Paul has had an excellent season and I have him in my top 5 for MVP voting, but he is no where near a top 5 player in the world. I don't even think he is a top 10 player. In his prime, he never made the Conference Finals and it wasn't like he was playing with scrubs.
The premise of this thread was that stars had migrated east and the east was now more competitive with the west. I think this season has shown the opposite of that. do you really think the Suns and Jazz are contenders? There are 5 teams that can reasonably win the title. Philly, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, LA, and LA (Denver, as you say, may have been there with Murray). That is it. The Jazz and Suns have both been very healthy and have depth, but they don't have a player capable of being a championship anchor. They seem very much in the Toronto Raptors mold before Leonard. Going to win a lot of games, but not going to win when it matters most. I think they are both are far more likely to lose in the 1st round then even make the Finals let alone win the title.
The Jazz and Suns have emerged as darkhorse contenders, the Clippers and Lakers are clearly still there. Many would have had Denver in the mix before Murray's injury. While the Knicks have been a massive surprise Boston, Indiana, Miami and Toronto have all significantly underwhelmed. Nets may very well be favorites and Bucks and 76ers have a shot, but the conferences seem as lopsided as ever to me.
Paul is almost certainly going to be first team all nba and too 5-7 in mvp voting. How is that not a top level player? I get he is old but he really seems to be defying Father Time
And to be clear I think these 9 guys are all clearly and basically inarguably better than Paul: Giannis, Lebron, Durant, Leonard, Harden, Jokic, Davis, Embiid, Curry. I personally think Doncic, Lillard, and Butler are all unquestionably better as well, though I think they are at least somewhat more defensible to argue otherwise. So that puts Paul roughly in this group: Zion, Tatum, George, Beal, Randle, Irving, Gobert, Booker. You could probably reasonably argue he is better than all those guys or worse than all of those guys. And to be clear, I think Paul is incredibly valuable. A guy that is going to add a tremendous amount to any team, but as a basketball player I don't think he is nearly as good as he is valuable.
So you really believe two top ten 15 players, by your own description, is not enough to make you a darkhorse title contender? With our big three isn't that what we basically had? Few would have had anyone on our team higher than 5-8.
No I don't believe the Suns or Jazz are contenders at all. I think they both, even being the 1 and 2 seed, have a much greater chance of losing in the 1st round then even making the conference finals. I'd absolutely pick Portland to beat Phoenix, the current 2/7 matchup (obviously play in tourney can change that quickly). I think Utah would beat the Warriors, but would most certainly lose to either LA in the 2nd round and if Phoenix did beat Portland, I think they lose to Denver even without Murray.
You need a top 5 type player historically to win championships and it also makes just getting there a lot easier. Even recently, the Heat, in the bubble, are the only team in almost a decade to make the finals without a top 5 player (the Spurs were the last team to do it and they had 4 HOFers on the team). And those Spurs, the Pistons with Wallace, and the Sonics are basically the only teams in NBA history to win a title without a top 5ish player on the roster. And a whole lot of those champions had 2 such players (the Lakers last year, the Warriors, the Lebron/Wade Heat, the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, the Bulls, etc.). And most of the ones that only had 1 top 5 guy ended up with at least 2 other All NBA caliber players.
That is the reason I don't think Boston is a contender (and basically hasn't been since KG got old - and yes KG was absolutely a top 5 player when Boston won the title) and won't be without some sort of drastic change, because Boston doesn't fit the profile of a champion historically.
As an aside, how awesome would the Clippers/Lakers be as 1st round series as they currently the 4/5.