Atlantic Division: Top 5 Players of the Week
The Atlantic Division had a subpar week as a whole for the games played between Monday, March 11th and Sunday, March 17th. The Philadelphia 76ers were the best of the group with a perfect 3-0 record, and the Boston Celtics were also able to take home a winning record at 2-1. However, the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors all finished with more losses than wins on the week.
The wins and losses split was weak on the week for the division, but there were still elite performances by some of the best players in the league. Come ready or not at all if you’re looking for a spot on the sacred list, and here is the third installment of the indubitable Top 5 Players of the Week in the Atlantic Division.
Weekly Record: March 11th—March 17th
Philadelphia 76ers: 3-0
Toronto Raptors: 1-2
New York Knicks: 1-2
Boston Celtics: 2-1
Brooklyn Nets: 1-3
Spencer Dinwiddie: 19.75 points, 2.25 assists, 3.0 rebounds, FG% .37
Mario Hezonja: 1 Block on LeBron James
Ben Simmons: 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds, FG% .59
5. D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)
The Brooklyn Nets had a disappointing week despite their All-Star putting out another successful collection of games. Russell finished the four contests averaging 19.25 points, 7 assists, 4.75 rebounds and 1.75 steals.
The Nets currently sit 7th in the Eastern Conference and the team can ill afford to have any more losing weeks with only 10 games left to play on the season. The surging Miami Heat are only 1.5 games behind them, and the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets also sniffing around the Nets’ playoff spot.
Brooklyn has a great core with Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jared Allen, but Russell is the player that the majority of the big moments will fall onto. Only time will tell if the 23 year old out of Ohio State will step up.
4. Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers)
The Philadelphia 76ers went 3-0 on the week and Jimmy Butler was a key component of that success. The 6’8, 232 pound swingman out of Marquette only played in two of the games, but he averaged an impressive 24.5 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.5 steals on .53% shooting from the field, and .50% shooting from behind the line.
Butler has had to find his role since joining the 76ers in the first third of the season from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He doesn’t have the ball in his hands nearly as much with Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid on the court with him, but the four-time All Star has continued to hit big shots and play lock up defense for the championship aspiring Philadelphia team.
Butler was a defensive savant in his two games for the 76ers this week, with a total of five steals in 69 minutes of play—or one every 13.8 minutes on the court. Butler currently sits fourth in the league in the department at 1.95.
Giving respect to Chicago Bulls announcer Stacey King and one of the best nicknames in basketball. “His name is Jimmy G Buckets and the G stands for Gets!” Philadelphia is going to need Butler to keep getting buckets down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
3. Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)
Kawhi Leonard has no regard for any other player in the Atlantic Division with his third straight appearance in the Top 5 Players of the Week list. The Raptors had an uncharacteristic losing week. Leonard did not. The Claw averaged 27.6 points, 2.6 assists, 9.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals in three games played.
Leonard was also wildly efficient in his offensive game play. Shooting .50% from the field and an even higher .54% from three. Leonard is clearly making the three point shot an emphasis with an impressive 13 makes on the week.
Leonard knows what it takes to win an NBA Championship and the real test of the Kawhi experiment in Toronto will come to fruition in the playoffs. It’s a Finals appearance or bust for the team from the North.
2. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)
Kyrie Irving had himself a week. The Boston point guard notched his second career triple-double against the Sacramento Kings Thursday night with a preposterous 31 points, 12 assists, and 10-rebound game.
Irving was hot all week. As the Duke product averaged 26.3 points, 10.6 assists and 7.6 rebounds on 45% from the field for the three games played. He also chipped in with a block, a steal and multiple big shots in the Celtics’ wins against the Kings and Hawks.
Irving is the first Celtics player to put up a 30-point triple-double in the same game since Rajon Rondo did so in February of 2012. It was also Irving’s sixth game this season with at least 30 points and 10 assists; a feat he only accomplished five times in the 441 games he played in the rest of his career prior to this season.
Kyrie is one of the best players in the league and it’s never a surprise to see him putting up huge numbers.
1. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Joel Embiid missed the eight games directly after the All-Star break with a lingering knee soreness. Since his return to the team the 76ers are 4-0 and the big man has absolutely dominated.
In his three games played this week Embiid averaged 26 points, 4.6 assists, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1.6 steals on 35.3 minutes of play. Embiid has erased any doubts of the possibility of a serious knee problem and Philadelphia looks downright scary with their full roster on the court.
Averaging 17 rebounds and 3 blocks over the course of a three game stretch is backcourt domination, and the Cameroonian born center scored 40 points in a heated win against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
Embiid was the best of the best in the Atlantic Division this week. Don’t be surprised to see him in the rankings again for the next one.