Pacific Division Mid Season Grades

It is that time of the year that everybody hates. Midterms. When all of those nights partying become a regret. When all of the times you could have studied and didn’t come back to bite you. When in June you thought it made complete sense to take four 8:00 AM classes because this was the year you were “going to overachieve”. Welp, the Pacific just got their grades back, it’s time to see how everyone did.

Los Angeles Clippers: 32-11 

Point Guard: Chris Paul – (A)
-Paul has done everything the Clippers have asked from him and more. He is second in the league in assists, and third in the league in PER(just behind Lebron and KD). Even more important, Paul has become the vocal leader of this year, and as long as he is healthy come playoff time, he should get to the Conference finals he’s wished for.

Shooting Guard: Willie Green – (A-)
-You might be surprised by this grade, but Green is doing everything asked of him. He plays solid defense, doesn’t complain about being the 5th option, and didn’t complain when Billups took his starting role, and then he was asked to take it back when Billups got hurt again. On every title team, their are always one or two unselfish guys who are more than happy to do the things everyone doesn’t want too. Green is that guy.

Small Forward: Caron Butler – (B)
-Butler has been steady. He has not been the he once way(averaging six less points a game than his career high), but the Clippers also aren’t asking that out of him with so many other scoring options. Butler has bought into the team defense, and many times is asked to guard the other team’s best scorer. Butler is everything the Clips have wanted from him.

Power Forward: Blake Griffin – (B+)
-He would be in the “A” range if not for the early season troubles. Griffin has taken on the role of the other leader on this team, and has enjoyed doing it. He has somehow kept his fun loving attitude while also setting an example on this team(something other big men in this division haven’t mastered yet, AKA Dwight Howard). Griffin has developed a mid range game, and has improved defensively down low where he won’t have to be taken out of games late anymore. 

Center: DeAndre Jordan – (B-)
-Jordan is averaging above his career highs marginally in most major categories, but he still hurts the Clippers offensively in some situations. As of now, they still can’t use him late in game unless it’s in a pick and roll format. Still, his defensive work down low and ability to protect the rim can’t be disregarded. 

Bench: – (A+)
-I mean come on, was this even a question? The league leader in bench scoring has a player in Jamal Crawford who has a legitimate case for an All-Star spot. Matt Barnes is making the Lakers look like fools for letting him go. Eric Bledsoe is probably working himself into quite the contract. If the Clippers win a title, it will be because of the bench mob in LA.

Golden State Warriors: 26-15

Point Guard: Stephen Curry – (A-)
-Curry returned this week and went on one of this shooting rampages against the Clippers, and then followed it up with a clutch performance in a win over the Thunder(31Pts, 7ASTS, 4STLS). When Curry is on, he is most certainly on, and is one of the deadliest shooters in the game. The reason he doesn’t get a full A here is because of the ankles. As long as they are a minor setback every now and then, the Warriors can live with that. But if Curry misses any playoff time, the Warriors have no shot.

Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson – (B+)
-Klay Thompson is the scoring guard Steph never had in Monta Ellis. He can create his own shot, and can get hot just like Ellis, but he isn’t selfish. Plus, he is a better defender, which hides Curry’s inefficiency’s on that side of the ball. While Thompson may be successful on another team, he is in the perfect situation for himself in Golden State.

Small Forward: Harrison Barnes – (B)
-Many people thought Barnes would be the steal of the draft after all the picks had been made. And four teams may be kicking themselves for not taking Damian Lillard, Barnes is certainly a player who has proven himself. Barnes has fallen into place, and isn’t making the same mistakes most rookies do. Plus, he has shown some of the athleticism that once had people calling him the next Lebron James.

Power Forward: David Lee – (A+)
-If David Lee isn’t named an All-Star tonight, I don’t plan on watching the game. He has bided his time in GS to be on a winner, and is thriving in the role of the unquestioned leader on this team. Lee’s demeanor of work hard, ask questions later has spread throughout this team, and he is the leader of a team that isn’t afraid of anyone. 

Center: Festus Ezeli – (B-)
-When the season started, no one was expecting Ezeli to be playing this many minutes. Once Bogut went down however, the Warriors had no other choice. Ezeli has shown that he was worth the pick the Warriors spent on him. While his stats aren’t impressive(and Andres Biedrins gets alot of run), Ezeli is doing all the dirty work: Block shots, protect the rim, and use his six fouls. Every contender needs a brute.

Bench: – (B+)
-While everyone knew Carl Landry would be a big step up for the Warriors bench, I’m not sure people expected this type of production from Jarrett Jack and Draymond Greene. Jack could be starting for some of the team in the NBA with his play at the point this year, and Greene is looking like the one second rounder who finds his niche on the perfect team. The Warriors are definitely getting more help from the bench than every in the past, and are thriving because of it.

Los Angeles Lakers: 17-25

Point Guard: Steve Nash – (B-)
-Nash has done everything in his power to try to turn this ship, but it isn’t working. His injury at the beginning of this year was their excuse, but Nash’s play hasn’t changed the downward spiral. Nash is taking less shots in his career than ever before, and seems uncomfortable without the ball in his hands within this offense. Even further, he is PUTRID on defense. They have not been able to hide his inconsistencies some of the past Suns teams could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nash is elsewhere next year.

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant – (A+)
-You’re damn right I gave him an A+. I don’t care that the Lakers have an awful record when he scores thirty or more. I don’t care that for the first time in his 16 year career he might actually be earning a first team all defensive instead of just being given it. Kobe is doing EVERYTHING in his power to make this work. Do you think Kobe Bryant would be a part of a team meeting in 2006? Hell no. He knows his window is closing, and he wants to win now. Kobe is 2nd in scoring in the league at 34, and is 8th in PER despite all of the shots he is forced to take. Kobe deserves all the praise in the world for this year, and this is from a Celtic’s fan who has literally cursed his name thousands of time.(Not an exaggeration, thats a legitimate stat.)

