For the better part of his career, LeBron James has basically dominated the Eastern Conference — highlighted by his eight straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Call it an annual cakewalk? Maybe, but there’s no doubt that his sole presence almost guarantees a trip to the Finals.
With him changing zip codes once again, the Eastern Conference is now devoid of one more superstar, further depleting their pool of all-stars.
And many are now asking, who is now the best player in the East? Guys like Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, DeMar DeRozan, John Wall, and Bradley Beal quickly come into mind.
But there’s no doubt, with his boundless potential, ‘The Greek Freak’ in Milwaukee is definitely primed to take over as the East’s best player for the foreseeable future.
A freak of nature
Standing initially at 6’9”, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s body continued to grow as he is now one of the tallest point guards in the league at 6’11”. That frame alone would be a match up nightmare since he could either manhandle much smaller guards or could outpace his bigger and slower counterparts.
Over the years, Antetokounmpo has proven to be more than capable to play multiple positions for the Bucks. At the start, he played mostly at small forward given his raw attributes back then.
But everything changed when former head coach Jason Kidd took over.
After the 2016 NBA All-Star break, Kidd decided to put Antetokounmpo at the point and his numbers skyrocketed from:
Pre-all star break:
15.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.8 apg
Post- all star break:
18.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 7.2 apg; recorded five triple-doubles
With his ascension to the NBA’s elite, the Bucks decided to give the keys to the franchise to the young superstar by inking him on a four-year extension worth $100M, just few months after the season concluded. He never looked back from there.
Greatness within reach
Few days ago, FS1 Undisputed’s Skip Bayless dubbed Sixers behemoth Joel Embiid as the presumptive best player in the East in lieu of LeBron James’ departure. However, Antetokounmpo decided to use it as motivation to get even better:
— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) July 2, 2018
With the Bucks consistently underachieving in the last few seasons, everything rests on Antetokounmpo’s freakish shoulders as the opportunities presented to him are already there. Milwaukee has hired Mike Budenholzer, a proven Popovich disciple who would do wonders for his game. If ever his outside shot becomes reliable, he’ll sure be unstoppable.
With scarcer competition within the conference, being the best is not a far fetched idea for the Greek Freak. Barring any injuries, he could make run for the MVP, especially if he’ll lead the franchise to a much deeper playoff run come next postseason.