At the halfway point of the crazy fast 2011-12 NBA season, BallinEurope flexes the university professor muscles a little bit this morning with midterm assessments of individual performance by the big league’s Continental Players. We’ll be using the European grading system, with 5 being the top score possible and 1 the lowest; the Americans may consider the numbers roughly equivalent to the A-F system of U.S. high schools.

Listed along with the player’s name and team are a few metrics employed in handing out the marks, chief among these current Player Efficiency Ratings as devised by ESPN’s John Hollinger.

Now, class. Ready for the second half…?

5. Head of the class
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (22.1 PER, 23.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (19.23 PER, 15.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.0 spg, 38.1 mpg)

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs (22.32 PER, 19.4 ppg, 8.1 apg, 1.1 spg)

Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (22.38 PER, 12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.7 spg, 24.4 mpg; in February, 17.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 0.8 spg, 32.2 mpg)

After all-star Marc Gasol, call this the 20/20 club: Gasol, Parker and Pekovic are the sole European players in the NBA with PERs over 20 and ranked among the top 20 in the category. Though Gasol doesn’t gain entry – he’s ranked just 50th in PER overall – clearly his team’s success in anchored by the Spainard, who’s contributing the fifth-most minutes in the NBA.

And while the awarding of a 5 to Pekovic may be a bit premature, BiE feels the Serb’s monster February plus the creation of a nice twin-tower tandem with Kevin Love justifies the mark. Plus, do you realize that he is tops among Europeans in PER? At no. 17 overall, Pekovic tops Jeremy Lin, Parker and Bargnani.

4. High-level performers
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (19.67 PER, 13.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.0 spg)

José Calderón, Toronto Raptors (17.95 PER, 11.0 ppg, 8.9 apg) earning that $9.7 million

Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (15.84 PER, 15.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.75 bpg, 1.1 spg, 38.3 mpg)

Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (19.99 PER, 17.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.2 spg, 33.0 mpg)

Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers (21.11 PER, 17.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 37.1 mpg)

Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns (21.37 PER, 15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 33. 6 mpg)

Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder (17.36 PER, 8.2 ppg, 17.7 rpg, 3.2 bpg)

Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (18.48 PER, 10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg; one monster 29-point, 25-rebound performance)

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls (18.86 PER, 9.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.7 orpg, 1.3 bpg)

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (21.09 PER, 19.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (15.74 PER, 11.3 ppg, 8.4 apg, 2.4 spg, 3.4 TOpg)

Nice to see these particular players having notable seasons, particularly Gallinari (the toughest name to remove from the 5s, but BiE’s working with a grade curve here) and the graduates of Liga Endesa: Gasol, Ibaka, Rubio and Calderón.

A few 3-plusses got a bit of bump due to good marks on intangibles (Deng, Noah), top specialist play (Ibaka) and status as teacher’s pet (Rubio), while the biggest enigmas in this group are perhaps Europe’s top two names in the game, namely Dirk and Pau. While both are producing numbers which would induce envy in nearly every NBA franchise, the truth is both are suffering career lows in nearly every statistical category. Could these veterans have in fact played too much this summer, as Nowitzki contended?

3. Valued contributors
Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks (17.01, 7.3 ppg, 0.9 bpg, 1.0 spg, 18.0 mpg)

Rudy Fernandez, Denver Nuggets (13.97 PER, 9.3 ppg, 2.4 apg)

Enes Kanter, Utah Jazz (15.99 PER, 5.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 orpg, 14.5 mpg)

Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets (14.44 PER, 7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 19.5 mpg)

Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons (15.46 PER, 9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.7 spg, 24.6 mpg)

Linas Kleiza, Toronto Raptors (15.43 PER, 10.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta Hawks (13.9 PER, 6.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

Nikola Vucevic, Philadelphia 76ers (18.41 PER, 6.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.8 bpg)

What caught BiE’s eye most about this bunch? Rookies Kanter and Vucevic’s numbers and, simultaneously, their relatively limited playing time. Purely subjectively speaking, Vucevic has been particularly impressive for the surprisingly impressive Philadelphia 76ers; if he were getting more playing time, there might be mutters about the former USC Trojan vis-a-vis Rookie of the Year honors.

2. Off-seasons, decliners, up-and-comers
Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls (12.85 PER, 5.4 rpg, 0.94 bpg)

Marco Belinelli, New Orleans Hornets (10.91 PER, 10.8 ppg, 0.9 spg, 30.0 mpg)

Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors (10.6 PER, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg)

Omri Casspi, Cleveland Cavaliers (10.89 PER, 7.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 22.8 mpg)

Boris Diaw, Charlotte Bobcats (11.37 PER, 7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.4 TOpg, 28.3 mpg)

Timofey Mozgov, Denver Nuggets (11.65 PER, 5.5 rpg, 1.15 bpg, 17.5 mpg)

Johan Petro, New Jersey Nets (10.29 PER, 4.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 TOpg, 14.4 mpg)

Mickael Pietrus, Boston Celtics (8.97 PER, 7.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 22.9 mpg)

Vladimir Radmanovic, Atlanta Hawks 11.77 PER, 4.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder (11.57 PER, 5.2 ppg, 0.9 spg, 18 games played)

Kevin Seraphin, Washington Wizards (12.11 PER, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 13.2 mpg)

Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic (12.00 PER, 11.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.9 TOpg, 30.9 mpg) (Brandon Knight 11.91 in 31.8 mpg)

Beno Udrih, Milwaukee Bucks (11.64 PER, 5.2 ppg, 2.9 apg, 16.5 mpg)

Jan Vesely, Washington Wizards (7.56 PER, 3.1 rpg, 1.0 TOpg, 15.5 mpg)

Of course, BiE likes to think that most of these guys are victims of circumstance, e.g. one can hardly fault Casspi for getting traded to an utterly stylistically inappropriate (and chaotic) situation in Cleveland – is his agent demanding a trade to Maccabi Tel Aviv yet? The Wizards’ handling of their roster has been confusing at best, much to the detriment of Seraphin and Vesely this season.

(Accentuating the positive is Pietrus, the reverse side of the coin: After twice being cut before the season began, the Frenchman landed with the Celtics to become a useful bench player on his best behavior.)

On the other hand, there are some downturns and disappointments here. Asik has been buried behind rebound specialists on the Bulls’ roster, while Radmanovic, Diaw and Turkoglu (yes, especially Turkoglu) are sending blaring signals that their NBA careers’ ending is nigh. And poor Timofey Mozgov, who will become most known in 2011-12 for his incarnation as a passive verb, as in “He got Mozgov’d.”

1. Fail
Darko Milicic, Minnesota Timberwolves (9.65 PER, 4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 16.3 mpg, 36 minutes played in last 16 games)

Mehmet Okur, New Jersey Nets (8.77 PER, 7.6 ppg, 2.6 fpg, 1.5 TOpg, 17 games played)

Ronny Turiaf, Washington Wizards (four games played)

The only real surprise here is of course Okur, whose career appears to have been at least seriously temporarily derailed by landing in New Jersey. Consider that 8.77 PER, which puts him just ahead of consensus league-worst starting PG Derek Fisher, and consider the performance of essentially his replacement, Kanter. In short, better luck next semester – um, half – Mr. Okur!

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