Full ordinary season grades for each of the 30 NBA groups.

Full ordinary season grades for each of the 30 NBA groups.


From honor roll to summer school: Full regular-season grades for all 30 NBA teams

From A to an F, what regular-season grade does each NBA team get?

As the 2023-24 NBA regular season ends Sunday, how would you grade your team’s performance?

That question is trickier to answer in a world where playoff results are paramount and often more disconnected from the regular-season performance that we’ve come to expect. Last year, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat turned disappointing trips to the play-in tournament into spots in the conference finals (and a win there, in Miami’s case).

Still, those results were captivating because they were so unlikely. Even in the topsy-turvy past four postseasons, when No. 1 seeds were more likely to be eliminated before the conference finals, the odds of making the final four as a top-three seed (42%) were still nearly triple the odds outside that range (15%).

Given the way the regular season sets up the playoffs, let’s look at how all 30 teams did relative to expectations coming into the season and the injuries they faced along the way — with the knowledge that another run from the play-in could make these look silly by late May. I’ve also included my grades from our midterm assessment in January for comparison.

The good news is the Pistons did enough in late January and early February — accumulating eight of their 14 wins in a 22-game span — to avoid flirting with adding the most losses in NBA history to their record 28-game losing streak. The bad news is everything else. It took new coach Monty Williams far too long to find a workable lineup to feature promising young guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, with Killian Hayes starting right up until being waived at the trade deadline. (He’s yet to resurface in the NBA.) Detroit figured to improve after Cunningham missed 70 games in 2022-23. Instead, the Pistons end the season with the worst record in franchise history.

Jordan Poole nearly shoots while sitting on court

Jordan Poole falls over with the ball and almost decides to shoot it from the court.

Squint hard enough and you can find some positives in a difficult season for the Wizards. Deni Avdija developed into a quality starter, while lottery pick Bilal Coulibaly held his own as a 19-year-old rookie. Despite Washington knowing this would be a lottery campaign, the Wizards surely hoped for better play from Jordan Poole, who was briefly benched in the first season of a four-year contract that will pay him an average of $30-plus million through 2026-27.

Unlike the teams near them in these grades, the Hawks have an outside chance of redeeming a lost season via the play-in tournament. That’s unlikely as the 10th seed in the East — needing to win two games on the road without breakout forward Jalen Johnson — so they’re likely facing a trip to the lottery after three consecutive playoff appearances. Atlanta’s season was undone by the inability to get the same production out of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young as a duo as when the star guards played individually, and the Hawks now face the prospect of having to trade one of them this offseason to retool.

It’s hard to believe the Raptors began this season hoping they could improve on last year’s play-in tournament loss. Instead, Toronto found itself among the league’s worst teams after dealing starters OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. The upside was the development of first-time All-Star Scottie Barnes. Flanked by newcomers RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, Barnes is the centerpiece of the next good Raptors team. But Toronto is relying on not sliding back in the lottery to add this year’s first-round pick, top-6 protected, to that group.

A 60-loss season on the heels of going 27-55 a year ago at least helped the Hornets embrace a rebuilding process. They began adding draft picks by dealing starters PJ Washington and Terry Rozier midseason and saw No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller grow into a leading role on offense. If Charlotte can get LaMelo Ball and center Mark Williams healthy after missing a combined 123 games this season, a competitive core will emerge that the Hornets can add to with yet another high lottery pick.

Above .500 as late as Dec. 16 (13-12), the Nets were one of the NBA’s worst teams thereafter. Mikal Bridges struggled under the weight of a leading role on offense, Ben Simmons played just 15 games and a team built on defensive versatility finished just outside the bottom 10 on D. Worse yet, Brooklyn won’t get a lottery pick for its troubles, sending this year’s pick to the Rockets as part of the James Harden trade.

The best thing that happened to the Blazers this season was how awful the other teams in the league’s cellar were, taking attention off Portland matching the total number of 60-point losses (two) by all other teams in the past 25 seasons combined. Long term, the most important thing for the Blazers will be how Scoot Henderson responds after predictably struggling with efficiency as a rookie.

With how competitive San Antonio has been since moving Victor Wembanyama to center and starting Tre Jones at point guard, it’s difficult to understand why the Spurs waited so long to make those moves. Still, this season was never about wins and losses, and Wembanyama’s development into a force at 20 years old bodes well for the Spurs’ future.

