Ranking the 10 best NBA players in the East for 2019-20 season
Ranking the 10 best NBA players in the East following free agency
Now that the dust has settled from the craziest NBA free agency period to date, we can begin to assess the Eastern Conference.
With Kevin Durant and John Wall done for the year and Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers, who will emerge as a dominant force in the East?
Here is our ranking of the ten best NBA players in the Eastern Conference for the 2019-20 season.
Honorable Mention: Victor Oladipo
Oladipo led the Pacers to a 31-15 record before rupturing his right quad tendon in January of last season. Up until that point, he was averageing 18.8/5.6/5.2 with a high of 36 points on multiple occassions.
Oladipo is an honorable mention simply because of his return timetable, set for December of this upcoming season.
There is some concern as to whether or not he'll return to form, but the guard should fit right into the Top 10 of a talent-depleted conference.
10. Tobias Harris, 76ers
2018-19 Stats: 20.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.8 apg
Why he's ranked: The first of three Sixers in this Top 10 was a prized FA target behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving following his best NBA season.
Harris' stats did decline following his trade from LAC to Philly, but he remains one of the top do-it-all forwards on the deepest team in the Eastern Conference.
9. Blake Griffin, Pistons
2018-19 Stats: 24.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.4 apg
Why he's ranked: Entering his 11th season in the league, Griffin has become less of a force above the rim and more of an all-around star. The power forward averaged the most points and second-most assists of his career on the 8-seed Pistons last season.
Griffin is returning from knee surgery and carries plenty of injury baggage dating back to his college days, which – paired with age – can have an increased impact on his play this season.
8. Ben Simmons, 76ers
2018-19 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 7.7 apg
Why he's ranked: Simmons was consistent in his second full NBA season, shooting 56.3 percent from the field en route to his first All-Star game.
The Sixers lost their go-to guy in Jimmy Butler, but added Josh Richardson and Al Horford, so it will be interesting to see how Simmons gels with his new teammates' styles of play.
It also remains to be seen how much longer even a 6-10 guard like Simmons can thrive while shooting 0.0 percent from beyond the arc.
7. Kemba Walker, Celtics
2018-19 Stats: 25.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.9 apg
Why he's ranked: Following an eight-year career in Charlotte, Kardic Kemba returns to the upper reaches of Husky nation as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Walker is coming off three straight All-Star selections, and his supporting cast is practically the same as Irving's, minus 36 year-old big man Al Horford.
6. Jayson Tatum
2018-19 Stats: 15.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 apg
Why he's ranked: Tatum is another newcomer to the Top 10, but he could be here to stay for the next decade. Tatum improved in all offensive and defensive categories from his rookie ago, and he'll have more opportunity to take over this season without Horford or Irving on the team.
5. Jimmy Butler
2018-19 Stats:18.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg
Why he's ranked: The only person that can take Jimmy Butler out of this slot in the Eastern Conference is, well, Jimmy Butler.
The 29 year-old left Minnesota last season, only to turn down resigning with Eastern Conference-favorite Philadelphia to join the Miami Heat on June 30.
Everywhere he's gone, he's been the offense, averaging over 13.5 shots per game in his last five seasons with three different teams.
4. Kyrie Irving, Nets
2017-18 Stats: 23.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.9 apg
Why he's ranked: One of two players to retain their position from last year's rankings, Irving looks to serve a similar role in Brooklyn without KD as he did in Boston: provide veteran leadership, composure and play-making to a relatively young team.
He is still the best true guard in the Eastern Conference and should take Brooklyn to the playoffs next season before Durant returns in 2020-21.
3. Bradley Beal, Wizards
2018-19 Stats: 25.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.5 apg
Why he's ranked: Despite being without John Wall for half of last season, Bradley Beal continued to improve for the red, white and navy. Coming off his best season to date, Beal looks to keep up his All-Star production with Wall remaining on the sidelines.
2. Joel Embiid, 76ers
2018-19 Stats: 27.5 pg, 13.6 rpg, 3.7 apg
Why he's ranked: Embiid is the best center in the NBA, and the best player in the Eastern Conference besides the reigning league MVP.
He found a way to top his All-Star 2018 season by averaging nearly five more points and three more boards per game.
Along with Simmons, Harris, Horford and Richardson, this Sixer team will be tough to beat in any best-of-7 series if everyone stays healthy.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
2018-19 Stats: 27.7 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 5.9 apg
Why he's ranked: The "Greek Freak" put up characteristic numbers last season and was crowned league MVP. Still only 24, there's no reason why Antetokounmpo can't capture another Maurice Podoloff trophy in the near future.
He did have to sit out 10 games due to various minor injuries, which can become more common and severe as a 6'11 forward-who-plays-like-a-guard gets older.
That being said, Giannis has no severe or lingering injury on his record, so this year's depleted Eastern Conference should spell another big year for the reigning MVP.