The Miami Heat won the NBA title in the second year of their Big Three experiment. While certainly the offense contributed a lot, the adage "Defense wins championships" held true, as the Heat boasted one of the league's best defenses, and ultimately that made a difference against the Thunder.
That adage is reaffirmed almost annually.
Since the ABA-NBA merger, there have been 34 NBA championships. Of those teams, 32 were among the top 10 in defensive rating, 24 have been in the top five, and 17 (a full 50 percent) were in the top three.
While offensive rating also has a strong correlation, it's not quite as compelling. Of 34 teams who have won the title, 28 finished in the top 10 offensive rating, 18 finished in the top five, and 13 finished in the top three.
In other words, you need to be efficient on both ends of the court, but defense matters more than offense.
Obviously, finishing in the top 10 in defensive rating, or even finishing first, doesn't assure you a title, but not having a top 10 defense almost assures you will not win one.
So whose defense will assure they have a chance? Some teams have helped their cause through adding personnel. Some have helped it by shedding personnel. Some have stepped in the wrong direction.
Here are projections for the top 10 defenses in the NBA next season.
Note: Statistics via basketball-reference.com.