As March rolls around, we approach the final stretch of the regular season. By the end of this month, there will be very few regular season games remaining. Not a lot changes in April, as the playoffs are right around the corner. This year, there are many players that have had rollercoaster seasons. These players are either fighting for NBA relevance. This week we will examine five unproven Eastern Conference players with a lot to show this last month and a half of the season.
Five Unproven Eastern Conference Players
D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)
The former one and done lottery pick out of Ohio State, D’Angelo Russell has not performed to his potential since being drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers with the second overall pick. After being traded to the Brooklyn Nets this summer, it was clear the Lakers had given up on him, in favor of rookie Lonzo Ball.
After missing most of the first half of the season to injury, Russell is only averaging 16 points per game and shooting a measly 28 percent from three-point range. Russell has shown glimpses of his ability to put up big numbers in the past. This last month will be vital for him to show he can stay on the court and produce.
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
The outspoken big man from Philly is having a great season thus far in his young career. Averaging a double-double and also a career high in points a (24). Some would think Joel Embiid is a superstar that doesn’t need to prove his abilities, especially after being drafted third overall in 2014. Multiple injuries delayed his NBA debut for two seasons. Embiid was having a rookie of the year type season last year until it was cut short by a meniscus tear which ended his season prematurely.
The Philadelphia 76ers took a gamble when they signed Embiid to a 5-year extension in the offseason. If Embiid can finish this season healthy, he will be taking big strides to show his worth in the NBA.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks)
After signing a new deal to return to the New York Knicks this offseason. Tim Hardaway Jr. was met with much optimism after his success with the Atlanta Hawks. Hardaway has become a very polarizing player since rejoining the Knicks. He was a big part of the Knicks fairytale start to the season. His mid-season injury clearly affected team momentum and showed his importance to the team.
Upon his return, Hardaway didn’t seem to be affected by the missed time. Scoring 31 points in Utah, including the go-ahead shot in the late seconds of the fourth quarter. Since February, however, Hardaway has struggled mightily with his shot. Only shooting 37 percent from field goal range and a dismal 24 percent from three-point range. Hardaway will need a strong March to show he is a player capable of helping this team next season and beyond.
Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks)
The highly touted freshman out of Duke showed his talent and skills after being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. Jabari Parker was on his way to becoming one of the top players in the NBA until two ACL injuries limited his time on the court. There is no question that Parker is extremely talented. However, the question remains if he can stay healthy enough to put up consistent numbers.
Parker is enjoying a great return this season. Despite only averaging 11 points in his limited time, his field goal and three-point percentages are very promising for someone who hasn’t had much live game action in the past year. If Parker can continue to grow and produce, the Bucks can very well turn into a juggernaut in the Eastern Conference.
Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)
Blake Griffin was the headline of a blockbuster trade that took place just before the deadline in late January. Griffin had become one of the best players in the Western Conference since being drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers. Since joining the Detroit Pistons, they hold a 7-6 record. Days after the trade, the Pistons went on a five-game win streak. Until ironically losing to the Clippers and hitting hard times.
Griffin has been far from perfect since sliding into the Pistons lineup. Since the trade, he’s averaging fewer points than he did in with the Clippers. Griffin has also had some very suspect shooting performances. The Pistons are currently two and a half games out of the eighth playoff seed. They will look to Griffin for some leadership and guidance since he’s been in the playoffs almost every year of his career. Unproven eastern conference players
Embed from Getty Images