Report Cards for Every Team Halfway Through the NBA Season (Eastern Conference)

Report Cards for Every Team Halfway Through the NBA Season (Eastern Conference)

We have reached the halfway point of the NBA season. LeBron James continues to put up MVP numbers, the Golden State Warriors sit atop the Western Conference, and most of the same bottom-feeding teams already find themselves fighting for the top pick. With that being said, SFE is here to break down the opening stanza of the NBA season and grade each team’s performance heading into the second half starting with the Eastern Conference.

 

Atlanta Hawks

The expectations were not very high for the 2017-2018 Atlanta Hawks as this season was the beginning of a rebuild. Top players Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap departed in the offseason leaving behind Dennis Schroder and an unproven supporting cast. Schroder has put up decent numbers as well as Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince providing serviceable production on the wing. John Collins has also been very impressive in his first year in the NBA averaging 11 PPG and 7 RPG thus far. Still, this Hawks team sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and will look to grab one of the many talented players at the top of the draft.

1st Half Grade: D+

 

Image Credit: nba.com

 

Boston Celtics

So far, Kyrie Irving has looked pretty comfortable being the franchise player on a contending team. He’s averaging 24 PPG and 5 APG and with help from a good supporting cast including Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics sit at 33-10 atop the East. Tatum has really stepped up his game in his rookie season, Brown has improved his outside his shot, and Boston has some nice pieces off the bench with Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. While LeBron James’ Cavaliers look to reach the NBA Finals yet again, the young core of Irving-Tatum-Brown will make things very interesting for years to come.

1st Half Grade: A

 

Brooklyn Nets

The story of the 2017-2018 Brooklyn Nets changed after the first game of the NBA season. After finishing with the worst record in the NBA last season, Brooklyn looked to lean on veteran Jeremy Lin as well as the talented youngster D’Angelo Russell. Well, it turned out that these two would not be the story as both have spent their seasons on the sidelines. Lin is out for the season and Russell has played in only 12 games. With these injuries becoming a factor, it forced some young players to take on bigger roles. Point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have grown into some pretty good NBA players. Brooklyn will look to Dinwiddie, RHJ, and the rest of their young players to keep improving as the rebuild continues.

1st Half Grade: C

 

Charlotte Hornets

This Hornets team has to be one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season. Kemba Walker has been doing his thing once again (22 PPG, 6 APG) and Dwight Howard is averaging a double-double in his first season in Charlotte. All the signs would point to this Hornets team as a trendy playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference but it hasn’t worked out. This isn’t a very good passing team and they can’t let the ball get stuck in Walker or Howard’s hands every possession. Charlotte’s role players will need to gel with Howard and be much more consistent in the second half to compete for a playoff spot.

1st Half Grade: D

 

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are one of the very few teams that sit just about where we thought they would be midway through the season. Albeit not in a good position, but it was clear to see this team is in a rebuild. Chicago looks like one of the more underrated young cores with an improved Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, and rookie Lauri Markkanen. With Nikola Mirotic back from his injury (punched in the face) and Zach LaVine about to return, the new-look Bulls will be both fun to watch and have a top ten pick.

1st Half Grade: C+

 

Image Credit: thesource.com

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

For the last seven years, the Eastern Conference has been LeBron James’ playground, reaching an unprecedented seven straight NBA Finals. Now at age 33, he is still at his career averages of 27 PPG, 8 RPG, and 9 APG and even playing point guard until Isaiah Thomas’ recent return. Kevin Love looks to have found his All-Star form and Dwyane Wade has resurged playing with LeBron again. Currently, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers sit in the third seed behind the surprising Toronto Raptors and former Cavalier Kyrie Irving’s Boston Celtics. We do know their so-so record doesn’t reflect their place in the Eastern Conference and Cleveland is using this stretch to gel with Thomas and prepare for the playoffs.

1st Half Grade: B

 

Detroit Pistons

Off of a hot start, Detroit found themselves in a seven game losing streak which stopped their early momentum. Still, this Pistons team is sitting in the 7 seed and has to be content with their 1st half. The starting five has been tremendous most of the season, led by Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond, and trade acquisition Avery Bradley. The X-Factor will be if Detroit can get consistency from their bench down the stretch. Should this team make the playoffs, they would not be a tough out. The Avery Bradley move could prove to be very important as he brings great perimeter defense. Drummond will need to make his free throws though.

