For those of you that have thought that a great offense is key to winning an NBA championship, you might want to think again. The true key is to have both great offense and defense. There have been many championship games won because the winning teams had both the stopping power and the ability to score.
According to data spanning 50 years, it showed both being an equal factor. If teams want to win, they don’t choose whether they want to have a great offense or great defense, they strive for equal excellence. When it comes to defense, teams had showed a combination of both right type of players and smart plays. This proved that a team that couldn’t score were left with no choice but to rely heavily on their defense.
This isn’t anything new, offense and defense are an important factor that must be equal.
During the 80s and 90s the major key of becoming a championship team was determined by the point differential. This means that the teams had to express a great defense, offense or most importantly both.
This is exactly what we see in today’s league. Out of the 33 teams that have won titles, only 26 were in the top 10 for both offense and defense. The Chicago Bulls were unsurprisingly in the top spot for both. For runner-ups, there were only 15 teams that had both great offense and defense. As a whole, each team had been a top 10 team either way. This is what we saw in the 2004 Pistons and the 2001 L.A Lakers. Both teams still won regardless of having poor defense or offense.
The weird thing is that teams being dominant, tend to be in the NBA finals.
So what does it all mean? How can a defense-only team make it to the finals? It’s now obvious. Defense.
With a no. 2 ranking in defense, the Bulls’ defense numbers have been better leading up to the All-Star break. They held their opponents at 97.3 points for every 100 possessions.
Many other teams praise them for their defense and as a tough opponent. It goes without showing that the defense of Chicago is more than just elite.
In hindsite, the Bulls are ranked No. 28 in their offense. I can’t recall any other team that has come close to the finals with an offensive ranking that poor. This is because their net rating for every 100 possessions has been plus-1.9 points. But, because of an imbalance of gross statistics, a scenario that is realistic is nonexistant when it comes to winning the finals.
In the Pacers case, it is much more complicated. But luckily for their fans, the team is very similar to the Bulls.
The current rating for the Pacers offense is listed at No. 22. This will most likey make their defensive rating of No. 1 to plumet substantially. But the Pacers can easily overcome the odds just like the Lakers did back in 2001 after winning their ring with having a defense ranking at No. 21 and a offense ranked at No. 2.
We are unable to look at the numbers as a clear indicator of any future performance because the team has changed from what they used to be before. Plus, their profile has become worse when it comes to their statistics.
If we compare the Pacers rating in offense since the start of the All-Star break, their league rating has now become the second-worst. Besides that, their defense has slipped down to the No. 7 spot. It’s obvious that no team would be able to win a championship ring from those spots.
So, what would be the best explanation to all of this?
The answer isn’t as simple as we think. Although defense is an important factor to winning, there is no strong evidence that shows a teams ability to prevent scores as being key to winning.
So, long story short, to be able to win a NBA finals championship, a team must possess awesome defense as long as the offense is as equally good.