View Full Version : Handing out NBA grades

01-19-2007, 11:28 AM
Charley Rosen

After investigating every team in the league, it's time to separate the legitimate ball clubs from the delusional ones.

This season, more than ever, there are no teams that are without serious flaws and that appear to be locks to win the championship. Indeed, there are many more dark horses in the race then there are chalk-line favorites. This means that the playoffs should showcase a mad dash to the finish line, and should therefore be unusually exciting and enthralling.

Let's take an overall look at the field as the season nears the halfway mark, and assign a letter grade that rates their championship prospects and/or their overall development.

The A teams

Thus far, the two best teams are easy to identify: The Mavericks and the Suns.

While Dallas currently has the best record, there are several questions concerning the team's ability to perform on a championship level. To whit, a common thread that runs through the respective careers of Jason Terry, Devin Harris, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki — a penchant for choking in the clutch of truly critical games.

Yes, the Mavs defense is somewhat improved. And, yes, their offensive fire-power is awesome. But denial is ignorance, and unless Avery Johnson can somehow impart some of his own personal courage to these four key players, then the Mavs are doomed to suffer another frustrating off-season.

The Suns' offense is even more dynamic than the Mavs, and, in Steve Nash, they are blessed with one of the league's most dependable end-game performers. Since Nash is the heart, brain and lungs of this team, any debilitating injury to him will reduce Phoenix to mere also-rans. That's why Mike D'Antoni must limit Nash's playing time.

And while the Suns up-tempo style is perfectly suited for success in the regular season, the farther they advance into the playoffs the more their helter-skelter game plan becomes vitiated. That's exactly what happened last year, and there's little reason to believe the pattern won't be repeated.

Other vital concerns are the Suns defensive deficiencies, and the continued soundness of Amare Stoudemire's surgically repaired knee.

The B-plus teams

Don't underestimate the Spurs. For sure, too many of their players are showing their age, but because there are no back-to-back games in the playoffs, and because the traveling is much reduced, veteran teams tend to peak in the postseason. Besides, the Spurs know how to win.

Once Lamar Odom returns to action, the Lakers will enter the money season on a roll. Give the credit for the team's surprising success to Phil Jackson, and also to Kobe Bryant for (finally!) becoming the type of leader whom other players are willing to follow.

With a well-rested Shaq back in the saddle, Miami's biggest concern is the state of Jason Williams' wheels. Minus that extra zip that Williams provides, the Heat have to work too hard to find good shots. Other concerns: Does Antoine Walker have enough left to help the team in the home-stretch? Ditto for Gary Payton and James Posey.

Know this: Should Pat Riley return to the bench, then he has become convinced that the Heat are ready to defend their title.

The B teams

The Jazz would be rated higher if they had a formidable shooting guard and a deeper bench.

If Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming ever get to play together, then the Rockets will be the one low-seeded team that nobody will want to face. With an abundance of both inside and outside scoring, and with Jeff Van Gundy's habitual emphasis on defense, Houston's most significant flaw will be the poor judgment routinely exhibited by Rafer Alston.

Detroit will be temporarily juiced by the addition of Chris Webber, but Rasheed is still MIA, and C-Webb has never been known to raise his game in the playoffs. The shift in emphasis from defense to offense has removed the Pistons from the pole position.

The B-minus teams
Cleveland is handicapped by Eric Snow's decrepitude, by Ziggy-Ilg's softness, by Larry Hughes' inconsistency, by Damon Jones' atrocious defense, by Donyell Marshall's increasing ineffectiveness, and by their total reliance on LeBron James. One-man bands simply don't make enough good music in May and June.

The Bulls can't score, have no inside presence, don't play well on the road, and depend too much on perimeter shooting. Seventy percent defense and 30 percent offense isn't an equation that solves enough postseason problems.

The Wizards have the opposite problem. Good hit, no field. Still, given the disarmed state of the competition in the Eastern Conference, Washington could conceivably shoot its way into the conference finals.

The C-plus teams

Too bad Orlando lacks a real point guard, a young Grant Hill, an attentive Darko Milicic, and a more athletic small-forward than Hedo Turkoglu. Also, Dwight Howard hasn't yet developed into the kind of inside force the Magic will require for them to be a bona fide championship contender. Give the young man a couple of seasons to refine his offense and improve the choices he makes on defense and he'll be an authentic franchise player.

The C teams

We're talking average here.

Like the Nets without Nenad Krstic and with Vince Carter, One-Third-Human, One-Third-Amazing, One-Third-Choker. Only Jason Kidd's incredible competitiveness gives the Nets a chance.

