The old adage, “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” resonates within the mindset of most NBA coaches.
Most coaches believe that the foundation of a dynasty is not offensive efficiency, but rather defensive dominance. Kevin Der writes on sportingcharts.com “of the past 10 NBA champions, only one has not been in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency.”
In order to win in the playoffs, having a formidable defense is a must, but there is no specific formula to build an effective defense. The Celtics of the ‘60s had a defense that showcased Bill Russell’s prowess as a defensive anchor. The Bulls of the ‘90s exemplified the value of having elite wing defenders — Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Spurs of the past decade were grounded in Tim Duncan’s defensive presence and Bruce Bowen’s menacing annoyance.
Simply put, there is no magic recipe for defensive success. Without an elite defense, the chances of winning an NBA championship are extremely slim.
That is what makes the Heat’s acquisition of Greg Oden so crucial. LeBron James is the only NBA All-Defensive First Team-caliber player on the Heat. As Dwyane Wade’s defense has regressed over the past few seasons, the Heat’s defense is bound to take a hit this year.
This is why 15 quality minutes per game from Oden can be a game-changer. If Oden can even resemble a shell of his former shot-blocking self, the Heat will be hard to beat. In fact, I would go as far as saying they would be near-invincible. That is the value of a defensive-anchoring center.
Look nowhere else than the 2011 Dallas Mavericks for evidence. The Mavericks were never known to have been a formidable defense, but Tyson Chandler revolutionized the defensive culture of the Mavericks during that year, anchoring the best defense the franchise has ever had.
If the Heat can actually offer resistance against the likes of Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert in the playoffs, they would be difficult to beat. Without Oden though, the gap between the Heat and the rest of the East seems to be awfully close.
Miami’s biggest weakness — lack of a defensive anchor — could be highlighted once again in their battles against the Bulls and the Pacers.
Of course, if James continues to evolve his game, this point may be moot.