Small Forward: Metta World Peace – (C+)
-Peace was signed by the Lakers a few years ago to be the defensive stopper they didn’t have, so that Kobe could roam and save his legs for offense. The Lakers fans owe him thanks for the 2010 title(he had both the clinching shots in the Conference and NBA finals), but his time in LA is running thing. Peace is a step slow on D, and can’t stay in front of opponents like he once could. Plus, Peace still thinks it’s okay for him to take 4-5 threes a game, where he should probably only be taking 1-2. 

Power Forward: Pau Gasol – (D)
-I suppose you could put Earl Clark here now, which just proves why Gasol deserves such a failing grade. Two weeks ago, I felt bad for him. Yup, not so much anymore. Gasol showed in the 2012 Olympics that he can be dominant when put in the right system, but he should still be better than most bigs in the league no matter where he is used. Pau is averaging career lows across the board, and has looked out of sorts on both sides. The only fix might be a different uniform.

Center: Dwight Howard – (D)
-Howard has really let LA get to him, he is a drama queen. I was all ready to give him a C because his averages are still worthy of recognition(17 and 12). While they are below his best, on a team next to all of the other talent that should be more than enough. But with the awful free throw shooting, and the latest dramatics where he was carrying around a stat sheet, Howard needs to be traded. I would put money on him not being in a Laker uniform next year.

Bench – (C-)
-It’s tough to give a grade to the Lakers’ bench, because it has changed so often. None the less, no one is producing in anyway that is worth mentioning. Jamison has been inconsistent(and crabby), Blake has been injured, and Robert Sacre has been, well, a rookie. Earl Clark is the one bright spot here, who have averaged 10 & 8 since becoming more prominent in the last 10 games.

Sacramento Kings: 16-27

Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas – (C+)
-Isaiah has been just as his grade suggests, average. He has been averaging just over 11 points a game, but hasn’t been able to dole out enough assists to make a different on this team team. With just over three a game, you would expect much more out of your starting point guard. Then again, it has to be tough to get any assists on a pick up basketball team.

Shooting Guard: Tyreke Evans – (C-)
-At times Evans has played at the three spot for the Kings, but he is a true guard. Since his rookie year, Evans play has regressed. His is once against scoring his career low, and is passing at a career low as well. Evans has not been able to show the type of talent he once had in his rookie year. At this point, I think it is time to cut the chord. Evans could be a much stronger role player on a good team. 

Small Forward: John Salmons – (C)
-Salmons looks like a lost veteran in this system. He has not been able to have a breakout scoring year since 2010(the last year he averaged over 10 points a game), and the Kings aren’t the place for it. Salmons has shown flashes of him old self, but his defense isn’t helping anyone.

Power Forward: Jason Thompson – (C+)
-Thompson is probably the most likely to get traded before the deadline, as he is taking minutes away from Thomas Robinson. While Thompson has shown that he can produce( 10 and 6, PER of 15), he simply doesn’t get the ball enough. Thompson has also shown that he can’t be depended on at all times on the defensive end. 

Center: DeMarcus Cousins – (B-)
-The grade may come with some questioning, but when Cousins is on the floor, he is by far and away the best player on the Kings. Cousins is averaging career highs in points and rebounds, and could be a great player on the right team. It is just tough to see him growing maturely at all on this King’s roster. As Steve Kerr said, you can only have one knuckleball.

Bench – (D+)
-The Kings bench is 22nd in scoring, and are in the bottom half of all defensive categories. You have to think if the King’s are going to get any better, they are going to need some veteran leadership outside of their top five. 

Phoenix Suns: 14-28 

Point Guard: Goran Dragic – (B)
-Dragic is doing everything he should be doing. He is a solid point guard who has done well in the situation he has been put in. Dragic is averaging 14 and 6 this season, and has tried his best to improve on the defensive end. Much like Thomas’ situation in Sactown, it is tough to make average players look better. Dragic unfortunately, may have been given more than he can chew.

Shooting Guard: Jared Dudley – (B+)
-Dudley has quietly been averaging career highs in points and assists, and is also shooting a little better from the field. While his three point shooting is down, Dudley has tried his best to fill the leadership void that Nash left. A great on ball defender, Dudley has to be on the mid of alot of teams looking for unselfish players come playoff time.

Small Forward: P.J. Tucker – (C-)
-Tucker took over for Michael Beasley early on in the season, and while he has shown more effort on the defensive end, there is not much here. Tucker is averaging just four points a game in 28 minutes, well below the starter average for the small forward position. This is one of the areas you should definitely see the Suns shoot for in the draft.

Power Forward: Luis Scola – (C+)
-Scola is earning career lows in most of the major categories, and has looked underwhelming at time. Whether it is age, a new situation, or what have you, Scola can’t seem to get it together in Phoenix. For someone who was supposed to be the big scorer on this team, he has been anything but.

Center: Marcin Gortat – (C)
-Gortat looks disinterested in Phoenix. He has still shown that he can be a great option inside, and is averaging career highs in points and rebounds with the added minutes. Yet for a playoff team, Gortat could be huge. Expect teams like the Celtics, Heat, and maybe even the Warriors to come calling.

Bench – (C-)
-Underwhelming is probably the best way to put it. Michael Beasley is not an option anymore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Suns trade him. While Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown has been stable, the rest of the bench hasn’t. Brown could be dependable elsewhere, but he simply has been given too much responsibility on this team.



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