7. The kids in Toronto, smart beyond their years
Toronto's kiddos -- along with a revamped offense -- have freshened up a team that risked growing stale. They are ahead of schedule forming a supporting cast for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
They are smart, stay within themselves, and execute the little things that win. Watch Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl switch and re-switch between three Atlanta players in a few seconds:
That looks easy, but it isn't. It requires deep knowledge of opposing personnel, anticipation, instinctual hoops IQ, and in-synch communication. It is beyond most first- and second-year players.
Siakam is everywhere, all the time -- a hellhound guarding all five positions, and showing nascent playmaking ability. He fits almost any lineup; the Drakes have outscored opponents by about 10 points per 100 possessions with Siakam on the floor.
Poeltl isn't a leaper, but he has smart feet and soft hands. He has worked well alongside Siakam.
VanVleet has been a revelation in Delon Wright's absence. OG Anunoby usurped a starting spot, and has massive potential as a long-armed, switchable 3-and-D menace with passing feel. He enveloped Harden in Toronto's win in Houston. Norman Powell should rediscover his verve coming off the bench.
None will be stars. Toronto will need one of those once Lowry and/or DeRozan cycles out of the organization. But they are nice complementary players on this good Toronto team, and they will be even better complementary players on the next one.