Updated Report Card Grades for Every NBA Team at Start of February

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterFebruary 8, 2013

Updated Report Card Grades for Every NBA Team at Start of February

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    Welcome to February in the NBA—a month that's short on days, long on All-Star festivities and chock-full of tongue twisters for Blake Griffin.

    But before school's out for the weekend, it's time to have a look at the most up-to-date marks for all 30 teams. Last week, we established a baseline grade of sorts for each team based on team performance in relation to talent and expectations, then placed them in order from lowest to highest.

    There's been some shuffling in the hierarchy since then, after factoring in how all the "pupils" fared in completing their "homework" through the first full week of the month.

    Some, like the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers, are still streaking. Others, like the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies, are stumbling.

    And still others, like the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves, remain in basketball limbo.

    Where do they all stand now? Who's acing the season, who's barely passing and who's straight-up flunking their way into the NBA draft lottery?

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Here's all you need to know about the Bobcats right now: They're 29th in offensive efficiency, 30th in defensive efficiency and, most recently, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers—who are 15-34 and rank 19th in offense and 28th in defense—by 27 points.

    This occurred after giving the Miami Heat all they could handle, even while allowing LeBron James to shoot a career-best 13-of-14 from the field.

    Current Grade: F

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): F (30th)

29. Sacramento Kings

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    The Kings have lost four straight and eight of nine, and they haven't beaten a winning team since (somehow) upending the Knicks and the Celtics in back-to-back games to close out the month of December.

    In a related story, a group of investors, led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, has filed papers with the league office to move the team to Seattle after reaching an agreement to purchase the Kings from the Maloofs.

    The franchise hasn't officially been handed over, though, in large part because Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has yet to give up the fight.

    Oh, and DeMarcus Cousins still leads the NBA in technical fouls by a "comfortable" margin...so there's that.

    Current Grade: F

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): F (28th)

28. Orlando Magic

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    My praise of the Magic organization from last week still stands, though there's no use in ignoring the futility of the team as currently constituted.

    Injuries to Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and J.J. Redick (among others) have fueled a losing streak that, at 11 games, now stands as the longest one going in the NBA.

    If it's any consolation for the folks in Orlando, at least Dwight Howard has once again turned his team into a fine mess, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Current Grade: D

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): C- (22nd)

27. Detroit Pistons

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    Parting with Tayshaun Prince must've been such sweet sorrow for the Pistons. He was the last remaining member of the 2004 championship squad, and he had quietly soldiered on with a franchise in freefall.

    But the bounty for Prince—Jose Calderon—may be just what the doctor ordered in Detroit. The Pistons have long needed a pass-first point guard like Calderon who can orchestrate an offense chock-full of gifted youngsters.

    Now, if only Andre Drummond's back weren't bothering him (now expected to miss four to six weeks), then this new-look Pistons squad might have some promise.

    Current Grade: D

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): D (24th)

26. Phoenix Suns

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    Goran Dragic is hardly equipped to fill Steve Nash's considerable shoes in Phoenix.

    But to his credit, he's provided the Suns and their fans with a handful of happy moments to tide them over during this most trying of seasons.

    For his latest trick, Dragic dropped 15 of his 17 points in a miraculous fourth quarter to lead the Suns to a shocking win over the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night.

    As for his follow-up...ehhh, not so much. Dragic missed seven of his 11 shots and turned the ball over four times in a nine-point loss to the cellar-dwelling New Orleans Hornets the next night.

    You know what they (don't really) say: Goran giveth, and Goran taketh away.

    Current Grade: D

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): F (29th)

25. Toronto Raptors

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    It's time for your weekly Rudy Gay update.

    He stuffed the stat sheet with 29 points, four rebounds, two assists, three blocks and a steal against the Miami Heat.

    Then, he tormented the Boston Celtics three nights later to the tune of 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals. The Raptors lost both games to fall even further out of the race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

    We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

    Current Grade: D

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): D (25th)

24. Washington Wizards

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    Few teams in the NBA can claim to have beaten both the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks this season, much less in consecutive games.

    And that double feature isn't even the most impressive of the tricks the Wizards have pulled this season. They've also turned in wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Which means that more than half of Washington's 13 wins on the season have come against playoff teams.

    If only John Wall could boost the Wizards' dead-last offense to within striking distance of the team's top-10 defense. 

