James Harden’s ferocious and disciplined Houston Rockets — led from the bench by the 9-lived Mike D’Antoni — gets the highest mark possible from Sports Illustrated at the midway point in the NBA season. The A+ for Harden, Eric Gordon, Patrick Beverley and company equals the A+ dished out to the Golden State Warriors, who performed the chemistry experiment like Steve Kerr was Madame Curie.
The other end of that chemistry experiment — if Kevin Durant is the control varable — is of course the OKC Thunder. Led by the triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, the Thunder merit an A- from SI, even though the Thunder are just 27-19. (The Utah Jazz, with a similar record, also get the A- grade.) SI points out that the grade is as much for Westbrook himself as for his Thunder. They have a worse-than-the-Brooklyn-Nets -10.4 net rating when Westbrook is not on the floor — a stat that rises to +4.5 when he is. The real equation might be written like this: Thunder team, B; Russell Westbrook, A+.