NBA All-Star weekend is here. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions we have for what promises to be a fascinating second half of the regular season:

Will Shai Gilgeous-Alexander win NBA MVP?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the least recognizable of the top contenders. If he walked right by you in a grocery store, you might not know who he is. That’s about to change. Gilgeous-Alexander is the biggest threat to MVP favorite Nikola Jokić. He’s third in the league in Player Efficiency Rating (30.57) and fourth in plus/minus (+525). SGA and Jokić are the only players in the top six of both categories. Gilgeous-Alexander has led the Oklahoma City Thunder (37-17) to the second-best record in the West, a game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16) in the loss column. As long as the Thunder stay in contention for the top seed, Gilgeous-Alexander has a terrific shot to win the award.

Are the Clippers the best in the West?

Remember when we made fun of the Los Angeles Clippers for adding James Harden? Well, who’s laughing now? Since Dec. 1, the Clippers own the NBA’s best record (28-7). The combination of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Harden has worked. For the season, the Clippers (36-17) have the league’s third-best offensive rating. Harden has managed to fit in despite having his lowest-scoring season (17.5) in over a decade. The biggest reason for concern is, as always, Leonard’s health. He has played 48 games but missed Wednesday’s victory at the Golden State Warriors with an adductor strain. If Leonard stays healthy, the Clippers could surpass Minnesota and Oklahoma City.

When will the Bucks get it together?

The Milwaukee Bucks landed the biggest off-season prize, trading for Damian Lillard. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard were supposed to form the most dynamic inside-outside combination in recent memory. For inexplicable reasons, that hasn’t happened. The Bucks (35-21) are 8.5 games behind the East-leading Boston Celtics (43-12). Lillard is shooting 34.1% from three-point range, the third-worst of his career, and Milwaukee’s defense is No. 17 in the league. Hiring Doc Rivers in-season to take over for the fired Adrian Griffin hasn’t helped. The Bucks are 3-7 under Rivers, including Tuesday’s embarrassing 123-97 stinker to the visiting Miami Heat who were without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier. And then there was Thursday’s stunning 113-110 setback at the depleted Memphis Grizzlies. Somewhere, Mike Budenholzer must be chortling.

Better chance to make a second-half run: LeBron or Steph?

If you believe the reports, the Golden State Warriors (27-26) tried to make LeBron James and Steph Curry teammates. That would have been fascinating for obvious reasons. Both are still playing great but can no longer carry their teams against much younger competition. James is 39 and Curry turns 36 in March. LeBron seems like a safer bet; Anthony Davis is still playing well, and perhaps the recent addition of Spencer Dinwiddie will make a difference for the Los Angeles Lakers (30-26). Curry is surrounded by an unstable Draymond Green, who has already been suspended twice this season, and a diminished Klay Thompson, who is no longer among the league’s best two-way players. The Warriors’ dynasty is over. Unless, of course, James opts out of his contract this summer and takes his talents to San Francisco.

How close will the Rookie of the Year race be?

Right now, Victor Wembanyama is the favorite over Chet Holmgren. It’s hard to knock either, as both first-year players have been impressive. Wembanyama is the ONLY reason to watch the San Antonio Spurs (11-44). He leads all rookies in points (20.5), rebounds (10.0), and PER (22.07). He also leads the league in blocks (3.2), and earlier this week he became the first rookie to record a triple-double with blocks since David Robinson in February 1990. It will be tough for Holmgren to win. He’s second for all rookies in points (16.7), rebounds (7.6) and blocks (2.6). But he’s shooting much better from the field (53.5% to Wemby’s 46.8%) and from three-point range (39.3 to 32.0). Of course, Holmgren is blessed with a better supporting cast. 

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.