The most intriguing player from each team in the Eastern Conference (2023)

This isn’t a ranking of the best players on each team, but rather a list of the players whose impact could drastically influence his team’s chances this season.

We’re going in reverse order of the teams I think are likeliest to contend for the Eastern Conference crown.

Let’s ride!

Indiana Pacers – Bennedict Mathurin

The young backcourt of Tyrese Haliburton and Mathurin are about all that separates the Pacers from complete irrelevance entering the 2022-23 season. The sixthoverall pick from Arizona, Mathurin plays with a serious chip on his shoulder and isn’t lacking for confidence. Check out what he told Ben Golliver of The Washington Post before the draft about facing LeBron James for the first time:

“A lot of people say he’s great. I want to see how great he is. I don’t think anybody is better than me. He’s going to have to show me he’s better than me.”

Who knew that a Pacers-Lakers game on Nov. 28would be must-see TV? I’ll definitely be watching to see how LeBron treats the rook. But other than Haliburton, Mathurin and Timothy John McConnell stealing inbound passes, there won’t be many reasons to watch the Pacers.

Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball

There’s only one answer here. Ball will put up lots of Twitter highlights and the Hornets will lose a ton of games. Outside of LaMelo, few teams in recent years have missed on more draft picks than Charlotte. This is a franchise trending in the wrong direction.

Orlando Magic – Paolo Banchero

The Magic had a few guys I liked over the last couple of seasons, but now they have A GUY.

From Day 1, Banchero will be the fulcrum of Orlando’s offense, allowing everyone else to move down a notch in the pecking order. The young frontcourt of Banchero, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. will be a problem, both this season and in the future.

At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Banchero’s rare combination of physicality, skill and basketball IQ will make him one of the NBA’s most talented young players right away. I also like Jalen Suggs to have a breakout season at the point guard spot if his sprained left knee proves to be a minor injury. There’s a ton to be excited about in Orlando.

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Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham

Cunningham wasn’t just the best rookie in the NBA after the All-Star break, he was one of the best 20-25 players, period.

Check out his stats after the break: 21.1 PPG, 6.5 APG, 5.7 RPG, 1.25 SPG— those are basically Jimmy Butler numbers.

We saw Cunningham’s second-half surge firsthand when he poured in 27 points to lead the Pistons to a win over the Sixers back on March 31. He used his 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame to bully his way to the basket time after time. I love the way he plays at his own pace and probes his way into the paint while also getting his teammates involved.

Cunningham is going to be an All-Star in the very near future. It may come this season.

Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal

Beal is an excellent NBA player, probably one of the top 30 or 35 in the league. The problem is the Wizards are paying him like he’s Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Beal signed a five-year extension for $251 million this offseason, which might make some sense if the Wizards had built a title contender around him. Instead, the Wizards have a play-in contender, which is why it made precisely zero sense to pay Beal $50 million a year.

What’s the absolute upside for a team built around Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma? The six-seed, maybe? Of course, the downside is far, far worse. What if Beal starts to regress and he becomes untradeable at that salary? In my opinion, it made more sense to let Beal walk and start over, like Utah has done by trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The Wizards are playing a very dangerous game and better hope that Beal plays like a superstar this season.

New York Knicks – Jalen Brunson

Playing alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas, Brunson proved that he was a starting-caliber NBA guard. Now, he’s expected to be the steadying presence that lifts the Knicks back into the playoffs.

No pressure.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Brunson responds in a very different role than he had in Dallas. No longer a secondary playmaker, he’s going to be expected to be the lead ballhandler and facilitator, setting up RJ Barrett and Julius Randle while also creating his own offense.

Brunson is a proven winner, but this will be his toughest task yet.

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Chicago Bulls – Lonzo Ball

The vibes aren’t great right now in Chicago, where Ball is out to begin the season after knee surgery. If he misses significant time, it’s going to be up to Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and Goran Dragic to hold down the point guard duties.

Last season, the Bulls were 22-13 when Lonzo played and 25-27 when he didn’t, including a five-game “gentleman’s sweep” by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.

