Get ready: We're less than five weeks away from a play-in tournament that could include the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. This week, let's highlight 10 more things from the NBA that I like and dislike, including promising signs from this year's No. 1 pick, Giannis Antetokounmpo seeing everything, and Karl-Anthony Towns as the best scoring big man ... ever?
1. Cade Cunningham has arrived
Since a so-so first 15 games, Cunningham is averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on 43% shooting -- and a very encouraging 37% on 3s. The Detroit Pistons -- 6-3 in their last nine, winning almost to their detriment -- look like a real, live NBA team with Cunningham at the controls. For the first time in what feels like forever, you can see a vision here -- with Cunningham as the centerpiece.
Imagine what the Pistons might look like -- what Cunningham will look like -- as both he and Detroit's roster improve?
At 20, Cunningham already commands the game. He is cool, confident, manipulative. He knows how every dribble and fake might bend the defense, and what cracks will open. He plays from one step ahead. At 6-6, he can make any pass. He whips one-handed, cross-court slingshots to corner shooters, and he's smart about throwing them early -- when help defenders are leaning the wrong way. He uses shoulder fakes and slow, hanging dribbles to set defenders up before using screens.
That is veteran guile. Cunningham speeds around Isaiah Stewart's pick, pins Jaylen Brown on his hip, and pauses: Let me see what reveals itself. He then accelerates left, around that seal from Stewart; the two have good timing on that action.
Cunningham has nice lefty touch on layups, hooks, and floaters. He's honing a reliable midranger he can launch going left or right, and even stepping back:
Cunningham has some Luka Doncic in his game. He wriggles his way to his pet spots, and has a knack for keeping plays alive in the deep paint -- a place where lots of ball handlers find themselves trapped. Cunningham pivots and fakes and half-turns, and anticipates how each of those moves might spook one defender somewhere into a false step -- leaving a shooter open.
He's tall and crafty enough to build a repertoire of floater-range shots. As Doncic has shown, an ace playmaker who makes those at a decent rate is the ultimate playoff weapon.
Cunningham is a long way from being in Doncic's league, and the Pistons are a long way from the playoffs. But Cunningham looks the part. The Pistons may get there faster than you think.
2. Ja Morant is everything
Morant is the best show going. He is a highlight machine. He oozes charisma and bravado. He is a superstar -- a candidate for No. 4 or 5 on the MVP ballot now, with more to come.