|NBA Midseason Grades|
|The best aspect of the first half of the season was the drama it has set up for the second half and on into the playoffs. The Celtics and Lakers are seeing their conference supremacy challenged by Miami and league-leading San Antonio, respectively. The Magic blew up their team and seemingly emerged stronger; the Bulls shrugged off an assortment of injuries and kept winning.
But a team's record isn't the sole criterion for these grades. Another factor is how well the team has performed relative to reasonable expectations. For example, the Hornets have a slightly worse record than the Jazz, Mavericks or Thunder, but few people imagined they'd be this close to landing home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs at this point. Also taken into consideration is how and why a team is winning or losing. Some sub-.500 teams are accepting losses while they build a foundation for their future, while others have been sabotaged by injuries or dysfunction. And finally, weight is also given to how well (or poorly) the season's first half has positioned the team the rest of the way.
In the end, of course, it is a subjective judgment that could look especially silly or shrewd with a sudden winning streak or mysterious collapse.
(All stats and records are through Jan. 19.)