Being a dominant player on both ends of the floor is a unique ability only a few NBA players possess, which is why these players are considered somewhat unicorns in today's league. There is already a notion that most NBA players don't care that much about defense anymore, which is not entirely correct, even though there is some truth to that. Today's NBA ultimately favors the offense, and the players themselves have never been so talented when it comes to scoring as they are now. That makes the job for the defensive player that much harder, so those rare guys in the NBA now that are doing it on both ends of the floor are a dying breed.
Former NBA player Metta World Peace was that type of athlete, especially in his prime. Throughout the years, especially during his days with the Pacers, Metta was a legitimate 20-25 point scorer while often taking the assignment of guarding the opposing team's best guards or forwards. In a recent interview for BasketballNews, Metta talked about why there aren't so many defensive specialists that are also capable of dropping 20 plus points against any team in the league.
For Metta, more than anything else, the willingness to play great defense comes from being physically prepared and willing to make that effort. Not everyone is programmed that way, and a lot of players learn how to play defense when they get to the league, while a small percentage has that natural-born talent, and defense is already a crucial aspect of their game.
It's not easy because you've got to work at it and have to want it. It's not hard, it's not impossible, but you have to be in condition, and you have to work on your game. It's that extra time. In the summertime, you're probably working on your offensive game, you're not working on your defense. But when training camp comes, and you see someone you want to lock up, then you're gonna flip that switch. So you're going to be a little tired, but can you keep going? And do you mind sacrificing a couple of points (especially as a wing defender)? With the exception of Michael Jordan, I don't know many wing defenders that were getting their numbers and locking up. Kawhi could be one of those guys, but Kawhi, if he didn't play defense, he would score even more points. So, defense is a sacrifice."
Metta World Peace, via BasketballNews
Metta actually made some excellent points, and if you noticed throughout the years, all the best defensive players were unbelievable athletes. On top of that, their conditioning was also superb. It takes a different mindset to be a great scorer and make conscious decisions to stop the best player on the opposing team. That is why when you think about those players, you can't really name a lot of them that we're able to carry their teams being as equally dominant on both ends of the floor.