3 Players With The Most To Prove: Atlantic Division

The 2022-23 season could be a big turning point for many players around the league, but perhaps none more than the two leading off our list of players with the most to prove from the Atlantic Division. And ironically, they were traded for each other at this year’s trade deadline. 

Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

When you choose to sit out an entire season, and force your way to a new team, you can bet you’ll have something to prove. For whatever the reasons, Simmons wasn't able to contribute a single minute of play for either his old team or his new one last season. 

Now he's back, apparently healthy and raring to go. He's cleared for full basketball activities. The 6'11" All-Star point guard is even ready to play some center if needed. 

And with all the shooting surrounding him in the Nets' lineup, he won't have to do much of that. A focused and hungry Ben Simmons could make this Nets team the championship contender it envisioned being when they dealt James Harden for him last February. And what a nice transition that provides for the next man up on our list...

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

Just as the Nets were hoping for Simmons to make them a title contender, the Sixers were hoping for the same from 10-time All-Star James Harden. But it wasn't the Houston Rockets-era unstoppable Harden that the Sixers got. It was sort of Harden-lite (though heavy). He seemed uninspired, unengaged at times (as he had been in Brooklyn), and shockingly unable to finish at the rim as he used to.

He took a discount (for anyone who calls $34M a year a 'discount') to re-sign in Philly, and they used that money to bring in his old buddy PJ Tucker on a free agent deal. But now Philly needs the Harden of old, not an 'old Harden', if they are to reach their championship aspirations. 

Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics

Brogdon is seen as a huge addition for the Celtics, giving them a 3rd guard who can run the point and can score. But for Brogdon to prove his worth to the Celtics, he just needs to stay on the floor.  

The 29-year-old hasn't played more than 54 games in a season in four years. Injuries robbed the Pacers of a lot of the value they thought they were getting when they signed him to a 4-year, $85M contract three years ago. He'll have a golden opportunity to play a major role with a team ready to contend. If he's just ready to play.

Photos: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports, Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports