The season is half over so I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how each team has fared so far and give them mid-season grades.
Let’s start with the Eastern Conference, going in order of current standing.
Miami Heat: A+: The East is as predictable as the West is unpredictable. I don’t think there’s a person on the planet who didn’t think Miami and Chicago would be the top 2 teams. LeBron is having his best season as a professional and has also managed to stay away from twitter, interviews, hour-long specials, and every other way he put his foot in his mouth last season. The supporting cast is much better this year after signing Battier, getting a steal in Norris Cole in the draft, and having a healthy Haslem and Miller. The road to the finals goes through Miami.
Chicago Bulls: A+: Only one game out of first and that’s with Rose missing a bunch of games. It doesn’t seem to matter who replaces Rose, they continued to win with John Lucas III and Mike James at the point. The best defense in the league and a deep bench. We should really just start the east playoffs with the conference finals, Chicago and Miami are so much better than the rest of the conference it’s almost unfair.
Indiana Pacers: A: This year’s most improved team. People barely talked about the David West signing, that was a very underrated move. You won’t seem them on national TV very often, so they’ve been flying under the radar and have quietly moved up to the #3 seed. This is a young team that’s is in a great situation cap-wise. They’ll need that cap space to make a move to put them in the same league with the top two teams in the conference, but even without making a move, as presently constructed they’ll be a tough out for years to come.
Philadelphia 76ers: A: Another young team that has plenty of room to get a lot better. They’ve come back to earth lately with 5 losses in a row, but for a good part of the season they had the biggest point differential. They’re another team no one wants to see in the first round.
Orlando Magic: B+: It’s hard to grade them no knowing if Dwight Howard is going to get traded or not. They’ve been playing well so far but the trade rumors have to be weighing on everyone in the locker room. If they do trade Howard, hopefully they can throw in one or two of their terrible contracts or it’s going to be a long rebuilding period. And what happened to Glen Davis? He’s been terrible this season.
Atlanta Hawks: B: Same old story, they’re in 6th right now, will finish in the 4-6 range and lose in the 1st or 2nd round. They have a lot of good players, but no one that is a game changer. At what point do they realize they’ve peaked and blow it up to rebuild?
New York Knicks: C+: Three weeks ago Knicks fans were trying to figure out if the Knicks would finish bad enough to be able to use their protected draft pick. Then Linsanity hit and the Knicks are in 7th place. (still under .500 but it’s the east) Carmelo Anthony seems to be making a huge effort to fit into the offense and what was once a very shallow team has turned into a very deep team with the emergence of Novak, Harrellson, Shumpert and the signings of Baron Davis and JR Smith. There’s one problem though. One 100 million dollar problem. Amar’e Stoudemire has been terrible. When your 100 million dollar man has 4 uninsured years left on his contract, looks like an old man lumbering up and down the court, refuses to play defense and now can’t even hit a shot or rebound it’s downright scary. Maybe he’ll come out after the break and look like the MVP Amar’e of last season, or maybe he’ll end up being this decade’s Allan Houston.
Boston Celtics: C-: I’ll start off with something positive. They won the Glen Davis for Brandon Bass trade. That’s all I got. Terrible bench other than Bass and Avery Bradley and old and injured starters. They’re basically hoping to catch fire for the playoffs, but to do that I’d really try to get to the 6th seed because they aren’t beating Miami or Chicago.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B-: This is the 9th best team in the conference. Man, the East sucks. Basically every team from here on down has no chance at making the playoffs unless Garnett and/or Amar’es knees explode. Actually….let’s not count them out yet. Kyrie Irving has lived up to his #1 pick selection and Tristan Thompson has been very good as well. In a season with no expectations they’ve been able to give their young guys a lot of playing time and have been winning in the process. A good sign of things to come.
Milwaukee Bucks: D+: For the first time in 4 years, I didn’t fall for their tricks. They always look good before the season starts, then everyone immediately gets injured and/or starts playing like crap. Same thing this year, Bogut is injured. Again. Stephen Jackson is complaining and the Bucks are losing.
Detroit Pistons: D+: They’ve won more than I expected. That being said, they are terrible. I can’t think of a team in the league that has as many bad contracts as the Pistons. They are lucky they drafted Greg Monroe or they might be as bad as Charlotte.
Toronto Raptors: D: Drafting and signing a bunch of European players no one has ever heard of didn’t turn out to be a good strategy? Who would have thought! They’ve been in rebuilding mode for as long as I can remember and never get any better. They only reason they don’t get an F is because I’m saving that for the next 3 teams.
New Jersey Nets: F: Looks like the Russian billionaire got bored after one season as owner. Brook Lopez getting injured has hurt them, but their 3rd best player is Mr. Kardashian, or Mr. Ex-Kardashian. I have a feeling Deron Williams will be going to Dallas next season and they’ll be even worse in 2013.
Washington Wizards: F: The decision-making on this team is almost comical. Rashard Lewis is even worse this year, officially making this the worst contract of any player in the league (until Gilbert Arenas starts playing or Amar’es knees explode).
Charlotte Bobcats: F————: I picked them to be the worst team in the league and I was so right. Of course what do you expect when they have one of the worst owners in the leauge. In the last 3 years the Bobcats have given up all of these players for almost nothing in return: Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, and Gerald Wallace. I’m not sure what the strategy of getting rid of anyone who does well on your team is, but Michael Jordan has been using this strategy to the point that his top 3 players are D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Boris Diaw.