NBA Playoff Grades Thus Far
Like any year in the NBA Playoffs, 2010 has had its fair share of surprises. Some teams who looked potentially threatening ended up rolling over in round one.
There have been heroes, injuries, and stars. The result of some series' could see some big names moving around in this year's big free agent pool as well.
Here's the grades for each of the 16 playoff squads through nearly two rounds.
Charlotte Bobcats: F
Lost 4-0 in First Round to Orlando Magic
Things were exciting for Charlotte this season. After seven years of losing seasons and building up the franchise, the Bobcats made the playoffs.
Unfortunately, they forgot to show up.
Even with Magic center Dwight Howard getting into foul trouble throughout the series and sitting for extended periods of time, Charlotte just didn't have the weapons necessary to knock off the defending Eastern champs.
Charlotte deserves some credit for finally putting a winning product on the court, as well as Gerald Wallace making the NBA All-Defensive Team. As for the playoffs though, the Cats fail.
Chicago Bulls: D
Lost 4-1 in First Round to Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago got one win over Cleveland, which is about the most anyone expected. The Bulls snuck in on one of the last days of the season, edging out Toronto, and I'll give them credit for making it.
Derrick Rose shined throughout the series, and if Chicago can go out and acquire a big free agent this offseason, it's going to make this team pretty good. Rose's 26.8 PPG in these five games, along with some help from Joakim Noah helped keep two games close, but let's face it—the Cavs are in a totally different category than Chicago.
Miami Heat: D+
Lost 4-1 in First Round to Boston Celtics
The only reason Miami even competed against Boston in this series was because of Dwyane Wade. He led the Heat in scoring in each game, and had 46 in their only win of the series.
In a Game Two, 106-77 blowout, the Celtics at one point went on a 44-8 run. Oh, and don't forget that Kevin Garnett was suspended in this game.
The Heat got out-played, out-muscled, and all around out-played by Boston. There's a possibility that Wade could be on his way out of Miami, and series' like this one sure don't help the team's chances of retaining a superstar of his caliber.
Miami won 47 games this year, but they still dawn the letter "D" when all is said and done with their 2010 post-season.
Dallas Mavericks: C-
Lost 4-2 in First Round to San Antonio Spurs
Memories of a disappointing 2008 playoff series against the Golden State Warriors felt all too familiar for Dallas yet again this year, as the Mavs fell far short of expectations and were eliminated by San Antonio in the first round.
Don't get me wrong, this was a gritty series, pitting bitter rivals against each other, but the Mavs looked so strong from the All-Star break on. Where was this Dallas team when it came to closing out games?
Basically all six games in this series were close, and Dallas had their share of opportunities to win more than two of them. But in the end it was Duncan's consistency in the post, along with some scrappiness from Manu Ginobili that proved to be too much for the Mavs.
As always, Dirk Nowitzki left everything he had on the floor, but the end result has stayed the same—an early exit and a disappointing end to a promising season.
Milwaukee Bucks: C-
Lost 4-3 in First Round to Atlanta Hawks
Milwaukee nearly pulled the upset over the Hawks, jumping ahead 3-2 in the series after trailing early on. However, it was the 83-69 loss in Game Six and the 95-74 loss in Game Seven that led to the Bucks' C- grade this post-season.
The Bucks only averaged 97.7 PPG during the regular season (tied for 22nd), but that sounds a whole lot better than the lousy offense that they brought in the last two games of this series.
Shooting 26 of 86 from the field as a team in Game Seven, with Brandon Jennings leading the Bucks in scoring with a measly 15, Milwaukee just flat out fell apart. They went from surprising everyone by coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the series, to surprising us again by losing the last two games and getting eliminated.
Milwaukee had beaten the Hawks down, and had them where they wanted them. Then what did they do? They gave up.
Denver Nuggets: C-
Lost 4-2 in First Round to Utah Jazz
Last year, the Nuggets made a run to the Western Conference Finals and gave the Lakers some trouble. This year, with virtually the same line-up, Denver couldn't find a way to win close games versus Utah.
Streaky shooter J.R. Smith didn't really have the series that the Nuggets hoped for, and despite Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups playing pretty well, the Nuggets went 0-3 in Utah.
This Nuggets' team looked more like the Iverson—Anthony team than Billups-Anthony this post-season- a decent team that couldn't advance in the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers: C
Lost 4-2 in First Round to Phoenix Suns
The Blazers were plagued with injuries all season. As if losing Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla for the season weren't enough, Portland played 17 games in the regular season without their star, Brandon Roy. Then Roy tore his meniscus and was doubtful for the post-season.
In Roy's absence, the Blazers upset the hot Suns on the road in Game One. The heroes early on were Marcus Camby, Jerryd Bayless, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
After getting in a 2-1 hole in the series, in a Willis Reed-esque fashion, Roy returned just eight days after surgery. His presence was felt from an emotional standpoint, but even with him in the line-up, Portland was no match for Phoenix.
Roy was no where near 100 percent, and the Suns offense simply too much for Portland.
Atlanta Hawks: B-
Won 4-3 in First Round versus Milwaukee, Lost 4-0 in Second Round to Orlando
After surviving a scare in the first round, the Hawks regressed in the second round and just looked terrible.
In its second round series, Atlanta was swept, and to make matters worse, they lost all four games by an average of just over 25 points.
Against Milwaukee, Joe Johnson definitely built up his free agency stock, but he may have lost some in the second round. Johnson only shot 29% from the field, and the Hawks really missed his productivity.
Winning a series this year was a huge step for Atlanta, and they can do it again next year. But the Magic exploited the Hawks' weaknesses, and proved this clearly wasn't an even match-up.
