Posted April 15, 2014

Midseason grades for all 30 NBA teams

Ben Golliver
Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis has dazzled, but the Pelicans have been plagued by injuries. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

New Orleans Pelicans: D

16-25, No. 12 in the West

The Pelicans looked promising until the ambulance sirens began to overwhelm. Look, the roster theory — ride the positionally balanced and athletically gifted quintet of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis as far as they could go — had merit. Lots of merit, really, as Davis is a budding superstar, Holiday is a 2013 All-Star point guard who plays both ends and Anderson remains one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets. In the limited time that lineup has played together, it’s posted an off-the-charts offensive rating of 123.5, which more than hints at possible playoff potential.

That five-man roster theory doesn’t work when two of the five pieces — Holiday (leg) and Anderson (neck) — are sidelined for an extended period of time. New Orleans is just 2-10 in January, a stretch that has killed its playoff hopes and could soon send it all the way to the Western Conference basement.

What’s left to play for down the stretch? Well, every outing is worthwhile for Davis (20.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, three blocks, 1.5 steals), who has turned in an All-Star-type season in his second year. The 2012 No. 1 pick is on track to become the first 20-year-old to post a PER of greater than 26, and he regularly does things (block turnaround jump shots, come clear across the court to snag an offensive rebound or alley-oop lob) that few others can accomplish.

Besides gawking at Davis, the injury-ravaged start has left the Pelicans to seriously consider the tank game. If their 2014 first-round pick lands outside the top five, they must convey it to Philadelphia, and New Orleans can certainly use a top-end talent infusion. The Pelicans’ best-case scenario is to tank and tank hard, doing whatever it takes to keep that pick, even if this organization might have thought it was through playing Ping-Pong ball gymnastics as recently as a few months ago.

MANNIX: 2014 NBA Big Board 3.0: Race for No. 1 grows tighter


New York Knicks: F

15-27, No. 11 in the East

Duh.


Oklahoma City Thunder: A+

33-10, No. 1 in the West

Here’s a list of the teams whose records have been compromised by injuries to a key player or players: Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Golden State, the Lakers, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix and Utah. That’s nearly half of the NBA. Notably absent from that list: the Thunder, who enjoyed Russell Westbrook’s services for just 822 minutes before he was sidelined with his third knee surgery since April. With Westbrook, Oklahoma City was 21-4; without him, it is 12-6, including an extraordinary five-game winning streak with victories over Houston, Golden State, Sacramento, Portland and San Antonio in one week’s time.

All things are possible through the greatness of Kevin Durant. After repeatedly informing the world that he was sick of placing second to LeBron James and the Heat, the NBA’s scoring leader has done something about it this season. Durant has snatched the first-half MVP title from James thanks to a preposterous statistical output that has lifted Oklahoma City to first place in the West.

If you’ve found yourself wondering, “How does he do it?” as Durant has piled up four games of 46 or more points in January, realize that he’s starting to wade into uncharted waters. He’s putting together one of the most marvelous individual seasons in league history. Durant is averaging 31 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.5 steals, a line that has been achieved only once previously (Michael Jordan, 1988-89). Meanwhile, Durant is shooting 50/41/88 even though his usage rate is 31.9; that type of shooting efficiency in such a major role has been approached only once before (Larry Bird, 1987-88). This, again, is greatness.

This hasn’t been a one-man effort. After all, no club can put together a conference-leading defense without team-wide contributions, but Oklahoma City would be lost without him. Durant’s continued growth has allowed Serge Ibaka to stay inside his wheelhouse offensively, helped Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb assimilate to larger roles and helped cover up for the limited offensive contributions offered by at least half of the Thunder’s Westbrook-less rotation.

Oklahoma City has lots of players, including the guys mentioned plus the always reliable Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and rookie Steven Adams, but this is very much a “Jordan and the Jordanaires” vibe, where all roads eventually lead back to Durant. He’s been otherworldly, and he’s made Oklahoma City sensational. The prospect of a Westbrook comeback keeps the Thunder as the West’s favorites.

MAHONEY: How Durant, other veterans are handling bigger roles


Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo has produced plenty of highlight plays — and turnovers. (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Orlando Magic: C-

11-32, No. 14 in the East

Projected as one of the league’s worst teams, Orlando has certainly lived up (down, really) to that billing in Year 2 of the post-Dwight Howard era. I thought this rebuilding Magic group would be a little bit friskier. On paper, an established backcourt and a handful of young pieces, many with considerable athletic gifts, looks like a good formula for springing upsets. Instead, the Magic have beaten only four teams currently above .500, they’re winless against the Western Conference since Nov. 6. and they’re doing their best to sneak wins here and there from the East’s dregs.

