clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Eastern Conference power rankings: in search of the East's second best player

LeBron James is still the clear-cut best player in the East. The question is, who's behind him?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

We spend a lot of time as fans arguing over hypothetical lists. Whether it's players, positions or skill sets, there always seems to be some sort of debate on who's better.

If there's one list that gets looked at over and over again, it's the ranking of the league's best players. Some will say LeBron James is the best player in the league, some will say Stephen Curry is. Some will say Draymond Green is a top-10 player in the league, some will vehemently disagree. So on and so on.

Not matter how you look at this extremely unimportant list, there is one thing that is certain; it's dominated by the Western Conference. Outside of James, no one from the Eastern Conference has a spot in there guaranteed. Think of the ten best players in the league and it would be hard to find two players from the East in there. It's James and that's pretty much it.

Yet despite the relatively low amount of players from the East that get mentioned among the ten best in the league, there are still plenty that can make a claim to be in that spot. Most of them don't get as much traction as they should, but that leads us to a new question: who's the second best player in the East?

With that being said, welcome to another week of the Eastern Conference power rankings.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (1-18)

14. Brooklyn Nets (5-13)

13. New York Knicks (8-10)

12. Milwaukee Bucks (7-11)

11. Washington Wizards (7-8)

About 24 hours ago, it would be asinine to consider John Wall as the East's second-best player. He's shooting his worst field goal percentage of his career, has a career high in turnovers and has struggled mightily on the defensive end. Then, last night happened, when Wall put together 35 points, 11 assists and five steals on the road against the East's best team.

With Paul George's (and Kyrie Irving's) injury, Wall was heavily considered for this spot coming into the season. So far, how he'd played before last night's game has hurt his claim for that spot a month into this season. It will take more than just one game for people to forget his rough start to the season, but that game could be a turning point for him for the rest of the season.

10. Detroit Pistons (9-9)

He's cooled off a bit since his hot start to the season, but Andre Drummond is still rebounding at an all-time level. His 16.9 rebounds per game would be the highest in a single season since 1992, and he currently would be one of only three players since 1990 to grab at least 25 percent of the team's rebounds when he's on the court, joining Dennis Rodman and Reggie Evans (!!).

Numbers aside, Drummond has made an interesting case as the East's second-best player. The Pistons are 9-9 and a lot of that has to be credited with Drummond's play. Some have even made claims that he's the best center of the league and are not wrong in doing so. Yet for as good as he's been this year, it's hard for someone shooting 38.2 percent from the free throw line to answer our question.

9. Boston Celtics (10-8)

8. Atlanta Hawks (12-8)

7. Orlando Magic (10-8)

6. Charlotte Hornets (10-7)

5. Toronto Raptors (11-7)

4. Miami Heat (10-6)

3. Chicago Bulls

It's no surprise that one of the league's quietest players is having one of the quietest seasons in the league. Taking on slightly bigger role in the offensive, Jimmy Butler started where he left from last year's All-Star season, all while maintaining his lockdown defense on the other end.

One thing that impresses me about Butler are his combination of a low turnover ratio and a high efficiency. Only 11 players have a usage rate of at least 22.9 and an effective field goal percentage of at least 51.2, and of them, only teammate Aaron Brook has a lower turnover rate than Butler. Add in a 40 percent clip from behind the arc, and the case for him as the East's second-best player is stronger than ever before.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5)

Not too long ago there was talk of Kevin Love as a potential top-five player in the NBA. Take a look at his last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and it's hard to argue with that.

After a season filled with injuries, free agency and fit within the offense, that talk went away.

Now that he's healthy and is getting more comfortable on the offensive end, Love is starting to look like that player he was in Minnesota just a few years ago. Love is working more out of the post (and doing so more effectively) while still being able to stretch the floor as well as any other big man in the league. Most importantly, he's healthy, and as a result his numbers were better than they were a year ago.

1. Indiana Pacers (11-5)

When Paul George went down holding his leg in extreme pain during a USA inter-squad scrimmage last summer, the basketball world collectively sighed. One of the league's best young players who just about to reach his prime went down with a horrible injury, not knowing if, or when, he will be back to the level he was before the injury.

So far this season, George has not only got back to where he left off before the injury, he'd been even better. He's sixth in the league in scoring, averaging 27.2 points per game and doing so with a level of efficiency that he hasn't had since his usage rates have increased.

The Pacers have went as George has, and their record shows. In his last three games, George has averaged 37.3 points in three Pacers' wins. Very few players have meant more to their team and their performance more than George has to the Pacers. At this point, not only is he solidifying himself as the second-best player in the East, but possibly challenging LeBron James as the most valuable player in the East this year.