There’s exactly a month left in the NBA, the last games are scheduled on April 15th. Time to check out where teams stand since the last time when I introduced the 86 Club. On the right is where teams stood during my last column and the right is where they are now, and we have a lot of movement.
If you haven’t read my column on the 86 Club this will make no sense. Read it here.
We had three teams in the 86 Club when I introduced it last time let’s look at where they are now.
The Golden State Warriors (Tied 1st Off | 1st Def) have to thank the Clippers for becoming tied for the best offense in the League. The Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin for a whole month due to injury and had a brutal schedule playing OKC, Memphis, San Antonio, and Houston twice while Griffin was out. I’m surprised they didn’t fall off more. The Warriors defense has also improved over the last two weeks and remained at number one in the League. They retain their 86 Club eligibility.
The Atlanta Hawks (6th Off | Tied 3rd Def) have remained relatively the same only fluctuating .1 points on both Offensive and Defensive Rating. They’re currently in a four way, almost five way, tie for 3rd ranked Defense and .1 points could drop them to 7th or 8th but they also retain eligibility.
The third team was the Portland Trailblazers (8th Off | Tied 3rd Def). The Blazers rose two spots on Offense to 8th passing up the Suns and Bulls who have both lost starting guards due to trades and injury respectively. They’re also in that four way tie for the 3rd ranked Defense rising three spots and also remain in the club.
All three of our teams from two weeks ago remain in the 86 Club, but there’s one team that obtained their own pass to the Club and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
The San Antonio Spurs are back. After a crazy year of injury the Spurs have still had a top 10 Defense almost all year and now their Offense joins them in the top 10 at number nine. It’s not surprising at all, I said in my last column that “The Spurs have been in the 86% Club in 10 of the last 15 years (would be 12 times if you apply the ’10 Lakers Exception).” If you still haven’t read my article on the 86 Club, and if you’re reading this far then you’re either super confused or applying your own definitions to terms and all the power to you! The Spurs system has been solid for 15 years and has them back in contention, shocker.
Two teams that were on the cusp of the 86 Club two weeks ago have fallen out of even the top 12, the Grizzlies and the Bulls.
The Bulls (9th Off | 13th Def) were 1 point defensively from being in the club but have fallen out the last two weeks. I mentioned before that the Bulls lost their starting guards, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, Rose went out the last week of February and Butler the first week of March. They lost by 12 to Charlotte, 10 to the Clippers when Butler got injured, 14 to Indiana, 11 to San Antonio, 10 to Memphis, 10 to Charlotte again, and lost by 9 to the Thunder on Sunday going 4-7 since Rose went down. Both guys are expected to return in 4-6 weeks from their injury, that would put Rose back between March 23rd and April 6th and Butler March 30th and April 13th if we took it the timetable literally. Even assuming they take their time with both guys they’d have both back for the playoffs and could make a run. However, I’m not seeing how a team starting Tony Snell and Aaron Brooks in place of two All Stars can make it into the 86 Club and will have a hard time winning the championship with that.
The Grizz (13th Off | 8th Def) are a different story, they’re still 2 games ahead of Portland for the 2 seed in the West even going 5-6 since February 26th. They’re only scoring 92 points a game in that stretch and allowing 95. One of those losses was by 20 against Washington where the Grizzlies rested starters Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley. Not helping their case at all. After being ranked the 8th best offense before the start of the new year (2015) the Grizzlies have fallen all the way to 13th without any major injuries. First you would think that maybe adding Jeff Green has thrown their chemistry off but in the first 18 games since they acquired him they were 15-3 averaging 97 points a game and allowing 90. The last 11 games are that 5-6 stretch that I mentioned earlier. If Memphis continues this slump I’d be hard pressed to say they have a finals run in them, because they’re definitely not making the 86 Club.
Lastly we have a team that’s creeping ever so slightly into the club with an emerging MVP candidate driving them into this club.
The Oklahoma City [Westbrooks] Thunder (12th Off | 11th Def) are 14-5 over their last 19 while scoring 111 points a game and allowing 103. They’ve done this mostly without last year’s MVP Kevin Durant, who’s only played in 5 out of those 19 games. What an insane year the Thunder have had this 2014-2015. They start off the year 3-12 without Durant and Westbrook only really playing in the first game. Durant comes back and then they decide he’s not ready so he sits back down and hasn’t played since February 19th. Westbrook comes back from his injury and leads the league in scoring, thrown together some triples doubles and has thrust himself into the MVP race in the same way he’s brought this team back into contention. Since Westbrook has returned this team is 33-18, 6th in Off Rtg and 4th overall in Net Rating. If the Thunder can get Durant back and healthy, shore up their defense, and continue to perform offensively we might be adding a fifth team to the 86 Club and a chance to win a championship, but that’s a lot of IF.