    Current Grade: C-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): D (26th)

23. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Which is more impressive: a five-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, or a 27-point shellacking of the Charlotte Bobcats?

    OK, that wasn't serious. But these two wins collectively serve as a clear illustration that the Cavs are on their way to bigger and better things.

    They can thank Kyrie Irving, a first-time All-Star and a top-five point guard at the age of 20, for bringing hope back to the previously forlorn fans of Cleveland. 

    Current Grade: C-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): D (27th)

22. New Orleans Hornets

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    The future is...well, later, for the Hornets. A pair of blowout losses to the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves proved that.

    In the meantime, folks in New Orleans must be pleased to see the soon-to-be-Pelicans taking out the Phoenix Suns, 93-84. Can't imagine Eric Gordon will be eager to bolt for the Valley of the Sun after that.

    Or that the Suns were very impressed with Gordon's 3-of-14 performance.

    Current Grade: C-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): C (18th)

21. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    So much for maybe making a playoff push once Kevin Love gets back.

    The Timberwolves have tumbled 10 games below the .500 mark (and six-and-a-half back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference) amidst a skid that's seen them drop eight of nine and 13 of 15.

    Not that the losing at all diminishes the joy of watching Ricky Rubio run the fast break in Minny. So long as he's healthy, the T-Wolves will be worth tuning into.

    Current Grade: C-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B- (16th)

20. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Another week, another mixed report from Andrew Bynum. His right knee is back up to speed, but his left one is still giving him fits.

    Surely, the Sixers could use his offensive acumen. They managed all of 69 points on 34.4 percent shooting in a 19-point loss to the Pacers in their latest outing, albeit sans Thaddeus Young. I shudder to think where Philly would be without the services of first-time All-Star Jrue Holiday.

    Current Grade: C

    Last Week's Ranking: C/Incomplete (19th)

19. Milwaukee Bucks

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    The season of "meh" continues for the Milwaukee Bucks. They followed up a less-than-studly home win over the collapsing Orlando Magic with consecutive road duds against the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz.

    As a result, the Bucks have slipped from seventh to eighth in the East, a half-game behind the resurgent Celtics.

    The future remains...ummm...futuristic for Jim Boylan's rag-tag band of gunner-guards and mish-mosh'd bigs. Larry Sanders looks like a potential building block, and Ersan Ilyasova is finally starting to play like one again.

    Beyond that, it's doubtful that the Heat, Knicks or Pacers would have any reason to "Fear the Deer" come playoff time.

    Current Grade: C

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): C+ (17th)

18. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Mavericks' 112-91 loss to the Thunder was the team's 10th in 11 tries opposite OKC but only the second such decision in that span that ended with a double-digit margin of defeat.

    That probably won't do much to comfort folks in Big D, where their local ballclub is all but destined for its first spot in the NBA draft lottery since 2000. So much for trying to make the most of Dirk Nowitzki's twilight years.

    On a more positive note, Dallas' 105-99 win over the Trail Blazers was Rick Carlisle's 500th as an NBA head coach and featured a standout performance (28 points on 11-of-14 shooting) from likely-free-agent-to-be O.J. Mayo. 

    Current Grade: C+

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): C- (21st)

17. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Things were going so well for the Lakers, weren't they? I mean, they'd won six out of seven games. They were sharing the ball (thanks in no small part to Kobe Bryant's turn as "Point God") and playing with a renewed energy on both ends of the floor.

    Better yet, they'd ripped off three victories in a row while Dwight Howard's sore shoulder sat idle on the bench.

    Then Pau Gasol's plantar fascia went pop, Kobe and Dwight sniped at each other through the press (even though they share a locker room) and the Lakers were overrun by the streaking Boston Celtics.

    So, back to square one then?

    Current Grade: C+

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): D (23rd)

16. Boston Celtics

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    At 26-23 and in seventh place in the East, the Celtics are still a long way from where they thought they'd be at this point when the preseason began.

    Nonetheless, six wins since Rajon Rondo's ACL injury is an impressive feat, even if such a streak doesn't exactly boost Boston into the championship conversation. The only way this roller coaster of a season could get any weirder is if Rondo were to suddenly come waltzing back onto the court like Willis Reed.


