…I do have to grudgingly admit the evidence seems to suggest that defense has become less important during this unusual regular season.
One way to look at this is the spread in ratings on both ends of the court. The standard deviation of teams’ defensive ratings relative to league average is the lowest it’s been since the 1984-85 season, while the standard deviation in offensive ratings is the second highest we’ve seen since 2007-08. That’s one way of showing that offense is not just winning the battle with defense but also controlling it.
Another way to show that is the correlation between a team’s defensive rating and its overall win percentage (.546). That’s the lowest it’s been since 1985-86. Meanwhile, there’s a far stronger correlation between a team’s offensive rating and its win percentage (.848). In general, offense tends to relate better to winning games than defense in the NBA. Typically, the two figures are much closer together than we see now.
That is Kevin Pelton, there is further discussion at the ESPN link. Good news for the Wizards! It also means you can’t trust your usual intuitions about who might be most likely to win the NBA title this time around.