1st Half Grade: B

 

Indiana Pacers

Another team that has to like where they sit currently is the Indiana Pacers. The story in Indiana is clearly the emergence of Victor Oladipo. Taking over as the go-to guy for Paul George, Oladipo is averaging 25-5-4 and leading the Pacers to the 8 seed thus far. Oladipo and center Domantas Sabonis playing well, it looks as though the Pacers have won the trade to this point. This team also shows good depth, with six players averaging double figures. The next step for this team is for Myles Turner to take the next step if they want to compete this season.

1st Half Grade: B+

 

Miami Heat

And here’s ANOTHER team that loves where they’re at to this point. In the first half, Miami has taken advantage of some disappointing Eastern Conference teams on their way to the 4 seed. The Heat have used a balanced scoring attack and suffocating defense to fuel a strong first half. Currently with eight double digit scorers, anyone can beat you on any given night. However, heading into a playoff push, Miami will need someone to step up as the go-to guy. This could be Goran Dragic, Hasaan Whiteside, or even Dion Waiters. All in all, Miami has to love where they’re at but they will need to stay consistent to host a playoff series.

1st Half Grade: A-

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken the next step we all knew was coming. The Greek Freak is currently averaging 29-10-5 and is a clear-cut MVP candidate. Alongside him are wing Khris Middleton and the super athletic Eric Bledsoe, giving them somewhat of a “Big Three”. The talent hasn’t really translated into a top team in the East leaving them with a 22-18 record. A playoff spot is a near lock, but fans in Milwaukee should be wanting more which starts with consistency. While the Greek Freak deserves an A, the Bucks as a team have been slightly disappointing.

1st Half Grade: C

 

Image Credit: espn.com

 

New York Knicks

The problems in New York were very clear. Aside from the GM/Ownership’s inability to quality players to New York, the Knicks needed to move on from Carmelo Anthony. His ball dominance was stunting Kristaps Porzingis’ growth and not helping win games anyways. Now that this is KP’s team, we have seen glimpses of what this team can become. Porzingis is averaging 24-7 while handling all the publicity in New York while a plethora of role players are helping contribute. Heck, even Michael Beasley looks serviceable. Unlike in previous years, the Knicks have a real future with KP, Frank Ntilikina, and Enes Kanter leading the way. With that being said, they are not ready this year.

1st Half Grade: C+

 

Orlando Magic

Life is difficult for me as an Orlando Magic fan. It just seems like this franchise plays their way to being just outside the top 3 pick in the draft every year. Aaron Gordon when healthy has looked as close to a star as Orlando has (19 PPG, 8 RPG) and free agent acquisition Jonathon Simmons has been a good pickup. Health has been the biggest issue for Orlando as the entire starting five hasn’t played together in months. The Magic look like they need to trade one of Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, or Elfrid Payton and shake this roster up because they still aren’t close.

1st Half Grade: D

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have lived up to the hype and look like perennial All-Stars. Although, first round pick Markelle Fultz hasn’t touched the floor since the first week of the season. The Sixers’ young core (Simmons, Embiid, Saric, Covington, Fultz) appear to be a year away. While “trusting the process” has almost payed its dividends, the Sixers need to learn how to consistently win. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Philly has some veterans in JJ Redick and Amir Johnson to help the youngsters through the second half. I had them as a borderline playoff team as they are so it will be interesting to see how they play in the second half.

1st Half Grade: B-

 

Image Credit: TSN

 

Toronto Raptors

“The Six” should be very happy with their hometown team’s first half. The Raptors are 28-11 and have a 14-2 record at home this season, a start that Toronto fans had been hoping for for years. DeMar DeRozan could be a darkhorse  MVP candidate, averaging 25-4-5 alongside the core of Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Complementing the big three, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Miles have been playing very well and converting close games into wins. The question in Toronto is of course: Can they play at a high level into the postseason?