The loss of Nikola Vucevic to a concussion weighs heavily in their struggles: The Magic are 1-14 without their third-year starting center, who represents the only real size on the roster. Vucevic is averaging a double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds) for the second straight season, and he has all the makings of a stable building block. The other dominant stories: a mid-career breakout scoring year for Arron Afflalo (a career-high 20.6 points and a career-best 18.1 PER) and an entertaining-but-inefficient rookie season from No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo, who produces spectacular highlight plays and misses jumpers with the best of them.

Off-court planning is clearly a bigger deal than on-court developments for general manager Rob Hennigan, who continues to stick tightly to the tear-it-down script. The Magic finally bought out Hedo Turkoglu. They’re tracking toward good cap flexibility next summer and another top-five pick. They could also land a second lottery pick by way of the Howard trade, depending on how Denver and New York finish.

Slow and steady wins this race. In that vein, the voices suggesting that the Magic sell off Afflalo, who is under contract through at least 2014-15, don’t make a lot of sense. If significant progress isn’t made by this time next year, with the benefit of an offseason to fill out the roster, then it will be time to reassess.

GOLLIVER: Magic’s Afflalo starts on SG on The All-Ignored Team


Philadelphia 76ers: B

14-28, No. 13 in the East

It’s hard for any team winning one-third of its games to inspire true excitement, but the Sixers deserve praise for vastly outperforming the “Possibly Worst Team Of All Time” label they carried into training camp. General manager Sam Hinkie can’t ask for much more out of his group: The Sixers electrified the league with a three-game winning streak to start the season, somehow swept a four-game Western Conference road trip and have the Rookie of the Year front-runner in Michael Carter-Williams, the most pleasant surprise of the 2013 class.

There have been many losses — including many blowout losses — along the way for the Sixers, who possess the league’s second-worst point differential, but the organization was prepared for that. More important, the key variables that could determine their next steps have all lined up just fine. Carter-Williams’ play has been the headliner, but 2013 lottery pick Nerlens Noel hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his knee rehabilitation and could be cleared soon, while Tony Wroten (13 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists) has delivered as a worthwhile, low-budget flyer. Thaddeus Young (17.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 17.6 PER) and Evan Turner (18.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists) have been able to showcase their abilities, setting up the possibility of some trade-deadline excitement.

A rash of injuries to the Pelicans has also been an indirect blessing for the Sixers. New Orleans owes Philadelphia its 2014 first-round pick as long as it doesn’t land in the top five. The injury-ravaged Pelicans look headed for a spot in the back half of the lottery, barring a full-fledged tank job. That would be perfect for the Sixers, whose own pick could end up in the top five. So while this season might not be a conventional success for Philadelphia, it’s hard to see what exactly has gone wrong.

ROUNDTABLE: Carter-Williams the midseason Rookie of the Year favorite


Phoenix Suns: A

24-17, No. 7 in the West

To observers, the out-of-nowhere Suns have been delightful to watch. To opponents, their high-pressure defense, relentless attacking of the basket and youthful exuberance have been a royal pain in the neck. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek is in the Coach of the Year discussion for his ability to mold a group short on star power into a determined, team-first unit that has defeated Portland, Houston, Golden State, the Clippers and Indiana even though it entered the season projected to be the West’s worst team.

Eric Bledsoe’s knee injury is a real bummer, and it’s taking a little bit of the shine off of Phoenix’s great start. With Bledsoe, who has looked like a Most Improved Player candidate since arriving from the Clippers in a summer trade, Phoenix is 16-8; without his 18 points, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals, Phoenix is 8-9. The fourth-year guard has been the explosive, foul-drawing, basket-attacking menace that many could see developing behind Chris Paul, but his pairing with Goran Dragic (19.4 points, 5.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals) has worked out better than anticpated. Many expected them to struggle sharing the load, but the two playmakers have worked in tandem very well, allowing Phoenix to keep constant pressure on opponents and creating easy opportunities for the Suns’ secondary scoring options.

The list of guys on this roster playing better than expected goes on and on. Gerald Green? He’s averaging a career-high 13.7 points and hitting 37 percent of his threes on more than six attempts, making him a dangerous perimeter weapon. Miles Plumlee? From barely used by Indiana as a rookie last season to a cool 9.7 points and 8.7 rebounds this season. The Morris twins? As trash-talky as ever, but both have career-high numbers across the board to back up the yapping.