Like Toronto, which is a marked improvement over their sad-sack rating in recent years.

Like the Pacers, who need a full season (and a new point guard) to fully retool their game plan and move up the scale.

Like Minnesota, who will someday have to admit that while Kevin Garnett is a superstar, his lightweight game is also part of the team's problem. Indeed, it's only KG's presence that lifts the one-dimensional games of Mike James and Ricky Davis into solid mediocrity.

Once the honeymoon is over in Denver, Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson will have a stormy relationship. With no muscle in the middle, and with a muscle-head on the bench, the Nuggets remain nothing more than fool's gold.

Nellie's teams are always entertaining, and the Warriors are no exception. But the name of the game is competition, and Nellie Ball is too gimmicky and too defenseless to last long in the hard glare of the playoffs.

Blame the Clippers collapse on the mileage on Sam Cassell's legs, Chris Kaman's penchant for bouncing the ball in tight quarters, the unrealistic expectations projected on Shaun Livingston, as well as the full blossoming of Mike Dunleavy's characteristic paranoia.

The C-minus teams

Forget about all the crippling injuries, the Bucks are in dire need of a playmaking guard and some more toughness. It wouldn't hurt if Andrew Bogut could play as well against the elite teams as he does against the NBA's chumps.

The Knicks are actually moving in the right direction. Defense remains a problem, as are shot selection and turnovers (when, if ever, will Eddy Curry learn to be comfortable when he's two-timed?). Look for Zeke to pass Jim Dolan's test, remain employed, and lead the Knicks into the playoffs next season.

The D-plus teams

The Trail Blazers are in good hands. Nate McMillian has apparently domesticated Zach Randolph. LaMarcus Aldridge is for real. As are Travis Outlaw (eventually, that is), and Juan Dixon. Too bad Brandon Roy and Martell Webster are flops, Jarrett Jack is really a backup, and Darius Miles will be (at least physically) healthy next season. The center position also needs work. Joel Przybilla is overpaid and overweight, and Jamaal Magloire is overrated (but only by himself). As it is, the Blazers are further along in their development than they were at this point last season.

Like many other teams, injuries have blighted Seattle's season. With the return of Rashard Lewis, and with the addition of a legitimate center, the Sonics have a good chance to become a tolerable ball club that can occasionally surprise semi-elite teams at home.

The down-and-dirty truth is that the return to action of both Peja Stojakovic and David West will only return the Hornets to mediocrity. Actually, what they miss most is Bobby Jackson's maturity and steadiness in the clutch. And where's the power on this team? How far can they go with the likes of Tyson Chandler and Marc Jackson as their operative bigs? However, with Chris Paul as their motor, the Hornets can travel far if they make the right personnel moves in the off-season.

Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia represent the future of the Kings. Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, and Corliss Williamson represent the past. Ron Artest represents a descent into utter selfishness and marginal madness. Time to back up the truck.

The D teams

The Celtics are headed nowhere fast. The roster is filled with young players who have considerable up-sides. But Tony Allen is an airhead. Al Jefferson is a slow learner. Sebastian Telfair needs to play on a race-horse team. Delonte West is fragile and doesn't have a real position. Ryan Gomes is a tweener. At one end of the scale, Kendrick Perkins is a bust. At the other end is Gerald Green, who could easily blossom into an explosive scorer. Where does Paul Pierce fit? He's just another mismatched piece on this ill-conceived roster.

The Bobcats have made huge strides since their inception three years ago. In Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Matt Carroll, Gerald Wallace and Sean May, Charlotte has the core of a semi-respectable team. They need a center, and they need Adam Morrison to get tougher and to play some defense (any defense will do!). Above all, they need to convince Bernie Bickerstaff to return as the leader, healer and nurturer of these youngsters.

Atlanta is no longer the laughing stock of the NBA. Sure, they made a mistake in signing Speedy Claxton, and Marvin Williams looks like a career underachiever. But Zaza Pachulia is on the bench where he belongs, while Josh Smith and Sheldon Williams are legit. How can anybody think it advisable to fire Mike Woodson?

The D-minus team

Philadelphia has mortgaged today for tomorrow, a wise and courageous move. Andre Iguodala and Willie Green have promising futures. Andre Miller is a steady hand at the helm. Kyle Korver has expanded his game sans A.I. Everything depends on what Billy King does with his array of draft choices.

