NBA - NBC Sports
The Atlantic Division has seen a large amount of turnaround this summer. While the division lost Kawhi Leonard, it's the best player, it still has a large amount of talent still there. Who's the new best player? Let's take a look:
10. Julius Randle- New York Knicks
The newly-signed Knicks forward is coming off his best season as a pro. His 21 points a game last season was a career-high and he was rewarded with a 3-year deal from a Knicks team that was in desperate need of talent. His improved 3-point shooting (up to 34% last year) will be an improvement for the 25th ranked shooting team.
9. Tobias Harris- Philadelphia 76ers
If you are looking for a player that can do everything on the court, then Tobias Harris is the guy you would want on your team. He's a 39% 3-point shooter, a solid finisher and passer, as well as a smart defender. That's the good news, the bad news is that Harris isn't great at anything and his shooting fell off a cliff in hist time in Philadelphia. Harris played his worst when the stage was biggest, putting up pedestrian shooting numbers in the 7-game series loss to Toronto. Harris would be higher on this list if he didn't return to the place where he had his struggles.
8. Al Horford- Philadelphia 76ers
Al Horford has been really good in this league for a long time, he's anchored elite defenses, number one seeds, and knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. His elite defense mixed with his floor spacing makes the 76ers a threat to complete the process and win a championship. The only problem with Horford is that injuries and age have started to take their toll. The Celtics tried to preserve his body for the postseason with strategic rest days and lower minutes. On Philadelphia however, Horford will need to be there for the eventuality of Joel Embid missing games. Embid has missed at least 15 games every season and Philadelphia will look to rest him for the playoffs. I expect Horford to step up when Embid misses games, which may wear him out for the playoffs.
7. Pascal Siakam- Toronto Raptors
With the departure of Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam must now step up and be the first option for the Raptors. The 2019 NBA Most Improved Player earned that award by more the doubling his scoring average and turning into a legitimate number two in Toronto. His length and skill this early on is a good sign that he has star potential.
6. Jayson Tatum- Boston Celtics
The future of the most storied franchise in NBA history is tied to Jayson Tatum’s development. At this moment Tatum is a good scorer who can score from anywhere on the court while providing a positive contribution on the defensive end. With the departure of Kyrie Irving and the addition of Kemba Walker (more on them later), Tatum is poised to shake off his sophomore slump and take the next step towards stardom.
5. Ben Simmons- Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons is only 23 years old and is already one of the best point guards in the NBA. His speed, ball handling, passing, and finishing inside a 6-10 frame makes him a candidate for being the face of the league whenever LeBron decides he's done. While many think his lack of a jump shot will keep him from ascending to the top, I think that with the right teammates you can build a contender around him. It's not often we see a player with his gifts, so I fully expect Simmons to be in the top-3 of this list in 2020.
4. Kemba Walker- Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have been very lucky. They have been able to keep an elite point guard on their roster and surrounded them with talent. Kemba Walker is one of those elite point guards, and coming off a career-high in scoring, Walker will be in the perfect situation to improve his game. Boston's floor spacing will also improve Kemba’s efficiency, and also allow him to showcase his passing ability.
3. Kyrie Irving- Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving had been linked to the Nets ever since Boston’s season ended earlier than expected at the hands of Milwaukee. Now that he's finally in a place he chose, it's time to put a tumultuous season behind him and try to lead the Nets deep into the playoffs. Kyrie is almost the complete package at the point guard position. His elite-level ball-handling, shooting, and finishing, mixed with his underrated defense makes him one of the top players in the league.
2. Joel Embid- Philadelphia 76ers
New York Post
The Sixers big man is everything you want in a stat center. His post play is probably the best in the league, his defense makes him as dangerous a two-way threat as anybody and his rebounding gives his team a lot of second chances on offense. The only downside is that his body hasn't been able to hold up to the stress of an 82-game season and the playoffs. His illness and injury could reasonably be blamed for Philadelphia not winning the title last year. When Embid is healthy, I'll put him above almost any player in the Atlantic. Almost.
1. Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets
New York Post
I don't care that Durant is injured, he's the best player in this division and it's not close. His resume speaks for itself, and his skills are unmatched. KD shook up the basketball world by announcing that he would be leaving a dynasty in Golden State to try to build one in Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving. We have to wait until 2021 to see Durant play since he's recovering from an Achilles injury, and when he gets back there is no guarantee the pairing will work. However, when you have a near 7-foot Demigod with limitless skills, you always have a chance.