Can the Suns hold on to a playoff spot? They’re likely to be in a dogfight with Dallas, Memphis, Denver and Minnesota for the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. Whether they make the postseason or not isn’t all that important in the big picture; this was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and general manager Ryan McDonough has accumulated tons of extra picks and will enter next summer without any bad contracts on the books. Their unexpectedly awesome start deserves the attention it has received, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Phoenix is set up nicely for continued success next season and beyond.

JENKINS: Bledsoe speeding Suns’ present by rekindling the past

61 comments
DavidHarte
DavidHarte

The Warriors need to find a #2…David Lee is incapable of guarding anyone, and though his rebound numbers look impressive, big power forwards like Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis eat him alive.


This team will never compete as structured, and if Lacob insists on keeping Lee (who is clearly his favorite player after Curry), everyone is wasting their time: Bogut has a small window of, as does Iguadala.


Time to trade, Joe.  Let Jerry West work…Myers can watch and learn.



BigBubba
BigBubba

Joe Dumars drafted a Georgia guy, Pope, over a Michigan guy, Burke--who is in line to win Rookie of the Year.  And Pope?  Is he even playing?  LOL.


Dumars gets an F

Joe R2
Joe R2

Golliver is just another Miami/Lebron slurping NBA writer....  Miami has underachieved all season and they get an A?  And the Bulls, losing their 2 best players and still a 4 seed in the East get a D?  Keep gargling LeBron's testicles...

David S
David S

Pretty good article but the author needs to take a more in depth look at Terrence Jones play in Houston. Clyde Drexler says he can see Terrence becoming the best power forward in the NBA within two years. Terrence is the real deal and the full package at power forward.

ikhoops
ikhoops

Cleveland should get a D-. Young talent has not come together and their controversial draft picks are not panning out. Tristan Thompson has not been a difference maker for a high pick and AB is awful. Deng acquisition is the only thing that doesnt make it an F but if he leaves in the offseason then giving away those pick makes the first half of the season an F-. Even worse than the Bucks who are obviously terrible but they will pick at 1-4 this year and can continue their rebuild. But a long way to go there. On a positive side if Portland doesnt get an A ,that's crazy. Their talent is coming together and are now is a place to compete in the west for years to come. Young talented team whose leaders now want to stay in POrtland and keep their core together.


Jeremy_Lynn
Jeremy_Lynn

Derrick Rose didn't re-injure his knee... the injury occurred to the other knee, not the same one that forced him to miss last season, thus it is not a re-injury, just another injury...

RichardKeller
RichardKeller

Also, to give the Nets a "D: is ludicrous!  Their payroll should have nothing to do with expectations.  Williams has missed a ton of games and Lopez was at 50% or less in the games he played.  They deserve a B for getting to where they are as of today.

RichardKeller
RichardKeller

SO stupid to give Miami an "A".  It should be the Miami LeBron....."A".  The Heat are NOT a TEAM.

CraigWachs
CraigWachs

A  [ D ] FOR Bulls , come on , i give them A-  just for playing 500 ball with what theve gone thru ...

buzzman69
buzzman69

This idiots dislike of the Lakers is palpable. I'm not a Lakers fan, but come on. This is supposed to be sports journalism, not for some small minded guy to vent his personal frustrations. And his take down of the Bulls, like they had a choice about injuries. Where does SI find these guys? My dog could write a better column....

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

Moral of the story:  playing as well as possible through adversity (like the Bulls losing their star player) gets you a bad grade.

This isn't school.


Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

The grading system is wrong.  The writer should not factor injuries into the equation - the grade should solely be based on the team's actual performance relative to the expected performance (WITH THE PLAYERS AVAILABLE).  

For example, people are pissed off that the Bulls got a D.  The writer means that they had super high expectations because of Rose' return but because of injuries, they rank only a D.  It's not a knock on how the Bulls are performing with the current available roster, which, if anything, has been not bad.  Like I said, it's a stupid grading system because it's not the team's fault when players get injured.  Grade the teams for the talent they have and the actual results.  In which case, Knicks get an F for sure.

PaulWeeldreyer
PaulWeeldreyer

This is why the NBA is stupid. Because even NBA writers have to pretend like the NBA is something that it's not. Giving Milwaukee an F, for instance, is ludicrous once you accept the obvious fact that they are trying to tank. Ask a Bucks fan what grade they would give and they would probably mostly say "A". Why do you insist on pretending like bad teams are having bad years because they are losing games?

JustinLerner24
JustinLerner24

article is garbage except for the Knicks... got it spot on and loved the no explanation 

MikeKulpa
MikeKulpa

 You are a hack. Give the Knicks who I know are not playing well an F with no explanation? They did beat The Heat and a few other good teams. Remember the Texas trip? Not a word about all the injuries either O right all you could write was Duh.