The F squad

The Grizzlies new run-and-gun prescription is nothing more than a sugar pill. The only real-live players are Pau Gasol (who actually should be moved for the right return), Mike Miller, Dahntay Jones, and Hakim Warrick. Perhaps Jerry West isn't such a genius after all.

Charley Rosen, former CBA coach, author of 12 books about hoops, the current one being A pivotal season — How the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers changed the NBA, is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com.

01-19-2007, 11:29 AM
What a freakin' idot. Does he even watch the Mavs?

01-19-2007, 12:31 PM
I donīt like Charly Rosen. He was never a big Mavs fan. Does he live in the past? How can he argue that the Mavs defense is improved "somewhat". What I see is, that defense has improved significant. And Nowitzki has hit more clutch shots this season, than ever before. Rosen is a f****** twaddler!

01-19-2007, 12:32 PM
This is something that really pisses me off about sports journalists in particular. If someone walked up to you, looked you in the face and called you a choker, you would be quite tempted to punch him in the face.

But this old fart rattles it off like it's accepted fact one and that it's just flat out okay to put it in print. It's one thing for a bunch o' folks to prattle on in a message board, but another to print it.

01-19-2007, 12:38 PM
While Dallas currently has the best record, there are several questions concerning the team's ability to perform on a championship level. To whit, a common thread that runs through the respective careers of Jason Terry, Devin Harris, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki — a penchant for choking in the clutch of truly critical games.

such and such teams choke is such a banal argument....

...i can cite, nearly off the top of my head, 28 teams that didn't choke in last year's NBA finals, but that doesn't mean any of those teams are less likely to choke than the mavs going forward this year.

01-19-2007, 02:30 PM

01-19-2007, 03:01 PM
We're doomed! We only somewhat improved in defense! (he's comparing to last year right?) We are notorious for choking in huge games! Doom!

Big Shot Rob
01-19-2007, 03:09 PM
This guy is crazy--a real nut job.

Grades Mavs as an A-team--then rips into the Macvs and does not state why.

Grades San Antonio as a B+ team; I see them more as a C- team.

Manu said the team is demoralized; once your spirit gets broken, things get worse--SA may not even get into the playoffs at all this year.

01-19-2007, 03:18 PM
This guy is crazy--a real nut job.

Grades Mavs as an A-team--then rips into the Macvs and does not state why.

Grades San Antonio as a B+ team; I see them more as a C- team.

Manu said the team is demoralized; once your spirit gets broken, things get worse--SA may not even get into the playoffs at all this year.

Come on BSR, there is no way San Antonio misses the playoffs this year. I think the absolute worst case scenario for San Antonio (assuming no major injuries) is the 6th seed.

01-19-2007, 03:22 PM
Whoa, I just read a little bit of that article, and Charlie Rosen must have written this after getting a lobotomy. How the hell is he giving Miami a B+ right now!?!?!? Has he not figured out yet that they were a sub-.500 team in the first half of the season.

01-19-2007, 05:34 PM
I also think they accidental insert a basketball in the course of a lobotomy. An ageing Diesel, the Drama-Queen, an overweight because there are no fours player and an old chatterbox at the same level as the Spurs and the Lakers. LOL. But maybe the refs will help them again. Itīs still a mystery for me how we could lose four games in a row against them, even with a lousy performance of the refs.

The Crippler
01-19-2007, 05:45 PM
so in the same essay, he calls Nowitzki a "choker" but calls Nash one of the game's premier "end-game performers". Are you f'n kidding me? Hilarious.

01-19-2007, 06:11 PM
I'm sometimes tempted to point that Dirk Nowitzki hit huge potential game winning shots in the final seconds of regulation and overtime in game 5 at miami...

....the reason we're not talking about Dirk as the clutch, clutcher and clutchiest hero of game 5 is because Peyton hit his one shot of the finals to send the game into OT and then Wade, umm, received two free shots in OT....

but what's the point?

01-19-2007, 07:09 PM
I wish I had this guy on my celebrity death list for this year.

Grammaton Cleric
01-19-2007, 07:58 PM
Rosen just lives to piss people off. Most columnists do.

Two "A" teams, yet it's revealed to be a backhanded designation once you read the rest of his comments. It was easy to see what was coming. His "no teams that are without serious flaws" crack was a pretty big tip-off.

Anyway, it's not as if this clod has any credibility left after last year's "grades" at the midpoint. I think he had NOK rated higher than San Antonio.

01-19-2007, 08:18 PM
Mavs are 15-4 in games decided by less than 10 points (8-3 when decided by five or less).