The East has only gotten better. If Ball’s injury causes the Bulls to backslide, they may have a mountain to climb when he returns.

Toronto Raptors – Scottie Barnes

What will the reigning Rookie of the Year do for an encore?

Barnes’ multi-dimensional toolkit helped the Raptors thrive without Kyle Lowry, establishing a new era for Raptors basketball. If he stays at the same level, he’ll be an excellent player in Year 2.

But if he takes a leap from his rookie statistics, we’re talking about a player who could average 18 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, while also guarding anyone and everyone on the opposing team.

It’s also a potential contract year for Fred VanVleet, who can decline his player option for the 2023-24 season to become a free agent. If Barnes becomes the franchise player moving forward, it will be fascinating to see how Toronto builds around him and if VanVleet is part of the plan.

Atlanta Hawks – Dejounte Murray

After watching Trae Young get punked by the Miami Heat in the playoffs, the Hawks decided to get him some help in the backcourt, acquiring Murray from the Spurs for three future first-round picks and a 2026 pick swap. That’s a hefty price.

But the deal is done and now we’ll get to see how Atlanta plans to deploy their two All-Star guards.

Both Young and Murray played a ton of pick-and-roll on their respective teams last season. Will Young be OK ceding some of those on-ball possessions to Murray?

The league leader in steals last season, Murray will undoubtedly help on the defensive side of the ball, where he can cover up for some of Young’s obvious deficiencies. The perimeter pairing of Murray and De’Andre Hunter has the potential to be dynamite defensively.

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Cleveland Cavaliers – Donovan Mitchell

The Cavaliers rebuild went into overdrive last season with the All-Star ascensions of Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen combined with Evan Mobley’s instant impact as a rookie.

Now the Cavs add Mitchell, who averaged 25.9 PPG last season, adding some serious firepower and a proven playoff scorer. Now freed from his tension-filled partnership with Rudy Gobert, Mitchell gets a new lease on life playing next to a young, dynamic point guard in Garland.

Mitchell’s defensive effort has been criticized in recent years and not without merit. To change that perception, he has to prove he’s more than just a scorer for a Cleveland team that gave up a ton to get him.

Brooklyn Nets – Ben Simmons

He’s back after missing all of last season and now we get to see if the theoretical fit of Simmons’ defense and playmaking alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving actually leads to on-court success.

Nothing I’ve read or seen tells me that Simmons will be a fundamentally different player than he was at the end of his Sixers tenure: an excellent on-ball defender and transition facilitator whose offensive ability is reduced drastically in half-court offense due to his refusal to shoot jumpers.

Of course, it’s how Simmons, his teammates (Durant in particular) and coaches all deal with his offensive limitations that will be so fascinating to watch.

And I’ll have my popcorn ready on Nov. 22when Simmons and the Nets come to town.

Miami Heat – Kyle Lowry

It’s fair to say that Lowry’s initial season in Miami was underwhelming.

His 13.4 PPG were his lowest since the 2012-13 season and you have to wonder if he’ll be the playoff difference-maker the Heat were banking on when he signed a three-year, $85 million deal prior to last season. He was largely a non-factor in last season’s playoffs, his effectiveness impacted by a hamstring injury.

After Miami lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Pat Riley said Lowry needs to be in better shape. Not surprisingly, Lowry bristled at those comments.

Miami nearly made the NBA Finals with a hobbled Lowry. If he’s back to being the playoff performer he was in Toronto, the Heat will be a tough out again.

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Boston Celtics – Malcolm Brogdon

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both took a major leap last season, leading Boston to the NBA Finals.

But in those Finals, ballhandling and playmaking were the twin Achilles’ heels in the loss to the Warriors, as the Golden State defense clamped down and Boston ran out of answers.

Enter Brogdon, who averaged 19.1 points in Indiana last season and gives the Celtics a much-needed backcourt offensive threat alongside Marcus Smart. He’s also a career 37.6% three-point shooter who should see all kinds of open looks playing with Tatum and Brown.

The Celtics no longer have to depend on Smart or Derrick White for scoring, allowing those guys to settle into more natural complementary roles in the offense.

