3 Players With The Most To Prove In 2022-23: Eastern Conference

It's September, which means training camp is around the corner, near the end of the month. And while certain players have captured most of our attention during the summer for various reasons (i.e. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Donovan Mitchell), there are many others around the league who definitely have a lot to prove this season. 

Earlier, we had a look at the 3 Western Conference players with the most to prove. Today, we move to the East.

James Harden

Last season, he simply wasn't the Harden of old. He looked tired and slow at times, and was often unable to finish at the rim like he used to in his halcyon days in Houston. He shot 33% from 3-point land last year, the lowest mark of his career. 

Yet, if the Philadelphia 76ers are to fulfill the "process" promise of Joel Embiid, and make it to the NBA Finals, Harden will have to once again be the devastating scorer he once was. 

He took a paycut to return to Philly on a shorter-term contract; if he hopes to make it back to "max" contract land, he'll need to be the Harden of Houston, so to speak. 

Julius Randle

He was a driving force for the New York Knicks in 2020-21, returning them to prominence, and the 4-seed in the East. He even garnered a bit of talk in the MVP conversation. 

But last season was a 180 degree turn, as Randle became the face of everything that was wrong with the Knicks, as they plummeted out of the playoff picture, and Randle battled with fans and media, telling them to "shut the f**k up". 

Now that Donovan Mitchell is not coming to the rescue, Randle needs to prove that he can be the leader the Knicks need him to be, or he'll likely be packing his bags out of New York at some point.  

Ben Simmons (and Kyrie Irving, and Steve Nash)

Unquestionably, no player in the league will have more pressure on him this season than Ben Simmons. After sitting out the entire year due to a holdout/lack of "mental readiness"/back problems, the league has been waiting nearly 15 months to see how Simmons follows up his 2021 playoff disaster. And how he fits in with  Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

And speaking of Kyrie, as he needs to most every year, he has to prove that he can be a reliable, and "available" force for them throughout the season. 

As for head coach Steve Nash, he took plenty of criticism from fans throughout the season, then had Durant bash him earlier this month by asking for Nash and his GM Sean Marks to be fired. 

Nash, too, definitely has a lot of 'proving' to do.