|NBA Midseason Grades|
|The first half of the season had its share of unexpected ups and downs. Supposed also-rans such as the Thunder, Grizzlies and Bobcats have emerged as legitimate playoff contenders. The five consensus preseason favorites have a worse record than a year ago at this time, with drop-offs ranging from Orlando's minus-seven to the Lakers' minus-one. (The Cavs and Spurs are down three games, and the Celts are minus-five.)
But a team's record isn't the sole criterion for these grades. One big factor is a team's performance relative to reasonable expectations -- which explains why, for example, the Kings (widely expected to finish with the worst record in the Western Conference) get such a high mark and the Magic and Spurs have been downgraded. Another factor is how and why a team is winning or losing. Golden State, for instance, has been ravaged by injuries, while the Wizards have proved to be selfishly dysfunctional and clueless. Finally, weight is given to how well (or poorly) the season's first half has set up a team for the stretch run. Take the Celtics -- they've found that the Kevin Garnett-Rasheed Wallace tandem is not nearly as reliable as they'd hoped.
In the end, of course, it is a subjective judgment.