Philadelphia 76ers – James Harden

The Sixers addressed their lack of depth. They addressed their self-proclaimed lack of toughness. The biggest question mark: What will they get out of James Harden?

It’s hard to forget the fact that Harden had more second-half turnovers than made field goals in the playoff series loss to Miami. He showed signs of brilliance in his brief Sixers tenure, but there were definitely times when he had trouble getting past his defender.

Perhaps an offseason of continuity will help Harden and his Sixers teammates adjust to each other. We know the numbers will be there. He’ll be among the league leaders in assists.

But will he be at his best when it really matters?

The Sixers may never have a better chance to get to the NBA Finals in the Joel Embiid era. But it’s hard to imagine them getting there without Harden playing significantly better than he did in the Miami series last season.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo

As long as Giannis is healthy, the Bucks are my favorite to get to the Finals. But with the way Daryl Morey has improved the Sixers roster, it’s only a slight favorite.

Without his injured running mate Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo averaged 31.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the playoffs last season, nearly willing Milwaukee past Boston until Grant Williams inexplicably morphed into Steph Curry in Game 7 to send the Bucks home.


Like Embiid, Giannis always seems to add something to his game. If his three-point shot improves, he could become completely unguardable. It will be fun to see what he comes back with this season.

Antetokounmpo is the most dominant two-way force in the Eastern Conference, especially come playoff time. Embiid can take that title, but he still has to prove he can go deep in the playoffs.

An Embiid-Giannis playoff duel with both players at their best? Sign me up right now!


Who is the best NBA player in the Eastern Conference? ›

2022-23 Hollinger Eastern Conference Player Statistics - All Players
Hollinger Stats - Player Efficiency Rating - Qualified Players
1Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL33.55
2Jayson Tatum, BOS27.69
3Kevin Durant, BKN27.56
29 more rows

Who was number 1 in the Eastern Conference? ›

The Miami Heat finished 1st in the Eastern Conference in 2021-22 with a record of 53-29.

Who is the most exciting player in basketball? ›

So this is what this ranking is all about—not how talented a player is, but how much they make us want to watch them play.
  • Nikola Jokic. ...
  • James Harden. ...
  • Kawhi Leonard. ...
  • Luka Doncic. ...
  • Steph Curry. ...
  • Paul George. ...
  • Kevin Durant. ...
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo.
17 May 2022

Who is the best player in 2022? ›

PARIS, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Real Madrid's France forward Karim Benzema won the 2022 Ballon d'Or award for the best men's player in the world on Monday, while Barcelona's Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas won the women's award for a second time.

Who is the best basketball player in the world in 2022? ›

01 Giannis Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo reached the NBA mountaintop in 2021 by winning a championship and Finals MVP award. He wasn't able to repeat in 2022 with Milwaukee after Khris Middleton suffered a knee injury at the beginning of the playoffs.

How many Eastern Conference teams make playoffs? ›

Sixteen of the 30 league teams make the playoffs, eight teams from each of the two conferences. This produces 8 first round matchups. There are no first round byes or wildcard teams.

Who is the best player in the world right now? ›

Erling Haaland is the best player in the world, and Man City should blow past all competition. MANCHESTER, England -- Erling Haaland is the best player in the world right now, and he has transformed Manchester City from a great team into one that is capable of blowing everyone else away this season.

Who is the number 1 basketball player of all time? ›

1. Michael Jordan – Most Points per Game – Most Finals MVP. Who is the best basketball player of all time? Michael Jordan is the best in the top 10 basketball players of all time.

Who is the most famous basketball player of all time? ›

1. Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is widely known as the game's greatest player—and for good reason.