1st Half Grade: A

 

Washington Wizards

The Nation’s capital has been one of the most unlucky markets in sports with little postseason success in recent years. The Wizards have been no different, representing one of the Eastern Conference teams that can’t get over the hump in the playoffs (somewhat due to LeBron). John Wall is doing what he does averaging 19-9 and Bradley Beal is averaging a career-high 24 PPG. Although, Washington hasn’t made any necessary moves to get over the hump and it is showing in their record. Sitting in the 5 seed, the Wiz have been beating good teams but not taking care of business against sub-.500 teams. Something needs to change if they want to ever get to the Finals.

1st Half Grade: C-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 15 Shooting Guards in the NBA at the Halfway Point

Nearly halfway through the NBA season, who are some of the best shooting guards in the league and how have they lived up to preseason expectations? Note: Zach Lavine and Tim Hardaway Jr. will not be on the list due to missing significant time so far this season.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Kent Bazemore

Caris LeVert

Eric Gordon

J.J. Redick

Jeremy Lamb

 

 

 

 

15. Evan Fournier – Orlando Magic

Evan Fournier during a game.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

After officially becoming the shooting guard for the future in Orlando last season as a result the Victor Oladipo trade, Fournier has proven himself to be a solid starter for the Magic. Though still having some struggles on the defensive end, Fournier has the potential to be a 20 point scorer as scoring and shooting are clearly his best attributes.

Previous Ranking: Honorable Mention

 

 

14. Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Avery Bradley during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/wxyz.com

 

After a career year in Boston last season, Bradley has gotten off to a bit of a slow start individually in Detroit. Despite his low scoring and rebounding numbers, it’s clear the former Texas guard has made an impact with his new team. After missing the playoffs last year the Pistons are now sitting in the middle of the East and could possibly end up challenging for a home playoff spot. An offensive facet Bradley has been great in is his 3-pt shooting, where he’s posting a 41% clip from deep, 4 percentage points up from his career average.

Previous Ranking: 7

 

 

13. Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics

Jaylen Brown attempting a layup on LeBron James.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Brown has played both the shooting guard and small forward positions for Boston so far this year and has excelled. After an underwhelming but promising rookie season, the California product is putting up over 14 points a game while shooting about 40% from deep. Paired with star point guard Kyrie Irving in the backcourt, Brown provides the Celtics with versatile defense, athleticism, and floor spacing for it’s stars.

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

 

 

12. Tyreke Evans – Memphis Grizzlies

Tyreke Evans dribbling.

Photo Credit/clutchpoints.com

 

After a chaos-filled previous year for Evans, he’s returned to his college city of Memphis and is thriving with the Grizzlies. The 28-year old is putting up nearly 20 points a game and has again made it clear his ability to distribute and make plays for his teammates. Despite a rare down year for the Griz, it’s obvious the signing of Evans was a steal for Memphis in the offseason.

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

 

11. Gary Harris – Denver Nuggets

Gary Harris shooting in a game.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Though there’s been a slight drop in shooting percentages for Harris to start the season, he’s been more productive offensively and improved his defense greatly. Currently averaging nearly two steals a game, the Michigan product is starting to clean up a part of his game that needed work. Providing almost elite scoring ability to a deep Nuggets team with a facilitating big man in Jokic, Gary Harris is paired up with young PG Jamal Murray which could become one of the best backcourts in the NBA in the coming seasons.

Previous Ranking: 14

 

 

10. Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Donovan Mitchel during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/slcdunk.com

 

Currently having one of the best rookie seasons we’ve seen in the past few years, Mitchell is already Utah’s go-to guy on offense and seems to be improving game by game. While big man Rudy Gobert continues to be sidelined for the Jazz, Mitchell is lighting it up, Currently averaging around 18 points a game while shooting some solid rookie percentages. Where the former Louisville guard is separating himself from other top rookies is on the defensive end. He’s quietly been a very good on-ball defender which was expected coming into the league due to his wingspan and athleticism, but he’s much farther along on that end than most would be in their rookie years. If he keeps this up without hitting a rookie wall, Mitchell can make an argument for ROTY.

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

 

 

9. Lou Williams – Los Angeles Clippers

Lou Williams during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/clipsnation.com

 

Due to nagging injuries to Blake Griffin and suspicion about DeAndre Jordan’s future in LA, Lou Williams has emerged as the team’s most consistent player so far this season. After going from team to team the last few years the former Sixth Man of the Year is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, averaging nearly 22 points a game. After the Chris Paul deal in the summer, Los Angeles was without a star in the backcourt and was not assumed to be as strong as year’s past, but Williams has stepped in and been fantastic off the bench for the Clippers. If LA continues to win some could even argue Sweet Lou deserves a spot in the All-Star game.

Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

 

 

8. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers

C.J. McCollum during a stoppage of play.

Photo Credit/youtube.com

 

Paired with star PG Damian Lillard in the backcourt, McCollum is having another good season with the Blazers. Though his scoring numbers are slightly down, he’s still shooting solid percentages and has cemented himself as a perennial top shooting guard. After being quietly thrown around in trade rumors last year, McCollum is currently helping Portland stay around .500 and will likely finish the season with his 3rd straight 20pt season.

Previous Ranking: 5

 

 

7. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal in a photoshoot.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Beal is again having a great scoring season alongside John Wall in the backcourt. Currently enjoying his second straight 20pt season, the former Florida guard is a prototypical scorer, being able to shoot and slash at a high level. Shot selection and a bit of a better 3-pt percentage would turn Beal into an All-Star, but he’s clearly one of the best guys at the 2 in the NBA.

Previous Ranking: 6

 

 

6. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns

Devin Booker during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/sports.yahoo.com

 

Booker has continued to improve offensively as his young career goes on, currently putting up around 25 a game for the Suns. Though defense and leadership are still problems for Booker, he’s clearly shown he can score and make plays with the best the league has to offer. After the Eric Bledsoe trade earlier in the season, it became clear who Phoenix was handing the keys to the franchise to. With size, confidence, and one of the best jumpers in the league, you can expect to see D-Book in the All-Star game soon.

Previous Ranking: 10

 

 

5. Victor Oladipo – Indiana Pacers

Victor Oladipo arguing a call.

Photo Credit/clutchpoints.com

 

After being dealt to Indiana in the Paul George trade, Oladipo is back in his college state and having a career year. A short, one year stint in OKC with Russell Westbrook last season seems to have had an effect on him and he now finds himself as one of the top scorers in the league. Having already been a fantastic athlete coming into the NBA, Oladipo has now channeled his raw talent into an innate slashing ability and has also improved his jumpshot. With Dipo locked up for a few years contract wise, it’s safe to say the Pacers won their offseason trade.

Previous Ranking: Honorable Mention

 

 

4. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves

Jimmy Butler being guarded by Klay Thompson.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

After being traded to the Wolves on draft night, it’s taken a while for Butler to become acclimated to the Minnesota offense, but he seems to have found his groove over the past few weeks. Still a lockdown perimeter defender, the former second round pick has been just what the Timberwolves need to surround their young core and move forward to the postseason. Where Tom Thibodeau may need to watch it is his starters minutes. Butler is averaging around 37 minutes a game and other starters on the team are playing significant minutes as well. In order to be ready for playoff time come spring, Minnesota may need to think about resting their stars from time to time.

Previous Ranking: 4

 

 

3. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson celebrating after a shot.

Photo Credit/clutchpoints.com

 

Having another All-Star caliber season on both ends, Thompson comes in at #3 on the list. Where Klay separated himself from Butler was his efficiency on the offensive end. While staying the great defender he’s been in years past, he’s shooting about 45% from 3 and nearly hit half of his shots from the field. In what could possibly be his 4th straight 20pt season, Thompson has the opportunity to accomplish a 50/40/90 for the year.

Previous Ranking: 3

 

 

2. DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors

DeMar DeRozan during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

After years of being known as a guard who can only play within 22 feet of the basket, DeRozan has picked up his shots attempted and accuracy from deep. Now shooting around 37% from 3 and nearly 50% on field goals, DeRozan is set to make his 4th All-Star appearance and has the Raptors looking solid as a top 3 team in the East alongside backcourt partner Kyle Lowry.

Previous Ranking: 2

 

 

1. James Harden – Houston Rockets

James Harden during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/complex.com

 

Despite recently tearing part of his hamstring which will sideline him for a few weeks, Harden has once again began his MVP campaign very early in the season. Averaging a whopping 30+ points a game to go along with around 9 assists, the superstar is leading a Rockets team to a presumed top 2 seed in the West. With a new star to help him out in Houston, Chris Paul, Harden and the Rockets look to be the only team in the league right now that honestly stands a fair chance against the Golden State Warriors in a seven game series.