GTT
GTT

For this Hawks fan it's enough to know we now have a GM who wouldn't blow lottery picks like Billy Knight did multiple times. And, there is a coach who gets the most from his players' talents, unlike Woodson and Drew.

Stephen O
Stephen O

hahaha.  these things always make me laugh.  whatever troll.

J Diddy
J Diddy

Bulls get a D and the Cavs get a C-? No need to read the rest of this junk...


Cavs get an F for wasting a ton of money on Bynum, being at full strength most of the season, and STILL being worse than they were a year ago. If Deng is smart, he'll play out his half-season in Purgatory and go to a team with a clue next year. 

DeanHewitt
DeanHewitt

Well, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. 

An a "A" for Miami.  First, Miami is breaking down right before our eyes and he doesn't see it.  Can't wait to see if they even get the second seed.  

A "D" for the Bulls, right.  The Bulls have righted the ship since the DRose loss.  I would expect a team to have problems after losing their MVP.  I think they went 3-12 for the fifteen games after losing him. Losing Luol may seem like a loss but all the cards haven't been played  yet.  Snell is getting time to develop, Dunleavy is getting his grove and Butler continues to grow.  It's a positive.  And then in a sense we traded and got DJ Augustine for Teague.  In the Bulls system DJ can act more like a sg with assist potential.  Hinrich takes some of the pressure off along with Noah in running the offense. Big plus.  We may not catch the Heat, but don't count us out.  We've won 11 of 13 and looking solid.  41 games and counting.

dinohealth
dinohealth

@DavidHarte Nonsense.  You are not going to get anything better; Lee is one of the premier PFs in the league.  The bench needs shoring up.  If that is done, this team is a contender.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Joe R2Why do some of you insist on bringing your fantasies into a sports forum?

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@Joe R2 Miami is at a similar pace as last year, has had not very much Dwayne Wade, and will only get better as the season goes on - as opposed to other teams who peak regular season.... this is typical Miami the last few years for this time of year, and this writer knows it - unlike you

CLECavsOutsider
CLECavsOutsider

@ikhoops  I agree, makes absolutely no sense. They are currently 10th in the East,  5½ GB of Chicago, who just beat them at home shorthanded, but 2 GM from being 13th. They failed at making the most from the Bynum situation, nothing was at risk but time and money. The guy should have been on the floor to close games, and EASILY 10-15 FGA, he barely got 8, and yet Deng comes on, and its no problem getting him 12-14 FGA easily. While Deng may bring scoring to the position, he;s also getting MORE shots there, he isn't ADDING anything dynamic, or difference making, he was on the floor in losing at Sacramento by 44 PTS. 

I just don't believe in giving up assets for a player made expendable, in the last year of his contract, when all it takes over the summer, is money and his desire to take it. Deng was offered 3 YRS/$30 MIL, I don't see him worth more than that, in 10 years he WASN'T a difference maker in Chicago. I just don't think you overpay to keep him. If he doesn't get the Cavs to the playoffs, then it only confirms him not being a difference maker. The Cavs haven't done well in the draft, so maybe in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter. I agree with the D- 

OpacTheDON
OpacTheDON

@RichardKeller The Nets should get an F. They're 3 games under .500 having played half the season. In the weak Eastern Conference they've blended in with teams like the Cavs at times. You can't honestly tell me that you thought before the season, even with D-Will and Brook Lopez out. This team was suppose to contend for a title, if one or 2 stars fall down, the other other were suppose to pick up the slack, along with their loaded bench. Payroll is 100% expectations, an organization pays the players certain amounts to reach certain expectations. And even your point of saying that they deserve a B for getting where they are is ludicrous, I'm sure the organization in the most luxury tax was not hoping to be half way through the season with a 19-22 record. The only thing where they deserve an A is their recent play, but even so I still don't think they will beat out the Raptors for the division and they look like a first round exit or a second round sweep at best.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@RichardKeller you dont watch much basketball then.  They are 2nd in the east despite heardly playing at their best and only turning it on for stretches.  This same thing happened last year.

duckfan59
duckfan59

@CraigWachsHelps to put it into context if you read the disclaimer at top of the column:

Grades are primarily determined by first-half performance relative to preseason expectations. 

Marc6
Marc6

@Nate the Pate I prefer to see teams graded based on how they've performed vs. original expectations and including injuries. Otherwise, why write an article. You'd simply look at the standings and give out the grades. Grading against expectations ties in great coaching like Stotts and Hornacek have done.

