It's Friday and the NBA season is more than a week old. You know what that means: the first 10 Things I Like and Don't Like of the year, starring a breakout superstar, the buzzy Hornets, the scuffling Nets, and more.
1. Ja Morant is the perfect superstar
After banking another thrilling win in Stephen Curry's house Thursday night, Morant is the season's undisputed early breakout superstar -- keeping the Grizz above .500 as they navigate injuries and lineup changes.
As I've written before, Morant is (even as he scores more) the rare young superstar who dominates without bending everything to his will. He doesn't play like someone who cares about the Grizzlies being "his team."
Morant is happy to get off the ball and work as a turbo-charged cutter. He cuts selflessly, knowing he may just end up sucking in the defense and unlocking an open look for someone else.
Given Morant's speed and head-hunting ferocity, it is surprising how willing he is to slow down in transition -- to wait for teammates to pop up in his wake:
How many young star guards make that play for Desmond Bane? (By the way: Bane and De'Anthony Melton have already canned 11 pull-up 3s between them after making 41 combined last season. Bane is doing way more off the dribble.)
Morant oozes change-of-pace craft, and makes the simple plays -- taking what the defense gives:
Morant notices Paul George forcing him away from Steven Adams' pick, a strategy that depends on Adams' man -- Isaiah Hartenstein -- dipping into the paint. But Hartenstein isn't there; he's glued to Adams:
Morant sees the opening, and takes it. But he's not overeager. He doesn't go too fast, or drive with blinders on. Even with paydirt in sight, Morant keeps his passing reads in mind -- knowing his sudden acceleration might draw help.
There is an inclusiveness to Morant's game. He is the kind of star other guys want to play with.
He's hot from deep, and the league will be in trouble if Morant improves his shooting to the point it's no longer safe to duck screens against him. We'll see if that sustains. As is, Morant's ability to change speeds makes him effective against any coverage.
He has a long way to go on defense, and his next big task on offense is helping to get Jackson going.
2. Miles Bridges, diversifying
You could see signs of something brewing with Bridges last season -- signs beyond his earthquake dunks: canny passing from the post, more pull-up 3s, niftier playmaking, very close to 50/40/90 shooting. He made irregular mini-leaps in several skills -- scattershot progress that portended a bigger overall leap once those skills coalesced.