Finally, the Eastern Conference is no longer the Conference were subpar teams and teams below .500 reach the playoffs, with competition going down to the wire this year and playoffs matchups getting set on the very last day of the season.
Even though the Western Conference still seems tougher, the East was no piece of cake this year either, with all teams going at it to try and get the best seed possible rather than just barely reaching 42 wins in the regular season.
As a matter of fact, the East actually had most 50 win teams than the West this year, with the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers and Cavs all reaching that milestone. Today, we’re going to talk about the main guys on all of those teams, letting you know about the top 10 best players in the East this season.
Honorable Mention: Kemba Walker, Kristapos Porzingis, Goran Dragic
10. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard had a hell of a season even though the Charlotte Hornets didn’t have much to celebrate all season long, and he even surpassed Shaquille O’Neal in the All-Time leading rebounding list at the very end of this year’s regular season, something just a handful of players can brag about.
Howard was on a mission to show everybody that he could still be a dominant presence down low and he didn’t fail to deliver, posting season averages of 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in 55% from the floor.
9. Bradley Beal
Everybody talks about John Wall, but this year the Washington Wizards were Bradley Beal’s team, as Wall missed most of the season with different ailments while the shooting guard carried most of the offensive load and even some ball handlers duties next to Tomas Satoransky.
Ball keeps improving as a driver and a defender and is a willing facilitator as well, and if it wasn’t for him, the Wizards wouldn’t be able to overcome Wall’s absence and wouldn’t be in the playoffs at all. Over the season, he averaged 22.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.5 dimes, 2.4 threes and 1.2 steals.
8. Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond finally became the defensive force we’ve expecting him to become ever since he first entered the league, and if it wasn’t for his team’s mediocre efforts in the offensive end of the floor, he’d be a lock to be among the top 3 candidates to take home the Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the league in defensive rating, defensive win shares and defensive plus-minus.
Also, Drummond improved his free throw shooting a lot this season so he was able to close out games for most of the year, and led the league in total rebounds and boards per game after piling up 16 rebounds a night to go along with 15 points, 3 dimes, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks.
7. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is the clear front-runner to win this year’s Rookie of the Year award after he led the Philadelphia 76ers to their first playoff berth in several seasons and the 3rd seed in the East, proving that he’s that kind of one on a lifetime talent and a lock to win the MVP award a couple of seasons from now.
Even though he lacks a jump shot and finishes with the wrong hand, Simmons found a way to score at will with his physical power during drives, as well as already being a top 5 passer in this league. Through his rookie season, he posted averages of 15.8 points, 8.1 boards, 8.2 dimes, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
6. Victor Oladipo
Oladipo was looking like a bust over the first couple of years of his NBA career, but this year he finally proved that all he needed was a nice environment and the offense to flow through him, becoming an All-Star for the first time on his career and showing that he had what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs.
Oladipo is a lock to win this year’s Most Improved Player award and boy he deserves it, as he was one of the most impactful players in both ends of the court this season, leading the league in steals with 2.4 a game and posting averages of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.1 three-pointers per game.
5. Kyrie Irving
It’s such a shame Kyrie Irving wasn’t able to play in this year’s playoffs after he did so much for the Boston Celtics all season long, proving that he was more than ready to be a contending team’s go-to-guy as he stated when he forced his way out of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the offseason.
Kyrie looked way more committed on defense as he was all throughout his career, and even though his overall numbers didn’t improve much compared to his Cavs stint, he was still the most important player for Boston all season long, posting averages of 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
4. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid proved this year that he can go healthy through a full season, and that he has the skill set to be the most dominant and complete big man in the league a couple of years from now, with his ballerina like feet game, his sweet touch from all over the floor, his nice playmaking skills and his top-notch defense.
As a matter of fact, Embiid was one of the main frontrunners to win the Defensive Player of the Year award all year long, he improved a lot over his sophomore season and even got his first All-Star nod, something well deserved after averaging 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game.
3. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan doesn’t get the love he deserves despite being the best player in the best team of the Eastern Conference, mostly because his averages of 23 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game hasn’t been nearly as flashy as some other stat lines posted by superstars.
Nonetheless, DeRozan has quietly surged as one of the league’s most consistent and reliable scoring options, as well as a willing defender. Also, his ball hogging days are far behind him, and he’s put a lot of work on his three-point shooting as well. Now, he’s got to prove he’s got what it takes to live up to the task of being the 1st seeded team in the Conference, and that he’s more than capable of taking the Raptors to the Finals.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the league’s most impressive player by a long shot, a one-man fast break that can dunk from the free throw line, a guy that can play lockdown defense against the most talented players in the world, and whose work ethic is going to make him the league’s MVP sooner or later.
Giannis has once again found a way to be even better on a yearly basis, and he’s going to lead the league in scoring as soon as he develops a sweet shooting stroke, his lone overall liability. Over the course of the season, he posted averages of 26.9 points, 10 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks.
1. LeBron James
What makes LeBron James’ season even more impressive is the fact that he’s entering his 15th season in the NBA, yet he’s looking like a teenager and was even able to play all 82 games for the first time on his career, on a season where he also snapped Michael Jordan’s all-time leading streak for most consecutive games scoring at least 10 points.
The King is on a mission for sure and even though his team was a major disappointment, he still found ways to lead them to victory. Beware, James always peak in the postseason, although topping his season averages of 27.5 points, 8.6 boards, 8.1 dimes, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks is going to be an extremely difficult task, as he posted what may be the best season on his career, yet he’s not going to win the MVP award.