    Current Grade: B-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): C (20th)

15. Atlanta Hawks

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    Would it make sense to say the Atlanta Hawks are spinning their wheels, or would "flapping their wings" make more sense anatomically?

    Either way, the Hawks aren't exactly setting the world on fire at the moment. Their 103-92 win over the now-middling Memphis Grizzlies was the Hawks' first over a team that had a winning record at the time since January 16, when they topped the Brooklyn Nets in the opening half of a home-and-home.

    Don't be surprised if Atlanta slips into the seventh or eighth seed in the East before long.

    Current Grade: B-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B (13th)

14. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The dream of the '90s is indeed alive in Portland.

    If by that, you mean a trip to playoffs.

    The Trail Blazers are just a game back of the Rockets in the race for the eighth seed in the West, and they might not have to worry about the Lakers sneaking into the mix if their star-crossed season continues to careen.

    A head-to-head matchup with Houston, then, could prove fortuitous for Portland's fortunes in the lead-up to the All-Star break.  

    Current Grade: B

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B+ (10th)

13. Utah Jazz

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    Don't look now, but the Utah Jazz are putting something together. They've won four of their last five games and held their opponents under 100 points in each of those positive results.

    How that impacts Utah's positioning at the February 21 trade deadline is anybody's best guess. For now, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap still play for the Jazz and may well remain on the roster through to free agency.

    Of greater interest than Utah's seventh- or eighth-seeded destiny: Benchwarmer Jeremy Evans will have an opportunity to defend his slam dunk title during All-Star Weekend.

    Current Grade: B

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B- (16th)

12. Brooklyn Nets

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    What's more embarrassing: losing to the Lakers when Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace are both out of action and Pau Gasol goes down with a torn plantar fascia, or barely beating the Pistons despite Mirza Teletovic whiffing on a trio of shots?

    I suppose that won't matter as long as the Nets still have a shot at a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference—which, at the moment, they do.

    With Brook Lopez playing at an All-Star level and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson sorting out their situation in the backcourt, hosting another squad at the Barclays Center during the playoffs may not be a pipe dream after all.

    Current Grade: B

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B (11th)

11. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The outlook in Memphis isn't quite as rosy as it used to be. The Grizzlies have dropped three of four since swapping out Rudy Gay for Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye, with only a ho-hum win over the Wizards to break up the monotony.

    As a result, the Grizz have officially fallen out of the top four in the Western Conference and are in danger of taking another step down the ladder if they lose to the No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors in Memphis.

    Current Grade: B+

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B+ (9th)

10. Golden State Warriors

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    Hey, Mark Jackson. Don't want your Warriors to be embarrassed by a near-NBA-record three-point barrage at the hands of the Houston Rockets?

    Here's an idea: Have them defend the three-point line! Just a thought.

    It's all well and good that Jackson has his players' backs and, as a result, isn't afraid to instruct them to foul intentionally at the end of a blowout. But for a guy who invented the nonsensical catchphrase "hand down, man down," you'd think he'd make sure his players, you know, get a hand up once in a while.

    Current Grade: B+

9. Houston Rockets

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    The Houston Rockets have made a habit of doing everything in an impressive and entertaining fashion, whether they win or lose.

    For example, James Harden logged a triple-double in a win over the lowly Bobcats and subsequently strung together a 36-point, 12-rebound, seven-assist, three-steal performance in a competitive loss to the Heat.

    Oh, and in between those two games, all the Rockets did was tie an NBA record with 23 three-pointers in a 140-109 annihilation of the Warriors.

    If you have League Pass, you'd do well to watch this team on the regular. And if you don't have League Pass, then...what are you waiting for?!

    Current Grade: B+

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B (14th)

8. New York Knicks

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    Things were going so swimmingly for the New York Knicks. They'd won five games in a row—the last four by double digits—and seemed well on their way to perhaps edging past the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

    But the once-woeful Wizards just had to spoil all the fun, didn't they?

    Apparently, Washington's top-10 defense was too much for New York to handle. The Knicks shot 40.5 percent from the field and missed 19 of their 28 three-point attempts.

    Which, in a way, would've been fine, had the Knicks not allowed the Wizards (dead last in offensive efficiency, mind you) to knock down 13 of 19 shots on the way to 36 points in a decisive fourth quarter.

