If you missed the introduction to The 89.5 Club, then you can find that here. Let’s check in on our rankings… Ok…Since you didn’t click on that link the 89.5 Club is based on this fact:
89.5% of recent NBA Champions ranked in the top 12 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating.
*Recent includes the last 19 NBA Champions
**Offensive Rating is how many points scored per 100 possessions and Defensive Rating is the inverse, how many points allowed per 100 possessions.
A full list of those Champions, their rankings, and a more in-depth explanation can (again) be found here.
To refresh, check out last months ratings, or just look at this chart:
Last month there were eight total “Qualifiers” for the 89.5 Club (Warriors, Spurs, Pacers, Heat, Cavs, Hornets, Raptors, Thunder) and two “On the Verge” teams (Mavs, T-Wolves).
“Qualifiers” are teams that are in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive rating and “On the Verge” teams have one or both of their ratings in the 13-15 range.
Surprisingly there was a ton of movement, a month can make a big difference; however, seven of the eight teams retained their qualifications for the 89.5 Club. Here are the updated rankings through December 31st:
89.5 Club Power Rankings
Teams are ranked in order of lowest combined rankings, grouped by Qualifiers or On the Verge, and the previous months rankings are in parentheses.
Golden State Warriors
Offensive Rank: 1 (1)
Defensive Rank: 3 (5t)
The Warriors are almost back to sheer domination and returning to their rightful place as the best offensive and defensive Empire in the entire Gala..xy… I’ve been watching too much Star Wars… The Warriors are very good, there has almost been too much said of them. However, one thing that can be noted is that the Warriors improved their Defensive Rating while allowing 5.6 points per game. One reason could be their pace, the Warriors have sped up from 100.98 (possessions per 48 minutes) in November to 102.21 in December.
San Antonio Spurs
Offensive Rank: 3 (7)
Defensive Rank: 1 (1)
The Spurs have made a huge leap in Offensive Rating since our last 89.5 Club rankings; jumping from 102.5 to 106.8. Their shooting percentages in December are impressive: 50.7% from the field (1st in the League), 39.2% from the three point line (2nd), and 77.6% from the line (8th). San Antonio is also highly efficient on post-up attempts as well. While they attempt post-ups on 13.4% of their possessions they’re shooting 50.7% on such attempts (2nd), and scoring .96 points per possession (3rd).
Oklahoma City Thunder
Offensive Rank: 2 (2)
Defensive Rank: 12 (14)
The only offense that was better than the Spurs in December were the Thunder. There’s only three players currently in striking distance of the 50/40/90 Club (FG%, 3P%, FT%); two of them are on teams we just talked about (Curry & Leonard), the other is Kevin Durant. He and Westbrook are currently 3rd and 4th in the League in points per game, and there are only two other teams with two players averaging more than 20 points per game (TOR & POR).
Offensive Rank: 6 (5)
Defensive Rank: 9 (10)
The Hornets are still hanging around, despite Al Jefferson missing all but 32 minutes in December. However, their record doesn’t reflect how well they have retained their Off/Def Ratings. Charlotte was 10-5 in November but struggled through a tough month ending December with a 7-7 record.
Offensive Rank: 9 (3)
Defensive Rank: 5 (12t)
The Cavs remain in the 89.5 Club but their Off/Def Rating rankings have basically flipped. While their pace has remained the same, Cleveland is scoring 8.3 less points per game and allowing 5.1 points per game, a strange dynamic. When Kyrie Irving starts playing consistently I expect that Offensive Rating to jump right back up to the top of the League.
Offensive Rank: 8 (7)
Defensive Rank: 8 (9)
Like the Hornets, the Raptors’ ratings and rankings have basically remained intact, thanks to the previously mentioned duo of “Skinny” Kyle Lowry & DeMarr DeRozan. DeRozan has been especially effective on Isolation plays. DeMar attempts Iso plays more frequently than Paul George, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Reggie Jackson, and Chris Paul; but he also scores more frequently than any of those guys on such attempts.
Offensive Rank: 12 (12)
Defensive Rank: 7 (2t)
It’s hard to explain what happened to the Heat’s defense over the last month. What’s stranger is Hassan Whiteside’s personal Defensive Rating dropped from 87 (1st in the League) in November to 101 in December. However, they’re still better than 23 NBA teams and they’re offense is staying steadily above average.
On the Verge
Offensive Rank: 6 (6)
Defensive Rank: 13 (16)
Atlanta is still cruising on offense: 3rd in the League in both Assists per game (25) and Free Throw percentage (79.8%), and 5th in Field Goal Percentage (46%). Despite their 3-Point Percentage which ranks 21st in the League (34%) and is 4% worse than last season. Their defense has been basically average except for the fact that they’re leading the League in defending 3-Point attempts (33.6%).
Offensive Rank: 13 (19)
Defensive Rank: 9 (8)
The Magic have slipped on the defensive side, only by 1 point, but have leap-frogged 6 spots by improving their offense by almost 2 whole points. Solely in December the Magic’s Offensive Rating was 104.9 which would rank them 4th in the entire NBA. They’ve done this by improving their Field Goal Percentage by 4% from 44% to 48%, the third highest mark of any team.
Los Angeles Clippers
Offensive Rank: 4 (4)
Defensive Rank: 14 (17)
The Clippers just pulled off an impressive 11-5 record in December after ending November just 7-8. What really makes this feat notable was that the Clippers played an intense 11 games on the road compared to 4 games at home, and 1 game at Staples Center that counted as a home game for the Lakers.
Offensive Rank: 14 (11)
Defensive Rank: 6 (2)
The Pacers are not only the lone team to drop out of the 89.5 Club, Indiana is the only club to drop in both rankings. They’ve basically pulled the inverse of what the Clippers did record-wise. After an 11-2 record in November the Pacers finished December at a less than desired 7-9 while allowing 9.3 more points per game (Nov: 93.4ppg – Dec: 102.7ppg).
Offensive Rank: 5 (15)
Defensive Rank: 15 (12t)
This has been the month for guys named J.J. First J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to recording breaking box office numbers and is currently 8th on the ALL TIME list, and climbing. Then, J.J. Barea replaces Deron Williams, who was out with injury, and goes on a tear. In his four starts J.J. is averaging 22.3 points, 6.8 assists while shooting 63% from the field and an insane 69% from the three point line. Partly due to the outstanding play of J.J. the Mavericks have gone from “just sticking around” to beating down the Golden State Warriors.
Mavs Off: ⬆️10
Cavs Def: ⬆️ 7
Magic Off: ⬆️ 6
Spurs Off: ⬆️ 4
Cavs Off: ⬇️ 6
Heat Def: ⬇️ 5
Pacers Def: ⬇️ 4