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Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 10:33 AM

NBA REPORTS CARDS - HERE'S THE WESTERN CONFERENCE

One thing about the unofficial first half of this 2016-17 NBA season ... there are lots of teams that haven't exactly "stepped up to the plate" as our Jim Sez NBA Eastern Conference Report Cards included a half-dozen squads with marks of C- or worse. Ugh!

Now, as you'll see in today's column space where we have graded the NBA's Western Conference clubs, there are another six teams that get what we'd call inferior marks.
The NBA has superstar power on display this weekend in New Orleans but there's some real dreg teams out there too and we're whacking 'em with some rotten report card grades here today.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/weekend with loads of NCAA Basketball and NBA All-Star Game Side/Totals winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and pound the books with hard court action today!

NBA MID-TERM REPORT CARD GRADES - THE WESTERN CONFERENCE

GRADE: A+

HOUSTON (40-18) - We'll claim that these Rockets are the single biggest overachievers in the NBA this year ... c'mon, you didn't think they'd be winning at a sizzling .690 clip almost 60 games into the season, did you? MVP candidate James Harden (29.2 ppg and 11.3 apg) is the central force now that innovative head coach Mike D'Antoni has 'em playing point guard - a simply brilliant strategic move so that the ball's always in Harden's hands.


GRADE: A

SAN ANTONIO (43-13) - The post-Tim Duncan Era has been a true seamless transition (what, you thought it wouldn't be under head coach Gregg Popovich?) but it is amazing how All-Star Kawhi Leonard (25.9 ppg) continues to elevate his game - and his scoring average - on a yearly basis. The Spurs' bench has been a positive factor for this team that's won 22-of-30 games versus fellow Western Conference opponents.

GOLDEN STATE (47-9) - Okay, so this year's Warriors won't be breaking any single-season NBA record for regular-season wins (see 73-9 last year) but that's okay because Steve Kerr's club is rollin' along behind leading scorer Kevin Durant (25.8 ppg), two-time league MVP Stephen Curry (24.7 ppg) and fellow All-Star Klay Thompson (22.1 ppg) and there's been plenty of blowout wins along the way.


GRADE: B+

UTAH (35-22) - The Jazz has become relevant in NBA circles once again in large part because of its stingy defense (allowing a league-best 95.7 ppg) and do-it-all G Gordon Hayward (22.2 ppg) ... board-crasher Rudy Gobert (12.9 ppg/12.6 rpg) can be in and out of the clouds at times, however.

OKLAHOMA CITY (32-25) - We know, we know. You think the OKC Thunder deserves an "A" because they lost one-time MVP Durant and still is plugging along with a playoff berth (for now). Well, MVP frontrunner G Russell Westbrook - a/k/a Mr. Triple Double (averaging 31.1 ppg/10.5 rpg/10.1 apg) - may indeed be this generation's Oscar Robertson but truth is Okie City's lost nine games by 4-points-or-less and gotta take a hit for that, right?

MEMPHIS (34-24) - Hats off to the Grizzlies for surviving the dozen games missed by star PG Mike Conley but this has always been a sum-is-greater-than-the-parts team and rookie coach David Fizdale gets high marks for keeping the ship afloat.


GRADE: B

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (35-21) - If anything, we're being kind to the Clips who always seem as if they're on the brink of something big and then don't deliver the goods. True, injuries to PG Chris Paul and F Blake Griffin have sapped the team's strength at times and who would have though JJ Redick (15.1 ppg) would be the leading scorer?


GRADE: C

DENVER (25-31) - The good news is the Nuggets right now hold down the eighth and final playoff berth in the West; the bad news is they rank 28th (out of 30 teams) in defense and basically need to get five guys scoring 20 points apiece to beat you. Need to get F Danilo Gallinari (team-best 17.2 ppg) to stay healthy as he's missed a dozen games so far.

NEW ORLEANS (23-34) - The All-Star Game hosts get credit for digging out of that 0-and-8 start, so we'll give 'em an "average" grade here as Anthony Davis (27.7 ppg, 11.9 rpg) has been his spectacular self and Jrue Holiday (7.5 apg) has been blossoming nicely.

GRADE: C-

DALLAS (22-34) - Simply don't like the way this franchise has devolved with an old Dirk Nowitzki and next-to-no offensive firepower (ranks dead-last in the NBA in scoring at 98.1 points per outing). Talk about a team going in the wrong direction.

SACRAMENTO (24-33) - In essence, this is a two-man operation starring C DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins (27.8 ppg and 10.6 rpg) and PG Darren Collison (13.7 ppg and 4.2 apg) and that's not gonna fly in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference. Do we have to say it? Too many damn technical fouls on Cousins who remains his own worst enemy.


GRADE: D

LOS ANGELES LAKERS (19-39) - True, La-La- land's most popular hoops team is in a serious rebuilding stage with a slew of new pups but tough to say anything positive about a team that's 7-25 away and 9-25 against fellow Western Conference teams.

MINNESOTA (22-35) - No question the results have not been "instant" under respected head coach Tom Thibodeau who hasn't gotten his defensive schemes to work (Timberwolves rank middle-of-the-pack 16th in scoring defense) but gotta say Karl-Anthony Towns (23.7 ppg) is already one of the league's top 10 players.

PORTLAND (23-33) - The Trail Blazers strung together back-to-back 50-plus win seasons just a couple of years ago but this year's club is a mess save for star G Damian Lillard (25.7 ppg and 5.8 apg) - time to start trading off some pieces as they did with Mason Plumlee-to-Denver.


GRADE: F

PHOENIX (18-39) - Dishin' out a failing grade to the woe-be-gone Suns who have the league's second-worst won/loss record behind Brooklyn. Once upon a time this was one of the NBA's model franchises but now they have a good scorer in G Eric Bledsoe (21.6 ppg) and not much else.

NOTE: Catch plenty of key College Basketball News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.