According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Philadelphia 76ers’ star Joel Embiid will be available to play against the Nets on Saturday. It was originally reported earlier in the week that the superstar would likely miss game 1 of their opening series versus the Nets due to knee soreness.
The Eastern Conference has, for the last several years, been viewed as the weakest conference. Many analysts will often tell you that all the “superstar” caliber players have ventured to the West and that the East fails to compare to the star-power formed in the opposite conference. In several respects, this is a true statement considering the talent that has ventured out West, with the most notable being LeBron James who, by leaving his beloved hometown, officially ended the Cavaliers juggernaut that controlled the East. While the reign of the king has ended in the East, I believe the talent has not ended by any means. There are still incredible talents that call the Eastern Conference home, despite what others believe. So without further ado, here are the top-five players in the Eastern Conference ranked on Hoops Table!
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
17′-18′ Notable Season Stats: 26.9 ppg, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 10 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks
Giannis was “Poetry in Motion” when he stepped on the court for the Bucks this season. The 23-year-old reassured fans that he was the cornerstone of the franchise with a killer season that showed why he has potential to be one of the best, if not the best player in the league one day. If shooting 52% from the field and dropping insane numbers on the stat line don’t have you convinced, Giannis being in the conversation for MVP right from the start should definitely impress you. This All Star played 80 games this season, so clearly health was not an issue for the Greek Freak. Not only did he start every game he played in, the Bucks won significantly more when he was on the court with his WS (win shares) standing at 12.4. The Greek Freak has repeatedly showed the NBA community that he is one of the best in the East and its time we take notice.
2. Joel Embiid
17′-18′ Notable Season Stats: 22.9 ppg, 3.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 11 rebounds
“Trust the Process” finally became a reality this year for the Philadelphia 76ers. Saric, Covington, and Simmons played a huge role for the team, as did others, but none were quite as impactful as Embiid was for his ball club. Embiid seems to be the cornerstone of the franchise for Philadelphia and for good reason. From his defensive presence to his ability on the offensive end, Embiid has all the skills necessary to become a legendary center, that is if he can stay healthy. Embiid only played 63 games last season, meaning that he wasn’t always on the floor for the 76ers when they bounced forward in the process by winning 52 games during the regular season. When Joel was on the hardwood though, he was fighting for every rebound and dominating opponents in the post, with his stats reflecting that. Joel is one of the most talented and dominant players in the Eastern Conference, which earned him this spot on the list.
3. Kyrie Irving
17′-18′ Notable Season Stats: 24.2 ppg, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 3.8 rebounds, and 0.3 blocks
Kyrie Irving has made a name for himself in the NBA as being a elite scorer with insane handles and explosive first-steps that make a mockery of his defenders. The 27-year-old is one of the best point guards in the league and has a great case for being the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. He is the highest ranking guard on our list and for good reason. Kyrie’s shooting and ball-handling is among the best in the league. Kyrie shot 49% from the floor and 40% from behind the arc, while attempting 6.8 three-pointers in a game with the Celtics. The battle between Joel and Kyrie for the number two spot on our list was fierce, but I ultimately chose to put Kyrie at three because of Joel’s potential to be even better then he is now, while Kyrie seems to have shown all his tricks thus far. Health was also an issue for Kyrie last season since he only got to 60 games with the Celtics before being pulled from the rest of the season by medical staff. If Kyrie can figure out how to work out the few kinks he still has in his game, then he can maybe advance into the second spot on our list.
4. DeMar DeRozan
17′-18′ Notable Season Stats: 23 ppg, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks
DeMar DeRozan has become one of the most exciting players to watch in today’s NBA. His patented mid-range game makes him dangerous as soon as he exits the locker room. While his old-school brand of basketball may be a dying art, DeMar is showing no signs of slowing down. He can attack the rim at will and collapse a defense with the skill that many guards in the East lack, while also being able to jet a pass out to his co-captain Kyle Lowry. DeMar is crucial for the Raptors as they win significantly more games when he is playing on the floor, 9.6 games to be exact. DeRozan can punish a defense and hurt you in so many different ways on the offensive end, which is the reason why he earned his spot on this list.
5. John Wall
17′-18′ Notable Season Stats: 19. ppg, 9.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks
John Wall is an incredibly special player. He plays like a monster for the Washington Wizards whenever he steps out on the court. John is often considered the most versatile point guard in the NBA because of his ability to shoot the ball accurately from the floor while dishing out lightning quick passes to raw shooters like teammate Bradley Beal. Wall is the unspoken leader of the Wizards and seems to always find a way to outwork his opponents and give his team the best chance they have to win night in and night out. John was, however, plagued by injuries which only allowed him to play 41 times this year. He is a major difference maker in close games, while also being consistent on a nightly basis. If Wall can stay healthy and put on a great show next year, then we could see him shoot up the list in a very short amount of time.