If you missed the introduction to The 89.5 Club, which is not located in the innermost depths of a night club (but should be), then you can find that here or here. (Don’t worry, it’s the same content you can’t go wrong on either). We have officially completed a full month of NBA basketball and now let’s check in on our rankings… Ok…Since you didn’t click on those links the 89.5 Club is based on this fact:
89.5% of NBA Champions in the last 19 years were ranked in the top 12 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating.
Offensive Rating is how many points scored per 100 possessions and Defensive Rating is the inverse, how many points allowed per 100 possessions.
We are tracking which teams qualify for this statistic and calling it the 89.5 Club to try and see which teams have the best chance to win the Championship. Here were the rankings as of November 30th 2015:
Now we’re going to take the teams, for this month it’s a whopping nine, that qualify for the 89.5 Club and evaluate them in order based on the highest combined rankings. Not surprisingly the first team still hasn’t lost a game…
Golden State Warriors
Off Rank: 1
Def Rank: 5(t)
They’re slipping, at the end of last season the Warriors were the best defense in the League and second in offense according to these rankings. At the end of November they fell to a pedestrian 5th, and tied for 5th with Chicago at that. Come on guys, Steph, Dray, Klay, Bogs…you can do better. The Dubs are beginning a seven game Eastern Conference road trip with two back-to-backs on Wednesday followed by a five game home stand. At this point it’s hard to see them losing a game let alone losing this top spot in our rankings.
San Antonio Spurs
Off Rank: 7
Def Rank: 1
While the integration of LaMarcus Aldridge has been somewhat awkward, the Spurs are still doing Spurs things. They rank the highest in 3PFG assisted in the League, and 4th highest in FG assisted. No major players have executed isolation plays on more than 8% of their possessions. And of course they average the most amount of passes made per game in the League.
On the defensive side, Duncan is allowing an incredible 40% of FGA and Aldridge is allowing 45%. 3rd and 15th best respectively among players that defend 6+ FGAs per game. As a team the Spurs are only allowing their opponents to shoot 23.2% of their shots from beyond the three point line, the lowest percentage in the League.
Off Rank: 11
Def Rank: 2(t)
One of the biggest surprises of the season so far is how much this newly formed Pacers has improved despite such a stylistic change. Gone are the days of several plodding big men holding down the fort and letting wing players run the offense playing strictly iso-ball. Paul George has executed the fourth most ISOs in the NBA, but when you have a-Paul-George-type you can get away with that. The offense isn’t the most surprising part of this reconstruction; the fact that getting rid of those bigs and replacing them with one of their backups and George has improved their defensive rating by over five points is… Dang.
Off Rank: 12
Def Rank: 2(t)
Riddle me this: what can score but can’t shoot?
Here’s the story on the Heat. They’re 7th highest in FG% in paint and have the 6th highest FG% on drives. While also shooting the 5th lowest percentage on Catch & Shoot FG, 10th lowest on Pull Up FG%, and shoot the 3rd lowest FG% from elbows.
Basically, they can drive and score in and around the paint but 15+ feet out… not so much.
When talking about Miami’s defense it might just be enough to say:
…then just post this video, but I’ll leave you with a stat instead:
Hassan is defending a league leading 11+ FGA a game, and he’s only allowing 42% of them. The 6th lowest percentage of any player defending 6+ attempts per game. He’s pretty good.
Off Rank: 3
Def Rank: 12
Even without Kyrie and Shumpert, the Cleveland Lebrons have posted the third best Offensive Rating in the NBA. We could spend time talking about the increased role for Kevin Love, even though he’s only averaging 5 more touches and 2.5 catch & shoot points per game. Or how the [re]addition of Mo Williams and his 14/3/4 stat line has helped replace Kyrie’s production. But Lebron “I Was Born To Play Basketball” James has been on Lebron-James-level and everyday I see his stats and yawn at them.
Only three other players in the League are averaging 20/5/5 right now (Harden/Westbrook/Curry) and Lebron has done that EVERY SINGLE YEAR since Tom Cruise Jumped on skinny-God-level-Oprah’s couch.
We see you Lebron.
Off Rank: 5
Def Rank: 10
In Hollywood somewhere someone just pitched a script about a decent team that lost two major players and became much better because the sum of their parts were worth more than their whole, and their superstar player that just recovered from a gruesome injury. (Pacers). That script gets a green light but eventually gets thrown away for another TV show about sexy oil drillers.
Another script about a terrible team that loses its best defender, restores the career of several cast off players, and has greatly improved despite its aging star center. That script doesn’t get touched because it makes no sense, even to Hollywood.
Maybe this is the “getting rid of Lance Stephenson makes your team better” scenario; but more than likely, Portland just really regrets getting rid of Batum right now, and somehow (briefly) the Harden Trade was rectified…
Due largely to the addition of those two, the Hornets are averaging the 4th most made threes per game (9.6). An enormous improvement, 3.5 more than last season which ranked 5th worst in the League.
Off Rank: 7
Def Rank: 9
Just trailing the Not-Bobcats in Offensive Rating are the Toronto-Not-Drakes. Aside from getting two more career years from DeRozan and Lowry, the addition of DeMarre Carroll has been felt in more ways than his averages can tell us. The Raptors are 5.9 points per 100 possessions worse when Carroll sits and the Raps have been able to use him at the 4 spot for 17% of his time on the floor. That has given them a versatility they didn’t have last season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Off Rank: 2
Def Rank: 14
Not surprisingly the Thunder are right back up there with best of them in the Offensive category. When you have two of the best ten players in the NBA it’s basically an “add water and stir” situation for new head coach Billy Donavan. The only pairs with higher net points per 100 possessions involved Curry, Thompson, or James.
Teams On The Verge
Off Rank: 15(t)
Def Rank: 12(t)
Right up there on the Pacers/Hornets level of surprise comes the Dallas Mavericks. However, doesn’t this just make sense? If Westbrook+Durant is an “add water and stir” situation then Carlilse+Dirk+Anything=Gold. Now, they’re not posting the same offensive numbers they were at this time last season. The Mavs were scoring a tenth more per 100 possessions than this season’s Warriors. Let that sink in. After Rondo & DeAndre have come-and-gone these Mavs look completely different than those Mavs but are still in playoff contention and in contention for the 89.5 Club.
Off Rank: 15(t)
Def Rank: 15
Again with the surprises… Karl-Anthony Towns has been a nice surprise for all T-Wolves fans. According to that same stat we used to praise Hassan Whiteside, Towns is only allowing 45% of field goals, better than Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, and DeAndre Jordan. While his free throw percentage is on par with Dirk Nowitzki’s, and he’s shooting 50% from 20-24 feet. So be prepared for when he starts taking that extra step out beyond the three point line.