Posted April 15, 2014

Midseason grades for all 30 NBA teams

Ben Golliver
NBA Midseason Grades

Of the 30 teams, seven earned A’s at the midseason point, while two brought home F’s. (Getty Images)

The midway point of the season is here. How has your favorite team fared? Below are grades for all 30 teams.

Note: Grades are primarily determined by performance relative to preseason expectations. The letter grade also takes into account health-related issues, signings and trades made during the season and the impact of major offseason moves. Significant injuries to star players, especially those with multiyear implications, will be reflected in the letter grade and detailed in the accompanying explanations.

(All stats and records are through Jan. 23.)

Atlanta Hawks: B+

22-19, No. 3 in the East

Remember when the Monopoly Community Chest would hit you with the “You have won second prize in a beauty contest, collect $10″ card and you didn’t know whether to excitedly cash it in or take offense at what could be interpreted as a subliminal dig at your appearances from an inanimate board game? Congrats to the Hawks, the third-best team in a two-team conference, the NBA’s ultimate beauty-contest runner-up.

Cynics will point out that Atlanta is barely above .500, has lost franchise big man Al Horford for the season and — barring a a terrible catastrophic injury to an opposing superstar — has zero shot of reaching the conference finals, rendering its No. 3 seed pretty worthless. Optimists will note that the Hawks were expected to be a sixth-seed type and have outperformed the likes of Brooklyn, New York and Chicago during what was supposed to be a retooling year as general manager Danny Ferry continued to get his roster house in order.

Both sides have merit, but I tend to side with the latter group because of the Hawks’ money management. Judge, let’s enter this player comparison as Exhibit A:

Josh Smith: 15.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 40.8 percent shooting, 23.9 percent three-point shooting, 14.4 PER, 102.5 offensive rating, 105.1 defensive rating, four years and $54 million
Paul Millsap: 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 46.8 percent shooting, 38.1 percent three-point shooting, 20.1 PER, 103.8 offensive rating, 102.3 defensive rating, two years and $19 million

The “Millsap over Smith” decision looked intelligent at the time and it looks genius now. Ferry got the better scorer, the better rebounder, the better shooter, the better three-point shooter, the smarter shot-taker and the more efficient overall player — and he paid 70 percent of the annual price and 35 percent of the total price to get it done. He ditched a player with historically awful shot selection for a strong All-Star candidate. In short, that decision has already paid dividends and it will continue to pay dividends next summer, and it’s worth bumping up this grade a notch from an otherwise bland “B,” even if the Hawks’ Horford-less postseason reality looks pretty hopeless.

GOLLIVER: The All-Gridiron Team — NBA players who would dominate in the NFL


Boston Celtics: C-

15-29, No. 12 in the East

There was a brief stay atop the putrid Atlantic Division and a few scattered patches of hope early in the season, but the Celtics have crash-landed to a predictably dismal resting place. The Celtics are just 1-12 since New Year’s Eve, their offense is an eyesore, their front line couldn’t keep Muggsy Bogues off the offensive glass and Keith Bogans apparently couldn’t take it any more. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

There’s only so much you can say about a team whose first-half highlight was either blowing out New York so badly in a noon game that Knicks coach Mike Woodson decided to impose a curfew for their next early tip; giving a touching tribute to former coach Doc Rivers on the JumboTron; floating the concept of an insanely complicated draft lottery wheel; or trading Jordan Crawford for a shot at a future first-round pick.

Rajon Rondo’s return — and the possibility for trade-deadline fireworks — casts a different light over the second half of the season. The worst-case scenario is that they tank their way through March and April, which also happens to be their best-case scenario. Dragging through a lost year is never an enjoyable experience, but at least first-year coach Brad Stevens has had some flashes as he makes the transition from the college game.

GIVE AND GO: Scoping the comeback trails of Rondo, Oden and more


Brooklyn Nets: D

18-22, No. 7 in the East

An 8-1 run through January kept this from being an abject failure, but don’t think for one second that anyone has forgotten just how low things got before the new year. “Hit me.” The painful Jason Kidd/Lawrence Frank divorce. Two solid months of flat play. A $100 million roster, whose future picks are mortgaged to the hilt, dropping games to the Cavaliers, Magic, Kings, Bobcats, Pistons, you name it. The embarrassing early exit during a blowout loss to the Spurs. An unfortunate season-ending injury to franchise center Brook Lopez. Another disappointing, injury-plagued season for Deron Williams. A truly rough start to Kevin Garnett’s post-Celtics era.

It must be mentioned — particularly for veteran-laden teams with established talent — that things could always be worse in the East. Brooklyn is within 2½ games of the Atlantic Division lead and 3½ games of the No. 3 seed, and it’s almost impossible to imagine that the second half of the season will come with as much adversity as what Kidd and company have already endured. Big picture: The Heat and Pacers aren’t going to fear the Nets in the playoffs, but a division title would at least help the franchise save a little face as it plots its next (sure-to-be-exorbitantly-expensive) move.

