The Atlantic Division saw plenty of player movement during this offseason, with teams either adding significant rotation players or dealing them away to create bigger roles for their younger ones. Let's take a look at a few players who could continue to elevate their standing next season:
After sitting out the 2011/12 season to recover from open heart surgery, Jeff Green returned to the Celtics last year as a productive contributor and arguably the team's most important reserve, appearing in 81 games (17 starts) and averaging 12.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 27.8 MPG while shooting a career best 46.7% from the field and 38.5% from three. Over the final three months of the season, the former Georgetown Hoya put on a tremendous display of efficient shooting, posting scoring averages of 15.3/17.6/17.1 and never averaging less than 48.8% overall and 41.4% from long distance per month. Green could very well be relied on in a primary scoring role next season following the departures of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry – three of Boston's top five scorers last year.
One of the biggest question marks for the Knicks heading into last season was how Iman Shumpert would fare after returning from an ACL injury suffered during the 2011/12 playoffs. After sitting out the first 37 games, the sophomore swingman returned in mid-January, averaging 6.8 PPG and 1.0 SPG in 22.1 MPG the rest of the way. While those numbers may not stand out very much, Shumpert proved to be an intriguing young player within a playoff atmosphere, going for 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting in a closeout win against the Celtics and 6-for-10 (with an uncanny 5-for-6 performance from long distance) in a comeback attempt that fell short against the Pacers in Game 6 of the Conference semi-finals. Although his shooting numbers appeared to have wildly fluctuated at times during last season (26.4% from the field/ 27.2% from three in February followed by 47.9% from the field/49.9% from three in March), Shumpert has also garnered recognition as a strong defensive player, and there is some belief that his development is strongly tied to how far the Knicks can go this year.
With last year's team leading scorer Jrue Holiday now donning a Pelicans uniform and Jason Richardson still rehabbing from knee surgery, Evan Turner will most likely stand as the 76ers' most experienced guard in their backcourt to start the season. The fourth-year player was actually given an enormous amount of minutes last year and put up some of the best numbers of his career thus far – 13.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 36.5% from long range in 35.6 MPG. A few things to keep an eye out for in terms of Turner's offensive development are how much he can increase his scoring average by, how well he can improve from last season's 41.8% overall shooting average, and if he can get to the free throw line at a higher rate.
Another name to keep an eye out for in Philadelphia is Thaddeus Young, who finished the year as the team's second-leading scorer. The 6'8 forward posted 14.8 PPG on an efficient 53.1% from the field along with 7.5 RPG in 34.6 MPG. While 57.4% from the charity stripe leaves a lot left to be desired – especially considering he shot 77.1% in 2011/12 – Young showed a tremendous amount of promise overall as a scorer in March, going for 16.7 PPG on a 58.0% clip.
A very intriguing name to follow north of the border is second-year center Jonas Valanciunas, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 Las Vegas Summer league. As a rookie, the 6'11 center delivered 8.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 1.3 BPG for the Raptors last season. In what could reasonably have been a preview of what to continue to expect, Valanciunas averaged 11.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG, and 27.1 MPG in March, followed by 14.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.4 BPG, and 31.6 MPG in April. What's even more interesting are his field goal percentages and accuracy from the line over those final two months of the year (62.0%/82.0% and 55.8%/85.2% respectively). With that in mind, the 21-year-old big man figures to have the keys to the starting center position in Toronto.
Of the aforementioned players in the Atlantic Division, who stands to take their game to another level in 2013/14?