Regular season basketball is back!
After the (dull) All-Star break, the NBA schedule hits high gear again with 18 teams starting the second half of the season tonight.
Looking back at the first 30-something games, we learned a lot, including:
- LeBron James is the best player in the game. Without a doubt.
- Tony Parker deserves to be in the MVP discussion.
- Jeremy Lin can ball.
- It's still impossible to tell if the Denver Nuggets are actually any good or not.
- There are few teams that get as hot and cold as the Orlando Magic.
- David Stern and New Orleans probably should have dealt Chris Paul to the Lakers.
- Not even Michael Jordan could save the Bobcats. (Literally.)
So what's left to learn? Here are 30 questions, one for each team (in order of their power rankings), that we'll have answered by June 26, 2012, the last possible NBA Finals date:
Is there any team that can beat the Miami Heat in the playoffs? (Because if there is, we haven't seen them yet.)
At some point, Manu Ginobili's absence has to affect the San Antonio Spurs, right?
Which Russell Westbrook will show up in crunch time for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason?
Could the Chicago Bulls swing a deal to land Pau Gasol?
Will somebody other than Chris Paul emerge as a reliable late threat for the Los Angeles Clippers?
Instead of dealing Dwight Howard, could the Orlando Magic actually acquire Steve Nash, and make a run at the NBA Finals?
What does the future hold for Lamar Odom with the Dallas Mavericks? And will the soap opera surrounding him prevent Dirk Nowitzki and Co. from making a run at back-to-back titles?
Can the Houston Rockets surprise everybody and ride Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry and their frontcourt to a deep playoff run?
Does Zach Randolph's return mean the Memphis Grizzlies will be in contention for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs?
Who will be playing point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers on March 16, the day after the trade deadline?
Are the Philadelphia 76ers more the team that started 10-3, or more the team that headed into the break losing 11 of their last 21 games?
What move will the Indiana Pacers make at the trade deadline to stay competitive in the Eastern Conference?
Is Amar'e Stoudemire going to revert to his 2010-11 form for the Knicks, or are his elite days past him?
Is there a reason the Minnesota Timberwolves haven't been able to climb more than a game or two above-.500? Will they continue to tread water and miss the playoffs by a hair?
Can the Portland Trail Blazers make the playoffs with the less-than-ideal Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton splitting point guard duties?
When Al Horford returns, can the Atlanta Hawks get back to winning basketball games?
Will the Denver Nuggets, 9-17 in the conference at the break, figure out a way to win in the West?
How much longer will Mark Jackson and the Golden State Warriors insist on playing Andris Biedrins?
Will the Cleveland Cavaliers take advantage of the slumping Boston Celtics, make a major move at the trade deadline, and push toward the playoff picture?
Should the Boston Celtics blow up their core and start from scratch?
Can Shannon Brown figure out his game and become a viable scoring option for the Phoenix Suns?
Where will Derrick Favors be in his development for the Utah Jazz at the season's end? And what will the Jazz do once Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Favors are all deserving of 30 minutes per game? (Not to mention Enes Kanter . . .)
Will Ersan Ilyasova continue to put up solid numbers for the Milwaukee Bucks, and play his way to a big free agent score?
Will Dwight Howard join Deron Williams on the New Jersey Nets before the trade deadline? Or could Brooklyn open with neither superstar?
Can Rodney Stuckey build on his big February for the Detroit Pistons, and continue to play up to his salary?
How many games will Eric Gordon play for the New Orleans Hornets this season? And will his tenure with the team last just one season?
At the end of the season, could Isaiah Thomas wind up with better numbers for the Sacramento Kings than Jeremy Lin?
Could the return of Andrea Bargnani, combined with the recent play of Jose Calderon, begin the Toronto Raptors' climb toward relevance?
Will Nick Young, John Wall and JaVale McGee flash any of their immense talent in the second half for the Washington Wizards? Or are we headed toward an offseason where the Wizards tear apart their dysfunctional roster?
What teams could the hapless Charlotte Bobcats possibly beat to avoid surpassing the 1972-73 76ers (9-73) as the worst team in NBA history?