With two teams still fighting for an NBA Championship, now is a good time to start looking back at the 2022-23 season. Throughout the basketball year, we saw multiple players take a leap in their development. Others, however, began to show signs of regression and aging.
Still, there's no denying that the Eastern Conference has improved its talent pool in recent years. Now, there appears to be parity with the Western Conference.
The top 10 NBA players from the Eastern Conference this season
1 - Joel Embiid
After winning the 2023 NBA MVP award, Joel Embiid is clearly the best player in the Eastern Conference. He is a multi-talented big man who can hurt teams across all three scoring levels while protecting the rim at an elite rate.
Embiid ended the regular season with averages of 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He shot the rock at a 54.8% clip from the field and 33% clip from the perimeter. Furthermore, Joel Embiid proved his toughness and grit. He played through the pain barrier when facing the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Eastern Conference. The act endeared him to NBA fans around the world.
2 - Giannis Antetokounmpo
A two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is among the best players in the NBA, let alone the Eastern Conference. There aren't many things that strike fear into a defender's heart like the sight of Antetokounmpo charging into the paint full steam.
Granted, Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn't have a reliable three-point game, but that is arguably the only floor in his skillset. The powerful forward can dominate his opponents and get to his spots whenever he chooses. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of "The Greek Freak" during the postseason, as the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated in the first round at the hands of the Miami Heat.
3 - Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum's ascension toward being a superstar in the NBA has been fun to watch, and at 25 years old, there's clearly more room for him to grow. However, this past season saw the St. Louis native vastly improve his rebounding skill while also flashing signs of improved processing speed and passing ability.
Tatum finished the season as an All-NBA First Team forward and helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. They lost in Game 7, a contest where Jayon Tatum injured his ankle in the very first possession.
4 - Jimmy Butler
There is a case to be made for Jimmy Butler being third on this list, but regular-season basketball has to count for something. Given the Miami Heat's struggles, Butler has fallen to fourth. However, being a top-five player in a loaded conference is nothing to whiff at.
Butler had a solid aged 33 season for the Heat, averaging 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He shot 53.9% from the field and 35% from deep. Furthermore, Jimmy Butler has also been one of the genuine stars of the postseason, willing his Miami Heat team to the NBA Finals.
5 - Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell was a new face in the Eastern Conference this season after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers via trade last summer. Now, Mitchell has ensured that he's seen as among the best players in the conference. He spearheaded the Cavaliers' offense with impressive efficiency and execution.
What's interesting is that despite not being traded to his first-choice team (The New York Knicks,) Mitchell has remained professional. He continued to prove himself as one of the most clutch scorers in the NBA.
6 - Jaylen Brown
He might have struggled during the postseason, but Jaylen Brown proved himself as one of the best players in the Eastern Conference throughout the regular season. In fact, Brown was so impactful for the Celtics that he ended the season by being named to the All-NBA second team.
In 67 regular-season games, Brown produced a stat line of 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per contest. He shot 49.1% from the field and 33.5% from deep - making him one of the biggest contributors on one of the best teams in the NBA.
7 - James Harden
He might not be the same player he was back in 2018, but James Harden is still one of the best guards in the NBA - especially when it comes to playmaking. After averaging 21 points and 10.7 dimes per game in the regular-season, it's clear that "The Beard" still has plenty left in the tank.
8 - Julius Randle
Julius Randle is another player who struggled during the postseason but proved their credentials throughout the regular season. After being named to the second All-Star team of his career and helping lead the New York Knicks back to the playoffs, Julius Randle deserves his spot on this list.
9 - Pascal Siakam
The Toronto Raptors might have struggled this season, but Pascal Siakam wasn't part of their problems. A versatile two-way forward who can score across all three levels, it's no wonder so many teams are rumored to be circling. He'll be swept up should the Raptors decide to hit the rebuild button during the summer.
10 - Tyrese Haliburton
Some people might feel that Tyrese Haliburton is a reach at the 10th spot on this list. As one of the best young guards in the league, Haliburton is one of the most underrated younger players in the NBA right now. He has elite court vision, game management, and a solid scoring profile.
This season, the 23-year-old averaged a double-double in points and assists while shooting 40% from deep. At his age, with so much room to develop, that's a scary prospect.