Blogtable: Who is best player (and team) in Eastern Conference now?
Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
From NBA.com Staff
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With LeBron James reportedly moving West, who is the best player in the Eastern Conference right now? And who’s the best team?
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Steve Aschburner: Giannis Antetokounmpo is now the best player in the East — and if he develops a reliable perimeter shot, he soon could restore some balance as the best player in the NBA. With Mike Budenholzer taking over for drama king Jason Kidd (and interim man Joe Prunty) as the Milwaukee Bucks’ coach, hopefully we’ll see the “Greek Freak’s” talents blossom in all their glory and be put to proper team use. The best team figures to be the Boston Celtics, presumably with Kyrie Irving back at point guard, Gordon Hayward feeling like a brand-new free agent signee all over again and coach Brad Stevens and basketball boss Danny Ainge sorting out the rotation and depth chart. Now, if Philadelphia manages to acquire Kawhi Leonard without stripping away too many helpful role players, the Sixers might push up hard from their No. 2 status as “best team” even as Joel Embiid challenges Giannis for “best player.”
Shaun Powell: Best player is Giannis Antetokounmpo by a whisker over Joel Embiid, only because Giannis can play multiple positions. He’ll need to prove he can take the Bucks a bit deeper in the playoffs. A healthy Boston Celtics squad qualifies as the best team, although if the “star-hunting” Sixers are successful this summer, that could change.
John Schuhmann: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have the most talent, but in the playoffs, they both got outplayed by the same guy: Al Horford. He doesn’t have the numbers that stand out, but he is the fulcrum on both ends of the floor for what is now the best team in the East. And even with the returns of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, he will be the Celtics’ most important player next season, because his skill set remains unique on their roster. Maybe Antetokounmpo and/or Embiid surpass him in the next year, but for now, I’ll go with the guy who just had one heck of a postseason run.
Sekou Smith: It’s a two-man battle between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid with the “Greek Freak” sitting just a notch above “The Process” on my list, due to the limited sample size we have from Embiid. Antetokounmpo has such a high ceiling (as his outside shot continues to improve and his handle evolves) that he could challenge for the title of NBA’s best overall player in the coming years. Embiid could do the same if what we saw from him this season is an indication of what’s to come. As for the best team, I’m going with the Boston Celtics. From coach Brad Stevens to the quality and depth of that roster, they have to be No. 1. They’ve made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals without anything close to their full complement of (healthy) stars. They sit atop the pile in the East until further notice.
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