TheDistrict
TheDistrict

@Nate the Pate Yeah it is a bit ridiculous that the Bulls who lost their franchise player is graded only slightly higher than the abomination that is the Detroit Pistons. Although only four wins separate the two teams; if the writer is going to account for how much the Pistons spent on free agents he should account for the Bulls losing Rose, even if it is the second year in a row. 

TheDistrict
TheDistrict

@PaulWeeldreyer Yeah it's weird that the writer account for how much the roster cost to put together, yet wouldn't account for the benefit of tanking over winning a few more meaningless games and not getting a top-3 pick. 

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@MikeKulpaA hack because he didn't like your team.... LOL..... dude you just sound plain homer - everyone knows why the Knicks deserve an F

mjw149
mjw149

@MikeKulpa I'm a Knicks fan.  F is right.  


How is it that one of the largest cities in the entire world, with some of the best schools and some of the smartest money people in the ENTIRE WORLD, has TWO extremely rich franchises run by owners who don't understand salary caps, training science or basketball analytics?


This Knicks team looked like contenders.  You know, LAST year, before they traded Lin and Novak.  Even with Chandler back, they haven't looked nearly as good, even if they beat the (underachieving) Heat.  This is a team that can barely compete, let alone contend but all the draft picks are gone.  How could this happen in just one short year?

cc24ny
cc24ny

@MikeKulpa I don't think he's a hack, but I do think he's lazy and unprofessional. 

pdiamond
pdiamond

@MikeKulpaI assume you're kidding but, well, you never know around here.  You're calling the guy a 'hack' because he didn't feel like he needed to explain why and how the Knicks are terrible this year?  Really?  Most people would agree that no explanation is needed. If you think about it, the fact that they have the talent to beat the Heat on a given night, and yet suck so righteously almost every other night, is reason enough to give them an F.  And this has been going on for 2 or 3 generations.

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@J DiddyCavs do get a lower grade, but come on - that Bynum deal was smart and anyone with a brain knows it. 

AaronDunckel
AaronDunckel

@DeanHewittMiami is breaking down just like last year at this time?  Really?  They are similarly situated and have been visibly disinterested just as they were last year around January and early February.  Pay attention to the whole thing and not just the big headlines

pickle
pickle

@DeanHewitt I think he is giving Miami an A because just like last year they underachieved in the regular season for their talent level but dominated the playoffs. Lebron and co. know that they just need to get a top 4 seed and they will be able to at least get the rematch with Indiana. Still, I would probably give them a B.

J Diddy
J Diddy

@DeanHewitt I'm a Bulls fan, too, and agree with most of your thoughts. But I still think it's fools gold with our Bullies right now. They're winning on grit and tenacity--which is enough to beat everyone in the East except Miami and Indy. However, their future (and any title hopes) is in the upcoming draft, bringing over Mirotic (sp? LOL), Butler & Taj continuing to develop, and a healthy D-Rose. My point: Winning this year only helps one of those things (the development of Butler & Taj).


I'm not suggesting tanking (I'm too afraid Thibs might read this and come after me! :), but the best thing would be for 4 or 5 other teams in the East to wake up and push the Bulls out of the playoff picture. Noah, Boozer, and Butler aren't winning a championship. And that's the goal for this franchise, not just getting to the playoffs and maybe out of the first round. We aren't the Hawks or Cavs for Heaven's sake. ;)

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Joe R2 And you keep reading his column.  That'll really show him.

pickle
pickle

@mjw149 @MikeKulpa Agree completely. I am also a Knicks fan and I was simply floored when I heard that the big offseason moves to help them make the Eastern Finals were getting Ron Artest and Bargnani. Immediately I knew that the season was lost and I haven't even watched a single game. I don't think I will until there is some new management. 


Call me a fair weather fan, but I just can't even stand to watch when I know that my mom could probably make better offseason moves than this franchise. 

TheDistrict
TheDistrict

@cc24ny @MikeKulpa Did you read the descriptions of any of the other teams? He gives plenty of good reasons for his grades and offers a lot of interesting data points - clearly he's done his homework. Just because he did't grade the Knicks doesn't mean he's lazy and unprofessional. 

JustinLerner24
JustinLerner24

 @MikeKulpa im a die hard knick fan... but he got it spot on, the knicks dont even deserve an explanation 

J Diddy
J Diddy

@AaronDunckel Wait, how was the Bynum deal smart? Did he add even one extra win for the money and headaches the Cavs expended on him? He didn't even last until the all star break. No, it was a useless move for them in the offseason that cost them more in team chemistry than anything they gained. 


Now, if you're talking about sending him over for Deng, then yes, that was a brilliant, can't-lose deal for them. But that's not what I was referring to in my original comment.