MAHONEY: Examining the future of USA Basketball


Al Jefferson

Will newcomer Al Jefferson lead the Bobcats to a playoff trip? (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Charlotte Bobcats: B+

19-25, No. 8 in the East

[Rubs eyes] What’s this? A bona fide overachiever in the Eastern Conference? Michael Jordan’s Bobcats have been a source of guffaws for years, but their play through the first half deserves applause. First-year coach Steve Clifford has transformed the league’s worst defense from last season into a the seventh-ranked unit — better than … wait for it … the two-time defending champion Heat! Undeterred by multiple rotation-impacting injuries, Clifford has duct-taped together a roster filled with anonymous cast-offs and kept the Bobcats in the playoff picture into January, foreign land for the franchise since the Gerald Wallace trade in 2011.

The arrival of Al Jefferson hasn’t provided much of a boost to the offense, which stills sits in the league’s bottom five, and Charlotte’s résumé of quality wins is thin. But the Bobcats have almost matched last year’s win total (21) already. Toss in the awesome Hornets rebrand and the increasing likelihood that Charlotte will have three 2014 first-round picks, and the last few months have bordered on a boom time.

CODY ZELLER: Rookie diary: Life in the NBA can snowball on you


Chicago Bulls: D

21-20, No. 5 in the East

Please don’t read this “D” as short for “disrespect.” The fact that coach Tom Thibodeau somehow has his injury- and trade-decimated team posting the league’s second-best defensive numbers would be truly insane, at least if everyone didn’t react to that fact by nodding and saying, “Of course he does.” Thibodeau, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler are treading together on an Odyssian/Herculean journey that, at best, ends with prideful anguish like last year. That’s a steep, sad drop from what was expected in October, as news of Derrick Rose’s summer rehab workouts trickled out and Chicago looked like a genuine championship contender, and perhaps Miami’s fiercest competition. That lasted all the way until Nov. 22, when Rose injured his knee on a fluky play against the Blazers and ultimately underwent season-ending surgery.

There’s just no way to spin a season in which Larry O’Brien dreams are dashed by Thanksgiving, and no organization can reasonably expect to play the “We bravely overachieved through the loss of our franchise player!” card in back-to-back seasons. Trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers for financial relief and minor draft considerations was seemingly an acknowledgement that Bulls management understood this fact, or at least realized it was time to stop clinging to the present and recent past. A team’s fate is rarely under its own control, and the remaining Bulls, unfortunately, are bystanders to their own tragedy. The knee-injury gods bear the brunt of this “D” mark.

GOLLIVER: Grading the Bulls, Cavaliers for the Luol Deng trade


Cleveland Cavaliers: C-

15-27, No. 10 in the East

Like most red-blooded Americans, I’m a big fan of HBO’s Hard Knocks, the documentary series that goes behind the scenes with a team during NFL training camp. It’s always entertaining and enlightening, bringing formerly anonymous players (often on non-marquee teams) to a nationwide audience.

Now, let’s imagine a twisted version of this show called Media Glare, in which we transport the New York City basketball media-industrial complex to a random smaller market and turn it loose on an unsuspecting NBA franchise. Ratings gold.

My pick for the first season of Media Glare would be the Cavaliers, who entered this season with a coach they had previously fired (Mike Brown), an injury-ravaged center who openly admitted to tuning out Brown during Lakers huddles (Andrew Bynum), a shocking No. 1 pick coming off injuries and quickly entering the discussion for biggest bust ever (Anthony Bennett), a potential J.R. Smith-in-training (Dion Waiters), a “quirky” owner who is desperate to win immediately (Dan Gilbert), a promising forward who just realized he is left-handed, or wait, is he right-handed (Tristan Thompson), and a media-savvy future superstar (Kyrie Irving). Just imagine the ratings potential for that group, especially if it fell on its face to open the season.

Even without the scrutiny of Media Glare, the drama material out of Cleveland has been nonstop. Brown has had some harsh words for his team after losses. Waiters disappeared amid rumors of a locker-room fight. Bynum was suspended and then traded for Luol Deng. Bennett’s Player Efficiency Rating of 1.1 is barely greater than his draft position (1) and it’s among the very, very, very worst among qualified players. Irving’s moonshot trajectory has cooled just a touch and he’s overseeing a bottom-six offense, with some observers questioning whether he’s a bit too quick to call his own number.

The trade for Deng was a bold, timely move that promises brighter days for this team over the next three months. Whether the Cavaliers lose Deng in free agency or overpay to keep him is irrelevant to their grade here; what matters, for these purposes, is that their goal of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010 is still within reach, as they sit just three games out of the eighth seed. Had they continued to slog along with Bynum or, worse yet, cut him outright with nothing to show for it, an “F” would have been the only recourse.

MAHONEY: Wall over Irving? My picks for NBA All-Star starters

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.