Has NBA defense become less important?

Matt Yglesias has read Aristotle:

I concede that the new [NBA] rules have made it harder to play defense.  I
fail to see, though, how that makes defense less important.  Two factors
determine who wins a basketball game: how many points your team scores
and how many points the other team scores.  Since you have the ball
roughly half the time and the other team has the ball roughly half the
time, it stands to reason that offense and defense should have exactly
the same importance.  You could even argue that, in an era when it’s
easier to score than to defend, a guy who can stop the other team from
scoring is more valuable than someone who can put the ball in the

Amen, and try putting that last point into a Solow model-like framework.  That all said, I don’t understand why there are so few good centers these days.  Why is there no Bob Lanier?  Is the pay too low?  Surely people are not shorter than thirty years ago.

While we are on the topic, I’ll offer up my yearly predictions and opt for San Antonio.  Their new 30-year-old big lug seems able to play center, they have the game’s best power forward, lots of title experience, and an excellent backcourt.  Plus they can play defense.

Addendum: A reader sends in this excellent commentary.


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