For a second consecutive year, Miami’s playoff run will go through the play-in tournament. There’s a little less reason to believe in the Heat’s untapped potential this time. After underperforming from 3-point range in the 2022-23 regular season (34%, 27th in the NBA), Miami has ranked 13th at 37% this season. It’s the fourth-worst shooting inside the arc (52%) that has doomed the Heat’s offense. But, when it comes to the playoffs, nobody will ever count out Miami.

This admittedly feels harsh given the cascade of injuries that forced Memphis to use a record 33 players this season. Because of the revolving door, coach Taylor Jenkins ran out 51 different starting lineups. This season was much more like an incomplete for the Grizzlies, who did find promising role players in rookie GG Jackson and Vince Williams Jr., who began the season on a two-way contract. Nonetheless, it was a lost campaign for a team coming off 51 wins, and the Grizzlies are suddenly staring at luxury-tax concerns that already forced them to deal injured center Steven Adams midseason.

Bulls fumble fast-break chance with mistimed alley-oop dunk

Bulls miss out on a fast-break bucket after miscommunication by Torrey Craig and Andre Drummond on an alley-oop dunk attempt.

The Bulls have been seemingly locked into the play-in for months and fended off the Hawks to at least host this year’s 9-10 matchup after going on the road last season. It took clutch heroics, primarily from DeMar DeRozan, for Chicago to get nearly to .500; the Bulls aren’t one of the 19 teams in the league that have outscored their opponents.

Can the Warriors still salvage what looked like a lost season? A 9-1 stretch to finish March and begin April showed hope of that, but Golden State’s home loss Friday to the New Orleans Pelicans cost the Warriors their best shot of moving into the 7-8 play-in game. As a result, they’ll likely have to win twice next week just to reach the playoffs. Golden State has played at a 50-win clip with Draymond Green in the lineup, showing how costly his suspensions were in the season’s first half.

For a second consecutive year, the Jazz gave up on the play-in race at the trade deadline. Although this year’s deals weren’t as dramatic, Utah shifted focus toward retaining a pick protected in the top 10 and starters shuffled in and out of the lineup. The result: a 5-24 record since the deadline.

Every time it feels like the Suns are establishing themselves as the contenders they believed they would be after adding Bradley Beal last summer, something goes wrong. In the past week of the regular season, which included home losses to New Orleans and the short-handed Clippers and will likely send Phoenix to the play-in. Although the Suns remain dangerous at their best, the path ahead will be challenging.

Bucks fans objected to the idea that the No. 2 seed in the East could earn such a middling grade in January. The past two months have done nothing to improve it. After early signs of improved defense under Doc Rivers, who replaced the fired Adrian Griffin in late January, Milwaukee is back in the middle of the pack. Despite a series of bad losses to lottery-bound teams, the Bucks will finish second in the East if they beat Orlando on the season’s final day. Still, a team with championship expectations after adding Damian Lillard ranks a distant eighth in point differential, a troubling indicator heading into the playoffs.

LeBron seals game for Lakers with showtime slam

LeBron James comes up with a clutch steal that leads to a flashy breakaway jam to put the game away for the Lakers.

How difficult has the West been? In the East, the Lakers would enter the final day of the regular season tied for fifth. Out West, they’re locked into the play-in and could finish as low as 10th due to tiebreakers after losing a key game this week at home to the Warriors without injured Anthony Davis. The Lakers have been 16-9 after the break without gaining any ground. Their grade also gets a slight boost by virtue of winning the inaugural in-season tournament.

After a charmed 2022-23 regular season saw them finish as far and away the league’s healthiest team, the Kings have had to deal with more injury adversity this season. They’re headed into the postseason without guards Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, the latter of whom was the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year before being sidelined. Friday’s narrow loss to Phoenix means Sacramento could fall all the way to 10th in the West.

Due in large part to injuries to starters Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell, it feels like we’ve seen several Cavaliers seasons in one. Their midseason grade came just before they peaked at 35-16, riding strong play from their reserves in the absences of Garland and Mobley. Since the All-Star break, Mitchell has seen his scoring average tumble nearly 10 points per game while battling knee soreness. Cleveland has clinched home-court advantage in the first round but feels shaky after losing in the same spot last season.

Embiid drops 32-point double-double to lead the 76ers to victory

Joel Embiid scores 32 points to go with 13 rebounds to help the 76ers to a 125-113 win over the Magic.