Previous Ranking: 1

 

 

 

Top 15 Point Guard Rankings Here:

Warriors Weather the Thunder’s Storm Despite Addition of PG-13

Warriors Weather the Thunder’s Storm Despite Addition of PG-13

Young Trece will add Star Power – but Golden State will continue to rule the West

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Indiana Pacers

Paul George is now a member of the Western Conference. Although the grass probably seems greener now, George will find out just how different the level of competition is from East to West.

George was traded to Oklahoma City for – what Shannon Sharpe may refer to as – a “mop bucket and a squeegee”, with hopes of helping Russell Westbrook and the Thunder increase their chances in the West.

The Trading Chips

Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis weren’t exactly big time contributors for the Thunder team. Yes, Oladipo had his moments and Sabonis was only in his first season, but neither will have had an impact like PG-13.

Paul George had 229 more points than Oladipo and Sabonis combined.

George played in 75 regular season games. Oladipo and Sabonis – with a combined average of 74 games played – averaged 20.89 PPG through the 2017 season.  George averaged 23.66 PPG by himself.

It’s easy to see who won in this trade.

Close, but no Cigar

Although the addition of George will help, it won’t be enough to help OKC overcome Golden State in the Western Conference.

Below is a detailed look of George’s total production for the 2017 NBA regular season.

1a PG Average

Those are great numbers – but the majority of games were against the weaker Eastern Conference. George did, however, manage to have a winning record against Western Conference teams last season at 15-13.

But, he was brought into the fold to help dethrone the Warriors.

George vs Golden State

George is 1-5 against Golden State over the past three seasons. He was 0-2 against the Kevin Durant-led Warriors last season.

George did not play in the first meeting between the Pacers-Warriors last season. Golden State annihilated the George-less Pacers by 37 points, 120-83.

In the second meeting, George put up 21 points, 13 of which came from the charity stripe. He shot 4-12 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc. Indiana was blown out 142-106. Without George, the Pacers lost by 37. With George, they lost by 36. Not much of a difference.

If George Gels, How Will Thunder Fare in the Western Conference?

The reigning regular season MVP Westbrook totaled 2,558 points on the season. He averaged (yes, a triple-double)  31.6 points per game. Add Enes Kanter’s 1,033 total points, Steven Adams’ 905 total points, and Andre Roberson’s 522 total points to that. Factor in the addition George’s 1,775 – that would mean the new look Thunder’s starting 5 could put up a total of close to 6,793 points.

1 wes

Furthermore, Westbrook and George – if they gel – look to average a combined 54% from beyond the arc if last season’s production carries over.

The Warriors – however – are on a whole other level. Their big 4 totaled 6,072 regular season points. Add Zaza Pachulia’s 426 total points, that puts Golden State at 6,498. 

Curry, Durant, Klay, and Draymond shot a combined 38% from the 3-point line.

But wait a minute? These numbers seem to favor OKC, don’t they?

On paper, it would seem so. However, the game isn’t played on paper. And – as mentioned above – George’s high scoring point totals came against weaker Eastern Conference opponents. Plus, Westbrook repeating the season he had last year is highly unlikely – especially if he’ll be forced to give up some shots to George.

1 gst

The Warriors bench is superior to the Thunder’s bench. The Warriors added Nick Young and his 791 point total from last season. Not to mention Iggy, Livingston, West, etc. They use the phrase “Strength in Numbers” for a reason.

Their bench has depth. To beat this Golden State team – not only are superstar player(s) a requirement – but also, productivity from the bench is a necessity. The addition of Raymond Felton to the Thunder bench isn’t going to tip the scales by any means.

Lastly, despite Westbrook’s amazing season – he averaged 27.25 PPG against the Warriors. That number is high – due to Westbrook scoring 47 in a 130-114 loss at home!

George will have a good season. Westbrook will continue to put his killer instinct on display night in and night out. The Thunder will finish somewhere in the middle of the pack by playoff time next season.

1 gsw

But Golden State will remain Kings of the West – and quite possibly Kings of the NBA.

At least until they can no longer afford their roster.

Stats referenced at nba.com