With the NBA season coming into the homestretch and the regular season coming to a close, lets start talking about awards. Every team has an MVP, but who are the players that don’t get as much attention and are just as important? So over a series of 6 articles, I’m going to give you my thoughts on who is my choice on each team by division. In this edition will be about the Atlantic Division. (Stats of of April 1st, 2019)
- Boston Celtics- Marcus Morris
Boston has been through a lot this season. With expectations of an Eastern Conference championship, the regular season hasn’t gone the way fans and the team have wanted. But the play of Morris has been undervalued all season long. He’s shifted back and forth from starter to reserve, but his numbers haven’t. His 14.1 points a game have matched his career high and this is his best overall shooting season of his young career. In a year of shift and transition in Boston, Morris’s play has been a constant source of stability.
- Brooklyn Nets- Joe Harris
The NBA’s All-Star Weekend’s Three-Point Contest winner is more than just a shooter. He’s one of the most valuable players on a team that is headed to the playoffs. With the team dealing with injuries with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, Harris has become one of the more consistent scorers on the Nets outside of D’Angelo Russell. He averaged 16 points a game in February when both players were out. Harris has hit 3 or more three-pointers in a game, 35 times this season. He also adds 3.8 rebounds per game as well.
- New York Knicks- Noah Vonleh
There are so many choices on this roster to choose from in a down year in the Big Apple. The Knicks were not built to be a playoff team this year, especially with All-Star Kristaps Porzingis injury keeping him out the entire season (He was traded to Dallas in February). But the former Hornets lottery pick might have found himself a home in the Knicks frontcourt next season. He had 18 double-doubles on the season and 28 games with 10 or more rebounds in a game. Vonleh currently has an ankle injury and there is no reason that he should be rushed back into the lineup. In a summer that could change the direction of the team going forward, Vonleh’s play has made him a keeper on the roster going into the future.
- Philadelphia 76ers- TJ McConnell
The 76ers have 4 All-Star caliber players in the starting lineup and the 5th starter is still one of best pure shooter in the entire league. But the player that is always over looked is the 4th-year backup point guard. Philadelphia has attempted to use different players at that position and TJ has been the most effective. His 43.4% defensive shooting percentage ranks him above players who are considered defensive specialists (Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley) and the 76ers are 15-5 when he has 2 or more steals in a game this season.
- Toronto Raptors- Fred VanVleet
Even with Pascal Siakam is the favorite for the most improved player in league this season and the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have made the Raptors not lose a beat from last season. But the improved play of VanVleet has been a key in Nick Nurse‘s rotation. He doesn’t turn the ball over (7th in the league in Assist to Turnover ratio). His shooting numbers might not be where they were last season, but his importance is increased. When he’s had to start this year, Toronto is 22-5 this year.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5E1hzUP_10