    Current Grade: A-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A- (7th)

7. Chicago Bulls

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    It's clear that the effort the Chicago Bulls have thus far expended to keep their heads above water without Derrick Rose is beginning to exact a serious toll on this team.

    The Bulls have dropped three of their last four, most notably a 128-96 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets that marked the worst defensive performance of the Tom Thibodeau era.

    Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer have all missed time lately on account of injury. To make matters more interesting, the Bulls have reportedly engaged the Toronto Raptors in trade talks involving Boozer and Andrea Bargnani.

    In other words, things aren't going so swimmingly in the Windy City at the moment. As a result, the countdown to D-Rose's much-anticipated return is now as nervy as ever.

    Current Grade: A-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A (fourth)

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Clippers must be thanking their lucky stars that Eric Bledsoe came through the way he did in Orlando. Bledsoe, a favorite of the blogosphere, dropped a career-high 27 points, along with six rebounds, three assists, six steals and three blocks, in an ugly 86-76 win over the Magic.

    L.A. needed every bit of Bled's production in the absence of its top three scorers—Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Jamal Crawford—who were all out on account of injury. It also didn't hurt the Clips' chances that Orlando was down Glen Davis, J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo.

    But a win's a win, and this one in particular halted a three-game skid for the Clips.

    Current Grade: A-

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A (3rd)

5. Denver Nuggets

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    The Denver Nuggets are flying Mile High at the moment. They've won eight in a row and 14 of their last 16, including a 32-point pounding of the visiting Chicago Bulls.

    The secret? A return to the helter-skelter, up-and-down offense that George Karl so adores. The Nuggets have failed to top the 100-point plateau just three times since the start of the New Year.

    It also helps that Denver has enjoyed such a home-heavy schedule of late. It's now 22-3 at the Pepsi Center, having made the most of the thin air after spending the majority of the early season stuck on the road.

    An upcoming stretch of seven games out of nine away from the Rocky Mountains will test the Nuggets' mettle somewhat, though dates against the dregs of the Eastern Conference (the Bobcats, the Cavs, the Raptors, the Wizards) should provide ample opportunity for Denver to continue its climb through the standings out West.

    Current Grade: A

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B (12th)

4. Indiana Pacers

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    We still don't know what the Pacers will look like once Danny Granger returns, though it seems safe to assume they won't be any worse off with the services of the former All-Star.

    Not that he alone could derail the good thing that Indy has going at the moment. The Pacers have won their last five in a row by an average of 14.4 points per game. Within that streak, Indy has swept through the only back-to-back-to-back stretch in the NBA this season, one created by a snow-related postponement against the Bulls earlier on.

    The Pacers defense has been stellar all season (tops in the league in defensive rating), but now that the offense is finally starting to click, this team is looking like a bona fide contender in the Eastern Conference.

    Current Grade: A/Incomplete

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A-/Incomplete (8th)

3. Miami Heat

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    The Heat have shown they have the requisite talent to walk away with a win every single time they take the floor. Whether they care enough to do so—in the regular season, anyway—is another story entirely.

    Miami followed up its 13-point pounding in Indy by eking out wins over the Raptors (contrary to what the final score would suggest), the Bobcats and the Rockets.

    Folks can complain all they want about the Heat's often lackadaisical approach to defense and rebounding, but as defending champs, they've earned the benefit of the doubt.

    That is, until their issues come back to haunt them come playoff time.

    Current Grade: A

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A- (6th)

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Even the best of the best have off nights once in a while. OKC should know.

    The Thunder's 115-110 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was their fourth of the season against a team with a losing record.

    But like any self-respecting title contender, the Thunder didn't wait long to bounce back. They summarily smacked the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors by 21 points apiece to put themselves back on the winning track.

    And then some.

    Current Grade: A+

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A++ (1st)

1. San Antonio Spurs

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    The Spurs seem to rack up wins as a matter of habit, as if doing so is as natural as rolling out of bed in the morning. Their current winning streak now stands at 11 games, and though seven of those have come at the expense of sub-.500 squads, it's still rather impressive that they've managed to keep up the good work with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili shuffling in and out of the lineup.

    Don't be surprised, then, if San Antonio comes close to sweeping its way through the annual rodeo road trip once again. So long as Tony Parker's still playing at an MVP level—which he is—the Spurs will be a tough out.

    Current Grade: A++

    Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A+ (2nd)