NBA mailbag: How should individual defense in the NBA be evaluated in 2021?

Stephen A. fears the Lakers might not make it past the play-in game (1:37)

Stephen A. Smith explains why he believes the Lakers might not even make it out of the play-in tournament. (1:37)

The NBA's regular season is nearly complete, so let's show some love to the defensive end of the court in this special edition of the NBA mailbag.

Throughout the NBA season, I will be answering your questions about the latest, most interesting topics in basketball. You can tweet me directly at @kpelton, tweet your questions using the hashtag #peltonmailbag or email them to peltonmailbag@gmail.com.

This week's edition of the NBA mailbag includes:

  • Does defense still matter in an offensive-minded, perimeter-oriented league?

  • How important is on-ball defense vs. rim protection?

  • Who are my picks for this year's Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defensive Teams?

"I saw in a previous mailbag of yours talking about how in the NBA that shot-making is more important than shot quality. Knowing this, along with the fact that offenses are higher powered than they have ever been, are we at a point where defense doesn't really matter and the only 'defense' is the luck of the shots not going in?"

-- Brett Hullihen

I certainly wouldn't go that far, but I do have to grudgingly admit the evidence seems to suggest that defense has become less important during this unusual regular season.