With just a little over four weeks left in the regular season, the play off picture is essentially set. There are still some seeds to be determined, but other than who will be eight in the West, we know the teams.
There are two competing philosophies in the NBA. One is that defense wins championships. The other is that a high powered offense trumps defense and is the best path to the crown. We won't know which is correct until June. In the meantime, here are some ideas to consider.
While there are a lot of intangibles involved (home court, team chemistry, experience, determination, injuries, etc.) all else being equal, this is the set up.
If defense is the most important factor, then Memphis, Indiana, or Chicago should make it at least to the Finals and one become the champ. Why? Because they are one, two, and three in defense, yet all three are in the bottom 10 of all teams in offense. Since they more than anyone else depend almost entirely on defense, their winning would go a long way in validating the theory.
On the other hand, for Houston, Denver, the Lakers, and Golden State, the exact opposite is true. All four are top 10 in offense, but bottom 10 in defense. If one of them were to go all the way, then maybe defense isn't so important after all.
So far, that is seven teams. What about the other nine? Boston, Brooklyn. and New York are top 10 in defense while only middle of the pack (11-20) on offense. Oklahoma City and San Antonio are top 10 offense and middle of the pack in defense. Each of the five is strong in one area, yet only mediocre in the other. Curiously, the three East teams' strong suit is defense, the two West offense. For any of these five, I think a whole lot of things would have to break just right for them to have a shot. Although there have been several teams that have made it with just this type of make up.
Two teams, Atlanta and Milwaukee probably will not be hoisting a banner. While neither does poorly in either category, they are not especially strong in either. Middle of the pack in both areas is unlikely to get it done.
The final teams, Miami and the Clippers are the only two that are top 10 in both offense and defense. It would stand to reason that at least one of them will take the crown. It also would not be surprising if they were the two to make it to the Finals. If so, does that mean that both theories are lacking and that you have to have a combination of offense and defense to ensure success?
Whatever the outcome, we have the scenarios. It will be interesting to revisit this after the Finals to see if anything is proven.