It’s tough to know how much to dock the Sixers for possibly tumbling into the play-in without reigning MVP Joel Embiid, especially since Embiid’s absence overlapped with an injury to key starter De’Anthony Melton and other players being in and out of the lineup. Philadelphia’s real grade is something more like incomplete until we see whether a healthy Embiid can lead a deep playoff run or if we’ll be wondering what might have happened without his midseason knee surgery.

A post-All-Star swoon saw the Clippers fall out of the mix for the top three seeds in the West, though they were able to hang on to home-court advantage in the first round thanks to key April wins over the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix without the injured Kawhi Leonard. If Leonard is healthy, the Clippers have a realistic path to the conference finals as long as the Nuggets end up on the other side of the bracket.

The Pelicans wobbled with Brandon Ingram out of the lineup due to a bone contusion in his knee, losing four straight across March and April, to put themselves in jeopardy of falling into the play-in. They’ve responded with a 4-0 road trip, featuring wins at Golden State, Phoenix and Sacramento and are a win away from clinching the sixth seed. At the center of this run: the resurgent Zion Williamson, who’s already played a career-high 69 games and is peaking heading into his first NBA postseason.

Over the second half, the Pacers have shown they’re more than just the Tyrese Haliburton show. Indiana went 6-5 when Haliburton was sidelined by a hamstring strain and survived his decline from 3-point range since returning. The Pacers are still in position to claim a top-6 seed and head directly to the playoffs, a solid step forward after three years in the lottery.

Rather than fading as the season has gone along, Orlando got stronger after the All-Star break, going 16-10 with a plus-3.6 differential. Alas, things broke poorly for the Magic in terms of schedule and tiebreakers, meaning they could fall into the play-in tournament with a loss Sunday to Milwaukee after being in the mix for the No. 2 seed earlier this week. Either way, Orlando has blown away expectations with a young roster by excelling at the defensive end.

Despite playing most of the second half without All-Star Julius Randle and newcomer OG Anunoby, the Knicks are poised to finish no worse than third in the East with a win Sunday. Thursday’s road win over a full-strength Celtics team, albeit one with nothing to play for, showcased how dangerous New York can be in the playoffs even without Randle. Brunson’s breakthrough season, which will surely earn him All-NBA honors, has propelled the Knicks to a strong grade.

If anything, the Rockets’ outlook looks even rosier than at midseason. Back then, I noted Jalen Green’s stalled development was the one “quibble” with Houston’s season. Green responded by averaging 27.7 points per game on nearly 50/40 shooting in March as the Rockets went 12-3 in the month, showcasing their bright future.

Everything clicked for the Mavericks after they added starters Daniel Gafford and Washington in deadline deals around the same time Kyrie Irving got healthy after missing 22 of the team’s first 49 games. Add in an MVP-caliber campaign from Luka Doncic and Dallas was one of the NBA’s better teams after the break, moving up to the fifth seed in the West a year after finishing outside the top 10.

The defending champs locked in after the All-Star break, pushing their point differential from plus-3.1 in the first half to plus-9.4 thereafter — second best in the NBA. Still, Friday’s shocking loss at San Antonio — after leading by 23 in the second half — means the Nuggets are most likely to finish third in the West. Denver won’t be scared by the prospect of heading on the road starting in the second round, having gone 6-3 away from home in last year’s title run, but the path would have been more comfortable as the top seed.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Game Highlights

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Game Highlights

Remarkably, Oklahoma City enters Sunday as the most likely team to claim the No. 1 seed in the West. After losing in the play-in tournament a year ago, the Thunder weren’t considered certain to make the playoffs, let alone finish in the top three. With one of the NBA’s youngest rosters, Oklahoma City is just beginning a promising run.

However Sunday’s three-team battle for home-court advantage throughout the West playoffs goes, Timberwolves fans — like the Thunder — would gladly have taken a top-three seed entering the season. It’s the third time in franchise history Minnesota will host a first-round series, and the Timberwolves stayed in the hunt for first despite playing 17 games without All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, who returned from meniscus surgery on Friday.

In January, I wrote that the Celtics’ biggest challenge was to exceed expectations — they entered the season as title favorites and clearly the NBA’s best team during the regular season. Boston found a way to do exactly that, blowing away the competition in the second half to take a historic 14-game lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference entering the season’s final day. Now, anything less than a return to the NBA Finals would be a crushing disappointment.

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