1. Indiana Pacers 34-8
The Pacers have earned their way to a league best 34-8 record in the seasons first half, with a stifling defense, and an incremental starting 5. It has been hinted by many that Indiana has one of the best starting units in NBA history, although they'll need a championship or two to back up that assumption.
Flying under the radar last year, Indiana nearly shocked the world, and took the eventual-champion Miami Heat to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers are no longer under the radar. Everyone in the NBA is aware of their presence atop the East and they no longer have the advantage of a team possibly looking past them. Also, Point Guard George Hill's questionable ball-handling continues to be an issue.
The Pacers have been the NBA's best team over the first half and will look to win their first title since joining the NBA.
First Half Grade: A
2. Chicago Bulls 21-20
It has been a rough year for the Bulls, they lost superstar Derrick Rose to season-ending knee surgery and traded star Luol Deng to get under the salary cap. But amidst all their injury woes, Chicago still appears poised to make the playoffs, led by swing man Jimmy Butler, who has turned into a crucial piece in their team.
As I stated above, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are gone, and now Derrick Rose's backup, Kirk Hinrich, is limping with injuries as well.
First Half Grade: C+
3. Detroit Pistons 17-25
The Pistons are in playoff contention! With a nice young group featuring Point Guard Brandon Jennings and Center Andre Drummond, Detroit dominates the glass and gets many second-chance points.
Detroit's three best players: Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith are all big men. They all start together, however, it is not a very good combination and it looks as if one of then will have to go. Not Drummond because he is the teams franchise player, and not Smith because he's in just his first year of a 5-year $55 million contract. So all signs point to Greg Monroe being traded before the trade deadline, or in the offseason.
First Half Grade: C
4. Cleveland Cavaliers 15-27
After adding former Bulls Small Forward Luol Deng, the Cavs have shown small, yet promising, improvement. Deng gives them something they didn't have before: playoff aspirations.
Before trading for Deng Cleveland was AWFUL. They came into to the year expected to make the playoffs riding with new #1 pick Anthony Bennett, but Bennett has been one of the biggest busts in recent memory, shooting just %26 from the field, and the team as a whole has been largely underwhelming.
First Half Grade: C-
5. Milwaukee Bucks 8-33
Not much...but rookie Giannis Antokuempo (or however you spell his name) has shown some bright potential, and could, with a little work, be a top-10 player in 3-5 years.
Franchise player (or at least he is supposed to be) Larry Sanders has been incredibly disappointing, he has been injured and gotten himself into trouble off the court, and even when he DID play, his stats were not franchise player level. Swingman O.J. Mayo and stretch 4 Ersin Illysova are also having the worst season of his careers, and the team has been unable to make up for the scoring punch they lost when Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis left.
First Half Grade: D-
Central Division All-Team (through the first half)
PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
SG Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
SF Paul George, Indiana Pacers
PF Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
C Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers