The mid-term grades

US PresswireThe following grades are not meant as a means of comparing teams to each other. Instead they are designed to evaluate how each team is measuring up to pre-season expectations. So, no matter what a team’s record might be, a C grade indicates that the team is playing approximately the way it should be playing. Similarly, A’s and B’s signify teams that are overachieving, while D’s and F’s indicate underachievers.

There are no adjustments made for injuries since virtually every ball club has had key players unavailable fort various periods.
ATLANTA: Still erratic and struggling to live up to their full potential. Looks like they’ll never get there. Grade: C+
BOSTON: Sooner or later Father Time always wins. Time for Danny Ainge to wheel, deal, back up the truck, and speak the R-word – “rebuilding”. Grade: D
CHARLOTTE: From last season to this season, the Bobcats have gone from bad to worst. Their only hope for the future is to have David Stern declare them an expansion team and allow them to draft a new roster from the other teams’ dregs. Grade: F
CHICAGO: One of the handful of teams that have legitimate championship aspirations. If only they could, indeed, trade Carlos Boozer for Pau Gasol the Bulls might easily recapture the rapture of the Jordan years. Grade: C
CLEVELAND: After being desolated, dispirited and dissed by The King, Cleveland has found a new hero in Kyrie Irving. Byron Scott has somehow held things together and the Cavs now have a viable future. Grade: A
DALLAS: The dismantling of the reigning champions was both rude and discouraging, yet the Mavs remain competitive. Credit Rick Carlisle’s leadership, and Dirk Nowitzki’s return to form. Even so, there’s no way the Mavs can defend their title. Grade: C+
DENVER: By default, Al Harrington is their only semi-reliable go-to scorer. Not signing JR Smith was an example of addition by subtraction. But Wilson Chandler is missed. Grade: D+
DETROIT: The dullest team in the league remains stuck on a treadmill to oblivion. Perhaps President Barack Obama can now bail out the Pistons. Grade: C-
GOLDEN STATE: Despite Mark Jackson’s predictions of glory, the Warriors still feature more flash than substance. Grade: C
HOUSTON: Champs at home, chumps on the road, the emergence of Kyle Lowry still has the Rockets moving in the right direction. Grade: C+
INDIANA: Have improved from solid mediocrity to a solid second-tier ball club. Still a player or two short of becoming an elite team yet have unquestionably stepped up the pace. Grade: A
LA CLIPPERS: The influential presence of Chris Paul has elevated the Clipsters to powerhouse status. They still have too many shortcomings to supplant the Mavs, but nobody will look forward to playing the LAC come the playoffs. Grade: C+
LA LAKERS: Jimmy Buss gave away Lamar Odom, hired the wrong coach for the wrong reasons, fostered anti-Phil Jackson paranoia throughout the front office, and is probably on the verge of making a ruinous trade. A solid golden franchise has been transformed into a handful of tinsel. Grade: D+
US PresswireMIAMI: The quickest, most alert defense in the league, plus a pair of dreadnaught scorers and an improved bench have made the Heat the team to beat. Unless LeBron James does his habitual postseason choke, Miami seems destined to win the last game of the season. Grade: B- 
MEMPHIS: In the absence of Zach Randolph, Gasol the Younger and Rudy Gay have become franchise players. A good team that has the potential to eventually evolve into a great one. Grade: C+
MILWAUKEE: This was supposed to be a breakout season. Instead it’s been another breakdown season. Too bad Brandon Jennings isn’t quite as good as he thinks he is. Grade: C-
MINNESOTA: If the league has caught up with Ricky Rubio to a certain degree, his unselfishness and court vision has made the T-Wolves the most improved outfit in the NBA. Grade: A+
NEW JERSEY: If the present is a nightmare, the future could be a dream come true. Props to Deron Williams for not losing either his mind or his game. BTW, Brook Lopez is a floor-bound, defenseless, inept rebounding, inferior passing white-hopeless. His robotic moves are enhanced by his ability to bag short- and mid-range jumpers. Why Orlando would even consider accepting him in a trade for Dwight Howard is a mystery. Grade: C-
NEW ORLEANS: Ouch! Not even Mighty Mouse could save the day. Grade: D+
US PresswireNEW YORK: After Miami stuffed Linsanity into a straitjacket with relentlessly quick defensive pressure that exposed (among other flaws) his too-high dribble, the Knicks might have peaked. Even so, there’s life back in the Apple and in the NBA, and Mike D’Antoni is still employed. Grade: B-
OKLAHOMA CITY: Kevin Durant is playing like he wants to be the league’s MVP for the foreseeable future, James Harden has become a dependably explosive scorer off the bench, Russell Westbrook is showing a modicum of good judgment, and Serge Ibaka is a shot-blocking dynamo. The Thunder seem to have a lock on the Western Conference. Grade: B+
ORLANDO: Dwight Howard should take Magic Johnson’s advice and just shut up and play. The big guy’s adolescent musings have eroded the soul of his team, leading to too many listless performances. Get him out of town ASAP. Grade: C-
PHILADELPHIA: When coaching the Bulls, Doug Collins was a loose cannon always on the verge of some kind of emotional outburst. These days, he’s calm, cool, collected, and able to be a mature, inspirational leader. And if Andre Iguodala is the team’s certified All-Star, Lou Williams is the MVP. Grade: B+
PHOENIX: How sad to see Steve Nash wandering in the desert in his declining years. He should be rescued from his own good intentions and dealt to a contender. Grade: D+
PORTLAND: The coming-of-age of LaMarcus Aldridge almost makes up for the retirement of Brandon Roy. Almost. Too bad the Trail Blazers are forced to play half of their games away from the cozy confines of the Rose Garden. Grade: C-
SACRAMENTO: Couldn’t possibly be worse than last season, but that’s small comfort. Too bad there’s no help in sight. Grade: C+
SAN ANTONIO: These guys were supposed to be old and in the way, but Tim Duncan has shown flashes of his past brilliance, Tony Parker is playing like a single man on the loose and Pop has carefully nurtured the young’uns. Overall, the Spurs are much sharper than expected. Grade: B+
TORONTO: An ill-matched, declawed roster, heading nowhere slowly. Grade: C
UTAH: Jerry Sloan made his exit stage-right just in time. The Jazz play like hardened veteran at home, and like buzz-brained rookies on the road. Grade: C
WASHINGTON: Flip Saunders took the fall even though he had nothing to do with assembling this squad of extremely talented players who don’t understand how to play basketball. Ernie Grunfeld must have in his possession a photograph of Ted Leonsis in a highly compromising position. Grade: F+

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