Who is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference? ›

2022-23 Hollinger Eastern Conference Player Statistics - Point Guards
Hollinger Stats - Player Efficiency Rating - Qualified Point Guards
1Tyrese Haliburton, IND24.02
2Trae Young, ATL21.97
3Jrue Holiday, MIL21.76
29 more rows

Who is winning the Eastern Conference finals? ›

Eastern Conference Finals
2019Toronto Raptors4–2
2020Miami Heat4–2
2021Milwaukee Bucks4–2
2022Boston Celtics4–3
48 more rows

Who won the Eastern Conference? ›

Boston Celtics

Who is the No 1 player in the world? ›

1. Lionel Messi (PSG)

Who won the Golden Boy Award 2022? ›

Barcelona's teenage midfielder Gavi was named the 2022 Golden Boy award winner on Friday, just days after claiming the Kopa Trophy as Europe's best young player. The honour, presented by Italian newspaper Tuttosport, is given to the best player aged 21 and under that is based in Europe.

Who is the No 1 player in football history? ›

#1 Lionel Messi (Argentina) - seven-time Ballon d'Or winner. The Copa America triumph cemented Lionel Messi's place as the greatest player of all time.

Who is the richest NBA player in the world? ›

The majority of his wealth currently comes from endorsement deals with his primary sponsor, 'Nike. ' Michael Jordan is widely considered the best NBA player of all time. Michael Jordan's net worth is projected to be $1.5 billion, making him the world's wealthiest basketball player.

How many teams are left in playoffs? ›

MLB Power Rankings: How eight teams remaining in 2022 playoffs stack up ahead of LDS round. The first-ever Wild Card Series round is over and we're now set to move forward with eight remaining teams in the Major League Baseball playoffs. As the loyal readers know, this is the home of the Official Power Rankings.

Has a 7 9 team ever made the playoffs? ›

The Seahawks made history by becoming the first 7–9 team ever to make the playoffs and then did it again by becoming the first to win a playoff game, racking up 31 first downs and 474 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch late in the fourth quarter.

Who is still in the playoffs 2022? ›

The Warriors, Mavericks, Heat and Celtics are the four remaining teams in the NBA Playoffs. Below is the game and broadcast schedule for the first three rounds of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The NBA Finals are scheduled to begin on June 2.

Who is the richest footballer in the world 2022? ›

In 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo joined Real Madrid from Manchester United for a transfer fee of $132 million, which made him the most expensive soccer player in the history of the sport. As of November 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo's net worth is estimated to be $450 million, making him the richest soccer player in the world.

Who is richest football player in the world? ›

In photos: 10 richest footballers in the world
  • France's Kylian Mbappé, 23, is the richest footballer, expected to earn $128 million from his extension contract with Paris Saint Germain. ( ...
  • Second on Forbes' list was Lionel Messi, expected to earn $120 million this season.
8 Oct 2022

Who is the king of world football? ›

Who is the king of football in the world 2022? Having grabbed the spot of the highest goal scorer in the history of the UEFA Champions League, Lionel Messi is the 2022 king of football.

Who is the best football player in the world? ›

Karim Benzama won the Ballon d'Or Award (his first) for 2022, beating the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohammad Salah and Robert Lewandowski in the race. One of the main architects of Real Madrid's winning their 14th Champions League trophy was French striker Karim Benzema.

Who is better than Michael Jordan? ›

It's worth noting that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may actually be one of the most legendary NBA players well ahead of Jordan as he outpaces him by nearly 6,000 total career points. To be fair, Kareem played five more seasons than Jordan ever did, but it is still impressive.

Who is better LeBron or curry? ›

LeBron won four championships with three different teams and owns four MVP awards, all before Steph won his first. Curry has four rings and two MVP awards, including the only one by unanimous vote. LeBron and Steph belong in the all-time top five. What neither MJ nor LeBron did was change the game.

Who is the 3 best basketball player of all time? ›

1.Wilt Chamberlain23924
2.Bill Russell21620
3.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar17440
4.Elvin Hayes16279
5.Moses Malone16212
5 more rows

Who is the greatest sports player of all time? ›

MICHAEL JORDAN has been named the greatest sportsperson of all-time by fans around the globe. The basketball star won six NBA titles in his glittering career along with a brief venture into baseball and, of course, Hollywood thanks to Space Jam.