San Antonio Spurs: B
Won 4-2 in First Round versus Dallas, Lost 4-0 in Second Round to Phoenix
San Antonio has been a playoff rival for a handful of Western Conference teams in the past decade. But none more so than Phoenix. But, as we all know, all good things must come to an end.
Not to say the Spurs aren't good anymore, because they were impressive in Round One, but the dynasty is over. Tim Duncan's prime years are dwindling, and Phoenix was far too quick.
Manu Ginobili seemed to be carrying the team more than Duncan at times, and he played good basketball against Dallas. The Spurs earn their "B" grade because of the "upset" in Round One. You can barely call it that though just because these two teams know each other so well, and even though it was a seven-seed over a two, only five games separated them.
Oklahoma City Thunder: B
Lost 4-2 in First Round to Los Angeles
I'm from Seattle. Life-long Sonics fan. And this series hurt very, very bad. But man, Durant looked great and so did Westbrook. 'Nuff said.
Utah Jazz: B
Won 4-2 in First Round versus Denver, Lost 4-0 in Second Round to Los Angeles
Of the three teams that got swept in the Second Round, I feel like Utah competed more than San Antonio and Atlanta. They just couldn't finish.
Take for example Game Three: classic playoff basketball. Utah had a chance to win the game, but Deron Williams missed a jumper, followed by a missed tip-in from Wesley Matthews.
Speaking of Matthews, look for him to receive a nice pay-check come free agency, and rightfully so. Matthews was an unlikely hero for the Jazz throughout the playoffs, with his best night coming in Game Six against the Nuggets (23 points, 13-15 from the free-throw line).
It was clear that the Lakers were the better team, but you can at least give the Jazz credit for hanging in there. The average margin of victory for LA was only 4.75 points per game.
Cleveland Cavs: C-
Won 4-1 in First Round versus Chicago, Lost 4-2 in Second Round to Boston
In what could have been LeBron James' last game in a Cavs jersey, his herculean effort was not enough to stop Boston. James posted a triple-double, but Cleveland fell 94-85 to the Celtics, ending a season that ended far too early.
Obviously, Cleveland handled the Bulls in Round One without much trouble, but when Boston got a surprise Game Two win in Round Two (in Cleveland), the Cavs realized they weren't invincible.
But it wasn't until Game Five in Cleveland that the series was basically over. LeBron shot 3-14 from the field while the Cavs suffered their worst home playoff loss in franchise history.
I'm not taking anything away from Boston, but this series was proof that Cleveland (basically LeBron) is one of the biggest choke artists in NBA history.
Los Angeles Lakers: A
Won 4-2 in First Round versus OKC, Won 4-0 in Second Round versus Utah
What's the difference between the Lakers and everyone else? They almost always know how to finish close games.
And what's the difference between LeBron and Kobe? Clutch performance down the stretch in the playoffs.
Against Oklahoma City, it was Pau Gasol's tip-in in Game Six that sealed the series. And versus Utah, every game was close, and it was the fourth quarter consistency of Kobe and Co. that earned them a sweep and a third consecutive trip to the Conference Finals.
In the First Round, the Lakers did get embarrassed on the road, which could possibly present some trouble when they head to Phoenix. The Suns' fans are relentless.
But when you put the ball in Kobe Bryant's hands in the fourth quarter in the playoffs, you pretty much know what you're going to get. This can't be said now about LeBron James, as he couldn't carry his team the way Kobe has in this postseason.
Orlando Magic: A
Won 4-0 in First Round versus Charlotte, Won 4-0 in Second Round versus Atlanta.
There's only one word to describe the Magic this post-season: dominant.
Orlando's sweep of Charlotte made some sense. The Bobcats made their first ever playoff appearance, and it was apparent that they had a lack of postseason experience.
The sweep of Atlanta was where a few eye-brows were raised. The Hawks were really good this year, and this boosted Orlando's credibility as a power-house.
In Game One versus the Hawks, the Magic defense held them to 10 and 11 points in the third and fourth quarters respectively. That's just flat out impressive. This 43-point victory set Orlando's pace for the series.
Dwight Howard averaged 21 points and just over 13 rebounds a game against Atlanta, and he will be the key defensively moving ahead versus Boston.
When in comes down to it, the Magic have put in a team effort in every game this post-season, and this is a huge reason why they're playing to return to the Finals again this season.
Phoenix Suns: A
Won 4-2 in First Round versus Portland, Won 4-0 in Second Round versus San Antonio
The 2009-10 Suns aren't the "Seven Seconds or Less" Suns team that existed a few years ago- they're better.
Phoenix was finally able to knock off the Spurs, who had been a pain in their playoff neck for too long. But for those years of early upsets in year's past, the Suns earned redemption with a sweep.
The more entertaining of Phoenix's playoff series' thus far was definitely Portland. After an early scare in a Game One loss in front of their home fans, the Suns responded by dominating the series from that point on.
The Suns have been absolutely shooting the lights out as of late. And it's not just Nash, Jason Richardson, and the starters. Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, and Leandro Barbosa coming off the bench have been big for Phoenix.
Boston Celtics: A
Won 4-1 in First Round, Won 4-2 in Second Round
Everyone knew the Celtics were a good team, but not a lot of people picked them to beat Cleveland in six games, especially in the fashion they did.
The Celtics' Big Three are the core of the team, but it might be time to petition a bit to make it the Big Four with the way Rajon Rondo has played this post-season.
Rondo had a triple-double in Game Four, and this prompted LeBron James to guard him for the remainder of the series.
Boston's run has been nothing short of a team effort. Each night, someone else takes lead, while everyone else has been playing their roles perfectly. Guys like Tony Allen coming off the bench have been a nice complement as well.
We may not have expected this a month ago, but the Celtics have been playing better playoff basketball than anyone. The evidence? Beating the best team in the NBA handily in six games.