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NBA – Mid Season Grades

We’ve crossed the halfway point of the 2022-23 NBA season so it’s time to check in with all 30 teams and see how they’re tracking.

Atlanta Hawks: C-

The Atlanta Hawks had put all of their eggs in the offensive basket before pivoting to start this season by trading for Dejounte Murray.

Murray has helped. The Hawks finished the 2021-22 NBA season ranked 26th in defensive rating. With Murray, they’re up to 16th. Offensively, however, the Hawks have dropped from a 2nd-ranked 116.5 offensive rating to 19th scoring only 113.6 points per 100 possessions.

At 24-24, the Hawks have disappointed and are unlikely to improve on their first-round playoff appearance last season.

Boston Celtics: A

The Boston Celtics entered the NBA season as $7 favourites to win the championship and have the best record in basketball at the halfway point to be 35-13 and top of the Eastern Conference.

If not for Nikola Jokic’s ridiculous season, Jayson Tatum would be more of a factor in the race to win the Most Valuable Player award. He has been fantastic to average 31 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. In the top ten in both offence and defence, the Celtics are the team to beat in the NBA championship market at $4.50.

Brooklyn Nets: B

The Brooklyn Nets have shown enough throughout positive periods (mostly since Steve Nash left) to suggest they’re capable of putting it all together in the post-season. Winners of 12 on the bounce at one stage, the Nets are an offensive juggernaut when they want to be and are playing with the 7th-best defence allowing 111.9 points per 100 possessions.

They’re inconsistent. Ben Simmons is being hammered one week and praised the next which goes a long way to describing the Nets in general. But as their $8 to win the championship suggests, they’re capable of getting out of the Eastern Conference. Nobody will want to play Kevin Durant in an NBA Finals series.

Charlotte Hornets: F

Wasn’t this team meant to be kind of good this season?

The Charlotte Hornets finished the 2021-22 NBA season with a 43-39 record for 10th in the Eastern Conference. The expectation was for them to at least go close to recreating that record if not beating it. After ranking 9th and 23rd in offence and defence last season, the Hornets are currently 29th and 27th to be one of the worst teams in the league.

“We’re tanking for Victor Wembanyama” doesn’t begin to justify the Hornets’ season so far.

Chicago Bulls: D

It’s going to take a lot to start trusting the Chicago Bulls again.

They’ve played through some positive periods but have ultimately disappointed throughout the first half of the NBA season to be 22-24 for 10th in the Eastern Conference. They were at the top of the East at roughly this point last season…

Rumours around Zach LaVine’s potential departure haven’t helped. Nor has the unavailability of Lonzo Ball. The Bulls are trending upward right now, but it doesn’t feel like it will be long before they trip up again.

Cleveland Cavaliers: A-

Donovan Mitchell truthers unite!

Plenty questioned how much he could improve the Cleveland Cavaliers on his arrival. As it turns out, Mitchell is just what the doctor ordered. He is paring up wonderfully with Darius Garland for the Cavaliers to be 9th in offensive rating. Overall, though, it’s their 2nd ranked defence that has the Cavaliers at 29-19 for 5th in the East.

A lot needs to break right for the Cavaliers to really challenge for the NBA title, but their $19 is worth investigating.

Dallas Mavericks: B-

It’s taking Luka Doncic to average 33.6 points, 8 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game just for the Dallas Mavericks to be a middling team in the Western Conference. He is playing incredible basketball but not getting enough from those around him for the Mavericks to truly threaten the championship contenders. If they can pull something at the trade deadline, perhaps that idea changes by playoff time.

Denver Nuggets: A

The Denver Nuggets are the best team in the Western Conference.

Nikola Jokic is the best player in the NBA and $1.91 favourite to win the Most Valuable Player award.

They opened the season at $18 to win the championship and have shortened from $11 to $9 in the last week alone. It still feels as though they aren’t being taken as seriously as the Celtics, Bucks, Warriors and Nets, but perhaps it’s time they were?

Detroit Pistons: B-

Any hope of substantial improvement went out the door with Cade Cunningham’s season-ending injury.

The flashes of potential don’t shine quite so bright without last year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft out there adding to it. The Detroit Pistons aren’t good. They are jostling with the Houston Rockets for the worst record in the NBA. But given the preseason expectations and Cunningham’s injury, they deserve some credit for offering hope for the future.

Golden State Warriors: C

What a strange, strange season it has been so far for the Golden State Warriors.

From the start when Draymond Green threw one at Jordan Poole to losing seven of their first ten games, and Steph Curry’s injury, things have never looked entirely comfortable for the Warriors.

