roster and not just because he can hit three pointers with ease. He’s one of those hard-nosed players that gives 110% every second he spends on the court — something he demands from his teammates. 

Crowder is currently playing on his seventh team in 10 seasons and he has proven to be one of the toughest NBA players in the league with each team he has played for. He stands up for his teammates, he makes the hustle plays look easy, and he’s an all-effort type of NBA player. 

9. Chris Paul

Years: 2005-present (17 seasons)

Teams: New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets

Career Stats: 1,096 games, 34.6 minutes, 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.1 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Chris Paul will go down as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history when he retires, which is crazy considering he has never won an NBA championship — despite coming close several times. He’s the perfect teammate and an excellent leader both on and off the court. 

When Paul gets in his zone, he’s difficult to stop. On offense, he’s always getting his teammates involved and isn’t scared to take it down low. On defense, he’s a handful for any player and forces turnovers often. He’s due to win a championship and I have a feeling he’ll get one soon.

8. Patrick Beverley

Years: 2012-present (10 seasons)

Teams: Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves

Career Stats: 472 games, 27.6 minutes, 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.5 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Patrick Beverley is one of the most unique and interesting players in NBA history. He has never been a feature player in this league and isn’t the most effective player on offense, but his defense is unparalleled in the NBA and he knows how to get in a player’s head during the game.

Beverley has made a career out of hustle plays and defensive stands. He’s not only one of the toughest NBA players each year, but he’s one of the most frustrating to match up with. There’s just something about the way he plays and the intensity he brings that can’t be matched. 

7. Montrezl Harrell

Years: 2015-present (7 seasons)

Teams: Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards

Career Stats: 394 games, 21.4 minutes, 12.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Montrezl Harrell is another hustle player that many people consider one of the toughest NBA players in the league right now. He never gives up on the play, doesn’t stop until the whistle, isn’t afraid to put his body on the line, and absorbs contact as well as any other player in the NBA. 

While he’s never been a regular starter on any of the four teams he’s played for, he has always played an important and essential role off the bench. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2019-20 season and is consistently in the running for that award each season. 

6. Russell Westbrook

Years: 2008-present (14 seasons)

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers

Career Stats: 951 games, 34.7 minutes, 23.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Russell Westbrook isn’t just one of the toughest NBA players in the league right now, but he’s one of the hardest-working players each and every night. He’s a player that leaves everything out on the basketball court — sometimes to a fault — and gives 110% effort 100% of the time.

While his efforts don’t always result in a victory, Wesbrook knows how to fill a stat sheet and understands what it takes to be great. He isn’t afraid of contact, loves the big moments, talks the talk, walks the walk, and does everything in-between. Not many players are as tough as Russ.  

5. Marcus Smart

Years: 2014-present (8 seasons)

Teams: Boston Celtics

Career Stats: 455 games, 29.5 minutes, 10.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Marcus Smart was drafted sixth overall by the Boston Celtics in 2014 and has spent his entire 8-year career with the team. He has become their vocal leader in the locker room and is highly respected among his teammates, despite not being the No. 1 or No. 2 option on the team. 

He’s a hustle player that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty once the ball is tipped. He wins the 50/50 balls, plays excellent defense every single night, and doesn’t hesitate to stand up for his teammates. He has a certain level of swag and attitude on the court, which every team needs. 

4. Draymond Green

Years: 2012-present (10 seasons)

Teams: Golden State Warriors

Career Stats: 645 games, 28.5 minutes, 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks per game

Championships: 3 (2015, 2017, 2018)

Draymond Green won’t score a lot, but he does everything else very well and is a vocal leader for a talented Golden State Warriors — a team that used to be even more talented. He helped turn the Warriors’ ‘Big Three’ into a ‘Big Four,’ similar to what Rajon Rondo did with the Celtics.

He’s a hard-nosed defender, doesn’t mind playing big minutes, hustles harder than anyone else on the court, frequently stands up for his teammates and himself, and isn’t scared to throw in a little trash talk. Green is a well-rounded player that will likely win another ring before he retires.

3. P.J. Tucker

Years: 2012-present (10 seasons)

Teams: Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks

Career Stats: 713 games, 29.1 minutes, 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks per game

Championships: 1 (2021)

P.J. Tucker is one of the most tenacious and consistent defenders in the NBA right now. He does all the little things right and while his efforts don’t always show up on a stat sheet, they don’t go unnoticed by his coaches and teammates. He’s always making a difference out there.

Tucker is one of those players that every team wants — not just because of what he brings to the team, but the fact that they won’t have to worry about going against him during the season. He plays with intensity, he isn’t afraid to get at it, and is all-in on every play of every game. 

2. Jimmy Butler

Years: 2011-present (11 seasons)

Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat

Career Stats: 640 games, 33.1 minutes. 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

Jimmy Butler isn’t afraid to talk that talk and it’s because he knows how to walk that walk. He carries himself well, he’s very confident in his ability, he demands a lot from himself and his teammates, he battles hard every night, isn’t afraid of the moment, and plays long minutes.

Butler knows how great he can be and he knows how great his teammates can be. You know what you’re going to get out of Jimmy Buckets and that’s 110% all-in effort 100% of the time. He showcased that effort in the Miami Heat’s 2020 NBA Finals run inside the Orlando bubble. 

1. Steven Adams

Years: 2013-present (9 seasons)

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies

Career Stats: 595 games, 26.9 minutes, 9.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.0 blocks per game

Championships: none yet

For two years in a row, Steven Adams has been rated as the toughest NBA player — according to the 2019-20 and 2020-21 NBA GM Survey, released by NBA.com. He received 32% of the votes in 2020-21, beating P.J. Tucker (25%), Jimmy Butler (14%), and Marcus Smart (14%). 

Steven Adams is a beast down low and is always giving his all when on the court. He defends well, is difficult to defend against, and is a great teammate to have in the locker room. He doesn’t take anything from anyone and is essential to setting the tone early in games. 

Who Are the Toughest NBA Players of All-Time?

You need to have a certain level of mental and physical toughness to make it in the NBA, but the toughest NBA players of all-time are on a completely different level. Their toughness goes far beyond what any other player can offer, which is why they can be so valuable to a team. 

Throughout the 75-year history of the NBA, several players stand out above the rest when discussing the toughest NBA players of all-time. They embodied and exemplified what it meant to be tough, setting the bar for the toughest NBA players we get to witness in the NBA today. 

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Some of the toughest NBA players of all-time include BenWallace, RasheedWallace, MettaSandiford-Artest, KevinGarnett, TonyAllen, ZachRandolph, DennisRodman, CharlesOakley, ShaquilleO’Neal, Amar’eStoudemire, NateThurmond, and KarlMalone.

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