Who is the greatest athlete of all time? ›

Greatest Athletes of All Time
  • 8) Babe Ruth. ...
  • 7) Deion Sanders. ...
  • 6) Pele. ...
  • 5) Michael Jordan. ...
  • 4) Muhammad Ali. ...
  • 3) Jim Thorpe. ...
  • 2) Bo Jackson. ...
  • 1) Jim Brown. In high school, he earned 13 letters playing five sports: football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, and track.

Who is best point guard in Asia? ›

Wael Arakji is the best point guard in Asia. FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them.

Who is the best defensive point guard of all time? ›

Slick Watts has the best career defensive rating by a point guard, with a 97.4 rating.

Who Won Eastern Conference 2022 MVP? ›

He was also a 12-time All-Star who won five NBA MVP awards. Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is the first NBA player to be named the Most Valuable Player of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum averaged 25.0 points per game during the conference finals against the Miami Heat.

Who won Eastern Conference 2022? ›

Game Recap: Celtics 100, Heat 96.

Who is winning the Eastern Conference Finals 2022? ›

Boston Celtics

Who won game 5 of the Eastern Conference? ›

And from the looks of it, the Celtics were the healthier team. Jayson Tatum finishes 1 assist shy of a triple-double in helping Boston to a Game 5 win vs. Miami. The Heat's Tyler Herro missed his second straight game, dealing with a groin issue.

Who is the number 1 player in NBA history? ›

1Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1,560
2LeBron James1,374
3Karl Malone1,476
4Kobe Bryant1,346
8 more rows

Is the East better than West NBA? ›

The Western Conference has a total of 34 NBA finals won from nine different franchises, while the East has 39 championships with 10 different franchises, the Milwaukee Bucks adding to that total last year.

Who is #1 in the NBA West? ›

The Portland Trail Blazers are 1st in the Western Conference with a record of 4-1.

Who is the best point guard in the East? ›

2022-23 Hollinger Eastern Conference Player Statistics - Point Guards
Hollinger Stats - Player Efficiency Rating - Qualified Point Guards
1Tyrese Haliburton, IND23.97
2Trae Young, ATL23.18
3Jrue Holiday, MIL22.82
29 more rows

Who is the best player of all time? ›

Top 10 Best football players in the world of all time
S.noPlayer NameCareer Goals
2Diego Maradona293
3Lionel Messi773
4Cristiano Ronaldo815
6 more rows
16 Oct 2021

Who is better LeBron or Jordan? ›

King James is superior to Jordan in assists per game (7.4), rebounds per game (7.5), field goal percentage (50.5) and three-point field goal percentage (34.6). That said, it's no wonder James has 105 career triple doubles, while Jordan could only record 28.

What is the nicest NBA stadium? ›

1. Madison Square Garden – New York Knicks 4.57 (4.29) Brian O'Sullivan – Seeing a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden is a must for any basketball or sports fan who is in New York City.

Who has more championships West or East? ›

As of 2022, the Eastern Conference/Division led the Western Conference/Division 40–36 in championships won. As of 2022, the Boston Celtics and the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers have won a combined total of 34 NBA championships (with 17 apiece). As of 2022, the defending champions are the Golden State Warriors.

What city has the best NBA fans? ›

Best Cities for Basketball Fans
Overall RankCityNBA Rank
1Los Angeles, CA1
2Boston, MA2
3Salt Lake City, UT3
4San Francisco, CA4
26 more rows
11 May 2022

Who is the goat of point guard? ›

The only knock on Magic is that his career ended so abruptly. If he had played 5 more years there is a very likely chance he is unanimously remembered as the GOAT. No one in the history of basketball has ever or will ever pass Magic Johnson as the most likable Superstar to exist.

Who is the best point guard of all time? ›

Today, we start with the players we consider to be the best point guards who ever played basketball, led off by the unforgettable Magic Johnson.
  1. Magic Johnson. ...
  2. Oscar Robertson. ...
  3. Stephen Curry. ...
  4. Jerry West. ...
  5. Isiah Thomas. ...
  6. Chris Paul. ...
  7. John Stockton. ...
  8. Steve Nash.
23 Sept 2022


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