Still, they remain on the 5th line of betting in the championship market – just behind the impressive Nuggets – at $9.50. Like the Nets, the good times are enough to suggest this experienced group can come together when it matters and make a deep run through the playoffs.

Houston Rockets: F

The Houston Rockets play with the 30th-ranked offence and 28th-ranked defence to have the worst record in the NBA.

They’re little more than a strong argument for promotion and relegation as they tank for the right to draft Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Indiana Pacers: B+

Not every Indiana Pacers fan will be happy to be 23-25 for 9th in the Eastern Conference this deep into the season. A handful of early-season trade possibilities brought with them the idea of an all-out tank job. But, in spite of themselves, they’re on the cusp of a playoff berth if they can finish the season strong.

More frustrating for the already unhappy Pacers contingent is the likelihood they end up as a middling team down the draft order and out of the playoffs with FiveThirtyEight handing them just a 20% chance of reaching the postseason.

LA Clippers: C

The LA Clippers continue to walk like they’ve been there and done it all before. In reality, and like another Clippers team in the past, inconsistency and injuries have them falling short of expectations already.

When you’re relying on a superstar that says he wants to play but so often doesn’t, it’s difficult to develop any chemistry and cohesion on the court. Given the injury issues that often plague Paul George, the Clippers haven’t spent enough time with their best rotation out on the court.

It’s all looking a little bit too familiar at the moment.

Los Angeles Lakers: D

The front office deserves an F on its own.

38-year-old LeBron James is still one of the best players in the NBA averaging 29.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists a night and the Los Angeles Lakers are wasting what could be his last truly dominant season in the league.

The Russell Westbrook trade was doomed to fail from the start. Anybody with an ounce of knowledge could see that. Now, those that signed off on the trade are refusing to give up the pick required to correct it…

Sure, they could pull off a trade close to the deadline, but like the Clippers above, developing chemistry and cohesion becomes a hurdle they’re unlikely to clear before the playoffs if they even get that far.

Memphis Grizzlies: A-

The Memphis Grizzlies talk as though they’re the best team in the NBA.

It’s becoming a minor issue as they move from a middling Western Conference playoff team to genuine championship contenders.

“It’s the latest chapter in Memphis’ cringeworthy “we hate you, too” approach to this NBA season. They’ve had words with the Golden State Warriors which ended with them being humbled on Christmas Day. They’ve contributed to a stink in defeat to an average Lakers side. So far, the chatter coming from the Grizzlies seems to be doing more harm than good at times.” Week 14 In Review

Despite all of that, something special is building in Memphis around Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Miami Heat: B-

The Miami Heat are 26-22 to be 6th in the Eastern Conference, but it’s been a tough slog to get here. They’ve corrected a poor start to the NBA season as most expected they would, but they have a huge job ahead of them if they’re to correct their 28th-ranked offence scoring only 111.4 points per 100 possessions.

A tough playoff opposition, possibly as far as the second round, looks like the peak for this group right now.

Milwaukee Bucks: B

Khris Middleton has missed a lot of time. So too has Giannis Antetokounmpo. This group is so in-tune with each other at full strength that they can cruise through the regular season fairly comfortably.

There isn’t a lot to say about them at the moment.

At 30-17 to be 3rd in the East and having done it with relative ease despite the injuries, the Bucks’ $6.50 appeals.

Minnesota Timberwolves: F

Everybody expected a few teething issues.

Given the weird narrative around Rudy Gobert, it was never going to take much for some people to overly critique his influence on the struggles.

Still, it’s not looking good…

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the hunt for the play-in tournament but nobody is taking them seriously. Anthony Edwards has taken full control of the team while D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are being thrown up in trade scenarios.

Gobert, Edwards, Russell and Towns.

That should be a pretty good team but it is already becoming clear that it won’t be.

New Orleans Pelicans: B+

The New Orleans Pelicans are an A-grade team with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herbert Jones all healthy. CJ McCollum has shown his value by keeping this team competitive while dealing with the injuries.

Williamson, in particular, has been superb. The extended period in which he was finally able to stay on the court translated into 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

With a Top 10 defence and the potential for a Top 10 offence (currently 12th) if they can keep everyone fit, the Pelicans aren’t far off becoming a real threat in the West.

New York Knicks: B

To be barely above .500 at 25-23 shouldn’t be enough for the New York Knicks to be graded with a B given their stature in the game, but here we are. Thankfully, they’re making promising improvements and developing some consistency this season.

