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With LeBron heading West, who’s going to rule the East?

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By Mark Patriarca

LeBron James’ departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the entirety of Eastern Conference wide open.

And many are now asking, who is now the best player in the East? Player and stats wise, it is easy to pick. Guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, DeMar DeRozan, John Wall, and Blake Griffin quickly come into mind. However, talking about ruling the East the way James did for years in Miami and Cleveland, it has to be a team effort.

With that, here are the teams poised to battle it out for the right to claim the throne vacated by the exit of The King:

Boston Celtics

The Celtics are now poised to be the team to beat in the East. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back from injury, and their two young guns Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum having taken advantage of the stars’ absence to develop their games, the Celtics are young, deep, and fearsome on both sides of the ball. Come playoff time, the C’s will definitely go deep. It’s a no-brainer betting on the team that took the James-led Cavs to seven games of the East Finals.

Toronto Raptors

For years, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors are the overall victim of James’ ruling in the East. The Raptors haven’t been able to run the playoffs deep due to crossing paths with the King. Toronto is coming off the best regular season in team history and another playoff obliteration at the hands of James. Will the results be different with LeBron in LA? It should be.

Philadelphia 76ers

Can “The Process” now be trusted? It’s about time. Joel Embiid is arguably the best center in the East to date. With him is a budding all-around player in Ben Simmons. Coming off a 52-win season, it would be hard for the young Sixers to back it up having lost all of the outside shooting they picked up midseason last year. However, this Philadelphia squad is brimming with talent, with the right leadership and guidance, this squad can come out on top.

Detroit Pistons

Though the Pistons missed the playoffs last season, they are poised to make a leap, a big leap for that manner. With Dwane Casey now manning the sides and power duo Blake Griffin and Andrei Drummond patrolling the paint for the whole season for Detroit, they should be a strong playoff team this season.

Washington Wizards

Like the Raptors, the Wizards could probably among the most elated teams when James heads to Hollywood. For years, they’ve underachieved, mainly due to James and the Cavs. With the core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter still intact (unless trades happen), the Wizards are extremely talented year in and year out. They’ve dumped Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers, which might improve team chemistry and bench production. They also set to acquire Dwight Howard that will give them added dimension offensively and defensively.

Honorable Mentions: Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks