We’re at the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season, so it’s only right we take a look at how every team has fared up so far and hand out midterm grades.
Keep in mind that these grades are fully based on context and expectations and not determined simply by how teams have done in a vacuum.
Here are the grades for the Eastern Conference, with the West marks coming on Tuesday.
It’s no surprise how much they’ve struggled considering the roster is bare of top-end talent. They’ve at least been developing some of the younger guys in the process – John Collins, DeAndre Bembry and Taurean Prince – but are knocked slightly for being tied with the worst record in the league.
Standing: 2nd in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 104.4 (21st)
Defensive rating: 100.9 (1st)
No one expected them to be doing this well after Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome injury just five minutes into the season, yet they’ve been one of the top contenders in the East. Their recent dip is fairly concerning, but in the context of the bigger picture, they’re well ahead of schedule.
Standing: 13th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 103.1 (24th)
Defensive rating: 107.9 (23rd)
This is a team that has zero incentive to tank because they of course don’t own their draft pick this year. So 19 wins at the All-Star break is a little disappointing, but they’ve also been without Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell for most of the season. Spencer Dinwiddie, however, has been a pleasant revelation.
Standing: 10th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 104.9 (17th)
Defensive rating: 105.8 (14th)
A return to the playoffs was the expectation ahead of the season, especially with the addition of Dwight Howard, but Charlotte have become stale. And unlike other lottery-bound teams, the Hornets don’t have much up-and-coming talent they can build around and take solace in.
Standing: 12th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 101.8 (28th)
Defensive rating: 108.2 (25th)
Chicago were widely considered the worst team in the league coming into the season, so they’ve done well to overachieve with 20 wins so far. Promising player development, however, has costed them a more favourable position in the draft lottery, but they’re still in position to nab a top pick.
Standing: 3rd in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 110.1 (5th)
Defensive rating: 109.8 (28th)
If we were grading Cleveland up until the trade deadline, they would undoubtedly receive an F. But the moves they made to overhaul the roster and breathe new life into the team have so far appeared to work. After floundering early, the Cavaliers look poised to reach the NBA Finals again.
Standing: 9th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 104.6 (18th)
Defensive rating: 105.0 (10th)
They’ve been the definition of average, but the trade for Blake Griffin before the deadline added some life and a foundation piece for the future. If the Pistons can get their act together on the road (19-12 at home, 9-17 away), they should be able to snag one of the final playoff spots.
Standing: 5th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 108.4 (6th)
Defensive rating: 106.4 (17th)
Are the Pacers a serious threat to make noise in the playoffs and reach the Finals? No, but considering how much grief they endured after trading Paul George in what seemed like a lopsided deal, they’ve come out smelling like roses with the leap Victor Oladipo has made into a legit All-Star.
Standing: 8th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 103.1 (25th)
Defensive rating: 104.4 (8th)
Even though they haven’t played like the same team that went 30-11 at the end of last season (what a surprise), Miami continue to have grit and an identity that makes them tough for any opponent, night-in and night-out. It’s hard to argue Erik Spoelstra isn’t getting the most out of his players.
Standing: 6th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 107.3 (9th)
Defensive rating: 106.0 (16th)
The Bucks would receive a lower grade if not for their recent surge in the wake of firing coach Jason Kidd. Milwaukee are 9-3 since making the necessary change, but many of those wins have come against low-tier squads. At least their defence appears to finally be heading in the right direction.
Standing: 11th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 103.7 (23rd)
Defensive rating: 106.6 (18th)
Their grade isn’t for failing to meet expectations – because those were low in the first place – but for trying so hard to win. The Knicks’ primary objective should be developing Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis (now injured), but they’ve had this delusional mentality they’re good enough to fight for a playoff spot.
Standing: 14th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 104.6 (19th)
Defensive rating: 108.6 (27th)
The Magic were red hot coming out of the gates and it seemed like they might finally step out from the league’s basement. Alas, it was a mirage and since then, Orlando have arguably been the worst team in the NBA. And most damaging of all, they’ve yet to develop a franchise player.
Standing: 7th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 105.4 (15th)
Defensive rating: 102.6 (3rd)
‘The Process’ is no longer processing; it’s happening. The Sixers have turned into a playoff team fairly quickly, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both looking like foundational pieces. The only downside of the first half has been the bizarre case of Markelle Fultz, who has given them nothing so far.
Standing: 1st in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 110.7 (4th)
Defensive rating: 102.6 (4th)
There was a lot of talk about Toronto switching up their style of play this season and they’ve backed that up by being a modern team. They’ve been the best team in the East and are the only side, along with Golden State, to rank top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Standing: 4th in Eastern Conference
Offensive rating: 107.1 (11th)
Defensive rating: 105.3 (12th)
If it wasn’t for the Cavaliers, the spotlight would burn a lot brighter in Washington, where there always appears to be drama. They’ve fared well in John Wall’s absence, but there are lingering chemistry issues and for as much talent as they have, they often act like bullies despite not earning that right.
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