Definitely should have done this at the beginning of the All-Star Break but now that the #NBATradeDeadline was more Dead than [on]Line what a great time to check in on the 89.5 Club Rankings!
If you missed the introduction to The 89.5 Club, then you can find that here. Ok…Since you didn’t click on that link the 89.5 Club is based on this fact that:
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.
Last month there were seven total “Qualifiers” for the 89.5 Club (Warriors, Spurs, Heat, Cavs, Hornets, Raptors, Thunder) and five “Lurking” teams (Mavs, Magic, Pacers, Hawks, Clippers).
“Qualifiers” are teams that are in the top 12 in both offensive and defensive rating and “Lurking” teams have one or both of their ratings in the 13-15 range. (Last month I called them “On The Verge” teams).
- Five teams remained Qualifiers (Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Raptors, Cavaliers)
- One jumped from Lurking to Qualifying (Clippers)
- One new team leapfrogged right into Qualifying status (Celtics)
- One team (Hornets) slipped from Qualifying to Lurking
- One team (Jazz) just started Lurking
- Joining one team (Hawks) who remain Lurking
- Three teams (Mavs, Pacers, Magic) have ceased from Lurking
- One team (Heat) has completely fallen off the rankings…
Here are the rankings through the All-Star Break.
89.5 Club Power Rankings
Teams are ranked in order of lowest combined rankings, grouped by Qualifiers or Lurking, and the previous months rankings are in parentheses.
Golden State Warriors
Offensive Rank: 1 (1)
Defensive Rank: 2 (3)
While the Dubs are still ahead of schedule in “The Chase for 73 Wins” their defense has improved two Rankings in a row. They initially ranked 5th in November’s Rankings, but jumping to 3rd in December’s Rankings, and are now in 2nd. However, they’re still a full 4 points behind the Spurs in Defensive Rating. Even with Duncan missing time…good luck catching those guys…
San Antonio Spurs
Offensive Rank: 3 (3)
Defensive Rank: 1 (1)
The Spurs are holding their ground in both Offensive & Defensive Rating. Which is interesting because they scored 5.2 more points per game and allowed 10.9 more points per game in January than they did in December. This is obviously due to a change in pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes). The Spurs were on a 95.6 Pace this year but amped that up to 97.38 since the last 89.5 Rankings; probably due to the fact that Tim Duncan missed 9 of the last 19 games. Even without their mainstay franchise player the Spurs find themselves as Qualifiers.
Offensive Rank: 4 (9)
Defensive Rank: 7 (5)
In December the Cavs’ offense diminished to the tune of 95.2 points per game but in January and the start of February they’ve ramped up to 107.3. Some of this improvement seems to be a direct result of the firing of David Blatt/promoting of Tyronn Lue. In 41 games under David Blatt the Cavs scored 101.4 points per game and in the 11 games since Lue took over they’ve scored 108.5. However, there was a lot of talk that the Cavaliers were going to “play faster” but look at the numbers:
- Pace Under Blatt: 95.05 (28th)
- Pace Under Lue: 95.55 (26th)
Offensive Rank: 9 (18)
Defensive Rank: 3 (2)
Dang. What a leap. The Celtics have been mostly doing this, like they do most things, by committee. In this stretch the Celtics have seven double digit scorers (Thomas, Bradley, Crowder, Olynk, Sullinger, Smart, Turner) with all seven of those guys increasing their scoring averages from the months before. Now in the Top 10 in Offensive Rating, the Celtics are a legit contender and now qualifiers.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Offensive Rank: 2 (2)
Defensive Rank: 10 (12)
These rankings for the Thunder don’t tell the whole story. The Thunder remain at #2 in Offensive Rating despite increasing their Rating by 0.7 points, but even though they jumped into the top 10 in Defensive Rating their rating increased by 1.1 points (which is bad on the defense end). These changes are fairly insignificant the Thunder are still rolling winning 81% (17-4) of their games in January & February and still qualify for the 89.5 Club.
Offensive Rank: 6 (8)
Defensive Rank: 9 (8)
Fresh off hosting a great All-Star weekend the Raptors are still cruising comfortably in the 89.5 Club. Four teams have two 20+ Point Per Game Scorers:
- Thunder: Durant & Westbrook
- Warriors: Curry & Thompson
- Trailblazers: Lillard & McCollum
- Raptors: Lowry & DeRozan
Offensive Rank: 15 (6t)
Defensive Rank: 5 (13)
In the same fashion as the Thunder the Hawks ratings barely change (-0.7 Offensive Rating, -1.1 Defensive Rating) but their Rankings completely flipped, weird. Atlanta’s core survived the Trade Deadline but didn’t make any other changes either, so they’re probably going to just remain lurking through the end of the season.
Offensive Rank: 10t (15t)
Defensive Rank: 14 (18)
Defensively the Jazz’s defense was bolstered by having Rudy Gobert back after missing 20 games in the first half of the season. The Jazz win 60% of the games when Gobert is playing and their Offensive Rating is almost 5 points higher when he’s on the floor, the Stifle Tower is a pretty big deal. The Jazz are trending in the right direction; sliding right into the 8th spot in the West and the five teams below them are either a mess (Rockets, Kings, Pelicans) or just young (Nuggets, Timberwolves).
Offensive Rank: 13 (6t)
Defensive Rank: 12 (9t)
The Hornets may have made the best deal of the Trade Deadline by not acquiring Dwight Howard. I was having a conversation about Howard with resident Hornets-Fan-Friend Ian Hill today and we both decided that Dwight is basically an instant team killer. Take a look at his last three destinations:
- Orlando: Stan VanGundy fired…
- Lakers: Mike Brown fired…
- Rockets: Kevin McHale fired…
The fit on the court might be there but Dwight wants to be a first option on offense and that doesn’t match what the Hornets are trying to do. So Hornets fans should be happy they didn’t get Dwight, but Steve Clifford might be even happier.