Ranking each Eastern Conference playoff team based on their best player

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks
Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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1. Boston Celtics

Best player: Jayson Tatum

The best player on the best team in the NBA, Jayson Tatum, is the best player in the East right now. Tatum averaged 27/8/5 on 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range and was named an All-Star for the fifth consecutive season.

The knock on Tatum is that he comes up small in big games and big moments and that narrative is a byproduct of the one bad NBA Finals series he had in 2022 against the Warriors. While he has had instances where he has come up small, he has also has had moments where he came up big for his team when they needed him, specifically in elimination games.

In his career, Tatum averages 27/9/6 on 43 percent shooting and 36 percent from three-point range in elimination games. He has 20 or more in 13 of those games, six games of 30 or more, and two games of 40 or more, including becoming the second player to score 50 points in a Game 7 in NBA history last season against the Sixers. 

Elimination games aside, Tatum averages 24/8/5 on 44 percent shooting and 36 percent from three-point range in 95 career playoff games. The guy shows up when it matters, including in Boston’s game-one win against Miami, where he registered a triple double. This year is the best shot Tatum has had to win a championship in his career so far. With all the injuries to stars in the East, he is the best player in the conference. He now has to play like it. 

The East may seem like Boston against everybody else, but make no mistake, there is competition in this conference. It will be interesting and entertaining to see how the East shapes out in the next couple weeks.