NBA Power Rankings: Handing out mid-season grades

The Toronto Raptors have put together a stellar season to this point. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Officially at the halfway mark of the NBA season, we have a much clearer picture of where each team is, and what direction they’re heading in with the trade deadline rapidly approaching.

Therefore, in this week’s edition of the power rankings, we’re handing out mid-season grades, judging both by where the teams are in respect to the standings and also what constitutes success for each.

Rank Team

A+: Record-wise the Dubs are the best team in the league. In reality? It’s the Spurs right now.

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A: They’re still awesome and are the heavy favourite to repeat as champs halfway through the season, but they are certainly more beatable than they seemed before, so they can’t get a perfect grade.

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A: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to do Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook things and the rest of the team is also picking it up offensively. OKC is a high-octane offensive machine right now.

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A: Kyrie Irving’s return has been an inspiration. They’ve lost only four times since he came back to the lineup and he’s just getting his legs underneath him. When he’s at full steam, look out.

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B+: Very quietly the Clippers have been playing excellent basketball and are slowly but surely working their way back to contender status. They’re not there yet, but there are clear signs of life.

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B+: The way this team has handled the injury adversity is worthy of praise, particularly because, regardless of what has happened, they’ve remained consistently good on both ends of the floor.

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B: The Hawks have been good, but not overly impressive and this mostly stems from the fact that they’re a team predicated around the three-point shot yet are in the bottom half of the league in terms of three-point percentage.

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B+: Some of the early-season headaches between coach Fred Hoiberg and some of the personnel appears to have smoothed out a little. Also, they have this this guy named Jimmy Butler who’s kind of unstoppable right now.

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B: While the defence is still solid and their starting five is as formidable as anyone’s, the early-season moves to fortify the bench haven’t really panned out. Unless a deadline move is on the way to help shore up a shaky second unit, this team will be just good—not great.

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B-: They’re locked into a playoff spot in the West, but that doesn’t really say a whole lot at the moment. The Grizzlies have been bouncing between underwhelming to mediocre all season and that hasn’t changed. One area of concern for them is that their vaunted defence has been leaky this season.

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B: Andre Drummond is almost single-handedly shaping the Pistons into a playoff team in the ultra-competitive East. He is a force of nature.

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B-: It’s a little inexplicable that the Mavs have been able to play as well as they have for this length of time. Maybe it’s the overall weakness of the West this year, but then again, Rick Carlisle is a great coach and a team full of vets should know what it takes to win.

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B: Not much has changed since the quarter-way mark with this team. Paul George is unbelievable and they play strong defence, but their lack of offensive diversity still holds them back.

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B+: Despite the recent rough patch they’ve gone through, the Celtics look more and dangerous with each game they play. Boston ranks second in defensive rating and the team is starting to figure out how to turn stops into wins.

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B-: The injury to Bradley Beal was a killer, but in his absence John Wall stepped up in a big way and is playing out of his mind right now. The Wizards still have a steep hill to climb, but Wall can get them up it.

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C+: The Rockets have bounced back admirably from a horrific start, but the championship aspirations they had coming into the season are pretty much dead.

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B-: Early-season success got just about everyone excited thinking that the Magic’s timetable could possibly be pushed up. However, they’ve really tapered off of late, losing seven of their last eight, and look to be normalizing into that team that’s caught on the bubble of a playoff spot, like many predicted they would be.

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B: Expectations were raised at the quarter-way mark, and the Knicks let down a little bit. Still, the fact that New York is still competitive and will be fighting for a playoff spot is fantastic news for the league as a whole.

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B: The weakness of the conference has a lot to do with this, but the Jazz are in a playoff spot and they got there mostly without Rudy Gobert. Now that he’s back, things are looking up for the Jazz.

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B: The Blazers continue to surprise and impress. Remember this team was supposed to be competing in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes—not for a playoff spot like they are now. Head coach Terry Stotts deserves a ton of credit.

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B-: As shocking as this sounds, the Kings are right there in the thick of things for the eighth seed in the West. The trio of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo has worked out very well, especially compared to expectation.

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C-: The Bucks have been lacklustre as a whole, but even worse has been the dud season put forth by Jabari Parker. He was supposed to be every bit as good as Andrew Wiggins. What’s going on?

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C+: The Hornets acquired Nicolas Batum with an eye on the playoffs. They certainly aren’t out of it yet, but they’ve regressed in the standings and could fall even further.

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D+: The Nuggets are giving their fans the illusion of taking a run at a possible playoff spot. That’s just cruel. Please don’t do this.

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D-: Look on the bright side, Nets fans—your team is awful, but at least a really nice draft pick is on its…oh wait.

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D: They’ve gotten a lot better since the start of the season. Still, this team is lottery-bound and not even bad enough to get a shot at Ben Simmons. Major bummer all around in New Orleans.

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A-: The Kobe farewell tour has been a masterstroke not just as a way for the NBA to increase ticket sales a little bit, but also a great way to have the Lakers roll the tank through L.A. without it blatantly seeming so. I mean, why else is Bryant second on the team in minutes per game?

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C: It must be the millennials’ fault that the Suns are so blah, right Mr. Sarver?

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C-: Remember when the Timberwolves were competing for a playoff spot? Well, they lost 13 of their last 15 games and that dream is gone now. The focus shifts, again, to ping-pong balls in Minnesota.

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F: I guess the “process” is still working as intended. It’s not any easier to watch, however.

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