They’re at 55% to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2013 per FiveThirtyEight. Reaching the first round will be enough to call this season a success.

Oklahoma City Thunder: B

At 23-24 roughly halfway through the NBA season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are only one or two wins from clearing their preseason win total depending on the number.

Chet Holmgren’s injury put an end to any sort of hope for this season, but with the All-Star play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder haven’t been given the option to tank.

The Canadian is scoring an impressive 30.7 points per game while dragging down 4.8 rebounds and handing out 5.5 assists per game along the way. Defensively, he’s averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks to be a constant threat without the ball.

He’s a bit of a one-man band at the moment, but there are good signs in Oklahoma City. Add Holmgren to the mix next season and we might be looking at a playoff team.

Orlando Magic: C

Orlando Magic against the Celtics: A+++

The Magic have beaten the Celtics three times this season. However, when they aren’t playing the best team in the NBA, Orlando has managed just a 15-29 record. Strange…

Also strange, this team can lose nine on the bounce before winning ten of their next 15 games.

While they might not be particularly good, the Magic are interesting. Paolo Banchero is worth checking out as the $1.08 favourite to win Rookie of the Year at the very least.

Philadelphia 76ers: B

Joel Embiid, James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers are flying under the radar by their standards.

On the court the 76ers are 30-16 to be 2nd in the East. Their offence (8th) and defence (4th) both rank inside the Top 10 in the NBA. Off the court, outside of weird Harden rumour surrounding his possible return to Houston, it’s nice and relatively quiet. Basketball is the focus and – surprise! – they’re pretty good.

Phoenix Suns: D

Unlike the Warriors, goodwill doesn’t provide any confidence in the Phoenix Suns.

It really looks like they have missed the boat as championship contenders for the time being.

Devin Booker is very, very good but can’t stay on the floor. Meanwhile, Jae Crowder hasn’t managed to get out there once. The Deandre Ayton situation doesn’t seem entirely sorted and Father Time has caught up to Chris Paul.

The Suns played with an offence and defence inside the Top 4 to have the best net rating in the NBA last season. In this one, they’re middling on both sides of the ball for a 13th-ranked +0.7 net rating.

Portland Trail Blazers: D

“When you’re dropping 50 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers and still losing, things must surely start to sour.” Week 13 In Review

This Portland Trail Blazers season is the story of Damian Lillard’s career.

He’s averaging 29.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game to be one of the best players in the NBA. However, the lack of top-shelf talent around him puts a ceiling on this team and not even 50 points are enough to pick up a win.

This Blazers team has the same record as the Lakers and is behind the Thunder and Timberwolves…

Sacramento Kings: A-

The Sacramento Kings haven’t featured in the NBA playoffs for 16 seasons.

At 27-19 and 3rd in the West, they’re at 75% to end the drought. Any other team and we’d wave them in from here, but this is the Kings. Nobody will believe they’re in the post-season until the First Round tips off.

San Antonio Spurs: C

The San Antonio Spurs didn’t want to be good this season. Even when they started with a 5-2 record, everybody anticipated the tumble that has seen them lose 32 of the following 41 games since.

Now 14-33 with a 12.5% chance of ending up with the #1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Spurs are only a few losses away from where they want to be.

Toronto Raptors: D

Pascal Siakam played like an NBA MVP to start the season but his injury put a dagger in the Toronto Raptors playoff hopes. They’re still a chance, but the talk of Fred VanVleet being on his way out suggests the front office is well aware of the fact that the Raptors are too far behind the pack in a stacked East to contend.

They’re a middling team to be 17th in net rating and don’t have the depth to make a run late in the season.

Utah Jazz: B

This is classic Jazz, isn’t it?

They can’t suck no matter how hard they try.

By trading away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz appeared to be going deep into tank mode. Instead, they landed the $1.72 favourite to win the Most Improved Player award.

Lauri Markkanen in 2021-22: 30.8 minutes, 14.8 points, 44.5% FG, 35.8% 3FG, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists

Lauri Markkanen in 2022-23: 34.2 minutes, 24.8 points, 52.1%FG, 42.9% 3FG, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists

Washinton Wizards: D

The Washington Wizards, once again, are a trade team at this point of the NBA season. They’re 20-26, unlikely to feature in the playoffs, and aren’t particularly set up well for the future either.

Rui Hachimura is already out the door and Kyle Kuzma could soon follow him.

Kuzma, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis all averaging over 20 points is enjoyable to watch but isn’t translating into enough wins.

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