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Friday, February 9, 2007
Second semester grades for all 30 teams

By Royce Webb
ESPN.com

Editor's note: These second semester grades originally appeared in ESPN.com's Daily Dime on February 9.

After 50 games, are they who we thought they were? Let's assess each team's season so far, taking into account its preseason goals.

ATLANTIC


Toronto Raptors: After a 2-8 start, Team Canada has left the Titanic wreckage behind with an ideal combination of Bosh, grit, Euro know-how and dynamic point guard play. Someday they may even get on TV. Grade: A


New Jersey Nets: Charles Barkley picked New Jersey to win the Eastern Conference. And there's nothing the Nets could use more than Prime Chuck right now to provide some muscle in the middle. Grade: D


New York Knicks: From what I hear, the Bockers are bouncing back ... yeah, with a 36-win pace and a "star" center who averages seven boards. Grade: C


Philadelphia 76ers: A tale of two seasons, and of two Andres, who are finding that happiness is A.I. and C-Webb in your rearview mirror. Grade: D+


Boston Celtics: A 16-game losing streak gets an F, but the C's are developing their promising kiddies (and positioning themselves for Lottery Love). Grade: C-


CENTRAL


Detroit Pistons: No jackrabbit start this season, which is probably for the best. Maybe this year slow and steady wins the East, as in 2004 and 2005. So far, the C-Webb addition has provided a chemical boost. Grade: B


Cleveland Cavaliers: There's plenty of concern in Cleveland, and for good reason, but the team is still on a pace to win 47 games and they still have LeBron. If they can make the offense functional, they're dangerous. Grade: C


Chicago Bulls: Scary, deep, gritty ... and inconsistent. If they can find a higher offensive gear, or get another scorer, they can take the conference. Grade: B


Indiana Pacers: Controversy aside, Indiana is a serious sleeper, having won six of nine and standing just four games back of conference-leading Detroit. Grade: C


Milwaukee Bucks: Redd's injury derailed a promising run, meaning Milwaukee is probably left to hope for a favorable bounce of the ping-pong balls, a la 2005. Grade: D


SOUTHEAST


Washington Wizards: Plenty of thrills, but ... 'til 'Tawn's return, even Agent Zero and Caron can't produce those 110-a-night pointfests. Grade: B+


Orlando Magic: They once led the conference, but now it's not clear that this odd collection can avoid the lottery -- which has been a disaster for Orlando the past two years. Grade: B-


Miami Heat: D-Wade's giving his all, but the rest of these under-.500 jokers are once again making a mockery of the regular season . . . and apparently getting away with it. Grade: C-


Atlanta Hawks: The Bouncing Baby Hawks have put together enough highlights to serve the legacy of Dominque and Spud Webb well. It's not clear they have a team, though. Grade: C


Charlotte Bobcats: Some nice pieces and nice wins for MJ's squad, but Morrison's catastrophic season has undone a lot of good work by Okafor, Wallace, May and Carroll. Grade: C-


SOUTHWEST


Dallas Mavericks: The perfect team for the long haul of the season? Not as spectacular as the Suns, but the reigning West champs seem to have the winning formula. Grade: A+


San Antonio Spurs: Sleeping giants or fading stars? The Spurs still spook the West, but no one imagined they'd be seven games back and trying to stay out of the fifth seed. Grade: B-


Houston Rockets: The NBA's most overlooked team has thrived with Yao sidelined, as T-Mac's back and Van Gundy's D have made them the West's best dark horse. Grade: A-


NO/OK Hornets: Somehow the Hornets -- apparently supported by Byron Scott's backbone -- have stayed in the playoff race even with injuries to a number of key players, including CP3. Grade: B


Memphis Grizzlies: They have the worst record, play no D, fired their coach, tried and failed to sell the team, and are trying to trade their disenchanted star. Funny thing is, you can see the seeds for a quick turnaround if they can make some savvy deals and get lucky in the lottery. Grade: F+


NORTHWEST


Utah Jazz: The occasional controversy aside, this has been an almost perfect bounce-back year for Sloan's style of ball, with players like Boozer, Williams and Okur working his methodical system. Grade: A-


Denver Nuggets: We really won't know about this team until we see Iverson and Melo play together for a stretch. Question: Can their offense overcome their defense? Grade: Incomplete


Minnesota Timberwolves: There have been bright spots, but Minnesota needs a good look in the mirror. Despite some dramatic wins and a new coach, they're still out of the playoffs. Grade: C-


Portland Trail Blazers: Yes, it's been a very encouraging season, and, yes, we're grading on a curve, but the new and improved Blazers are still somewhere shy of mediocre. Love those rooks, though! Grade: B-


Seattle SuperSonics: No organization west of Atlanta seems more lost in space. Coming or going? Buying or selling? Building or rebuilding? Hill or Wilkens? And what of Ray and Rashard? Grade: D+


PACIFIC


Phoenix Suns: Their depth is an issue, but otherwise the Sublime Six -- Nash, Marion, Amare, Diaw, Bell, Barbosa -- and D'Antoni are having a dream season and recreating the game. Grade: A+


Los Angeles Lakers: It's not quite clear yet what they've got there, but Phil and Kobe's big achievement is that the league takes the Lakers seriously once again. Should be a formidable playoff foe. Grade: A-


Los Angeles Clippers: They're slow, uninspired, and overrated, and yet the Clips have climbed back into the race and could give a smaller team like Phoenix trouble in the postseason -- again. Grade: C


Golden State Warriors: No team is more fun to watch, as long as you're not too hung up on winning and losing. They play faster than Phoenix, no lie. Grade: C


Sacramento Kings: They're infuriating to watch, with the kind of chemistry you see in the last pickup game of the night. If there's a program, Artest and Bibby aren't with it. Grade: D

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