With the Atlantic Division now in the books, it’s time to look at the All-time Starting Lineups for the Central Division. In these five lineups, there were definitely a few absolute gimmes, but there were also a fair number of surprises- more than was the case in the Atlantic Division. As you read this, I imagine that, whether you agree with my selections or not, there are at least a couple players whose statistics will make you stop for a second and think “Damn! He was better than I thought!”
On to the All-time Starting Fives for NBA’s Central Division. Enjoy!
PG- Reggie Theus (18.8 ppg, 47.7% FG, 80.6% FT, 3.4 rpg, 5.6 apg in 441 games)- Less of a pure point guard than Norm Van Lier, but Theus was a better scorer, rebounder and shooter. Also, his assist numbers are comparable to Van Lier’s (5.6 v. 6.9 apg).
SG- Michael Jordan (31.5 ppg, 50.5% FG, 83.8% FT, 6.3 rpg, 5.4 apg in 930 games)- Does this one really require an explanation?
SF- Scottie Pippen (17.7 ppg, 48.1% FG, 69.3% FT, 6.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg in 856 games)- Much more than MJ’s sidekick, Pippen, one of the greatest perimeter defenders in league history, was a star in his own right. Could (Should?) have been in the 1994 Finals as the league MVP.
PF- Elton Brand (20.1 ppg, 47.9% FG, 69.5% FT, 10.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.6 bpg in 155 games)- The NBA’s best offensive rebounder and a great finisher inside. Brand’s incredibly consistent numbers despite regularly facing taller opponents, gave him the edge over Bob Love.
C- Artis Gilmore (19.3 ppg, 58.7% FG, 71.2% FT, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.1 bpg in 482 games)- Despite spending his best seasons in the
PG- Mark Price (16.4 ppg, 47.9% FG, 90.6% FT, 40.9% 3PT, 7.2 apg, 1.3 spg in 582 games)- Although Andre Miller and Terrell Brandon put up some impressive numbers, Price is the face of the Cavs at the point. One of the more underrated players of his era.
SG- Ron Harper (19.4 ppg, 47.4% FG, 71.3% FT, 4.7 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.3 spg in 228 games)- One of the more athletic and versatile two-guards of the late 1980s. Not the scorer that World B. Free was, but Harper’s all-around statistical edge earned him this spot.
SF- LeBron James (26.5 ppg, 45.8% FG, 74.6% FT, 6.6 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.8 spg in 238 games)- Entered the league at age 18 with great expectations and even greater hype, and LeBron has not disappointed. Already one of the league’s best, LBJ will be an all-timer.
PF- Larry Nance (16.8 ppg, 53% FG, 80.4% FT, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.5 bpg in 433 games)- Blessed with incredible length and a soft touch, both around the basket and from the line. Despite having better statistics, neither Shawn Kemp nor Cliff Robinson was the player that Nance was for the Cavs.
C- Brad Daugherty (19.0 ppg, 53.2% FG, 74.7% FT, 9.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, in 548 games)- The anchor of the best teams in franchise history. Had he stayed healthy, Daugherty would have built a strong Hall of Fame resume. Zydrunas Ilgauskas warranted consideration here, but the decision was not difficult.
PG- Isiah Thomas (19.2 ppg, 45.2% FG, 75.9% FT, 3.6 rpg, 9.3 apg, 1.9 spg in 979 games)- Even with Chauncey Billups becoming a championship-caliber point guard and the Pistons’ leader, Isiah will always be the face of the franchise. His toughness and clutch play were the catalysts for the Pistons’ first two championships.
SG- Richard Hamilton (19.1 ppg, 45.8% FG, 85.0% FT, 3.6 rpg, 3.7 apg in 316 games)- Whaaaa? No Joe Dumars? No, no Joe Dumars. In a photo finish, Rip takes this position. While most of their stats are nearly identical, Hamilton owns higher scoring average, has a championship ring and has a more complete offensive game than Dumars did.
SF- Grant Hill (21.6 ppg, 47.6% FG, 74.6% FT, 7.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.6 spg in 435 games)- Remember what a force this guy was? During his six mostly-healthy seasons in Detroit, Grant Hill looked poised to become one of the greatest all-around players of his, and maybe any, era.
PF- Bailey Howell (21.1 ppg, 47.6% FG, 77.4% FT, 11.8 rpg, 2.3 apg in 387 games)- A model of consistency in the 1960s. He certainly had competition, but Howell’s performance in five outstanding seasons in Detroit outclassed those of Dave DeBusschere, Happy Hairston and Dennis Rodman.
C- Bob Lanier (22.7 ppg, 50.8% FG, 77.5% FT, 11.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 bpg in 681 games)- A very underrated big men and the best of a solid corps of Pistons’ centers that includes Bill Laimbeer, Ben Wallace and Larry Foust. (By the way, Bill Laimbeer’s stats are a lot better than I thought they’d be!)
PG- Mark Jackson (8.4 ppg, 43.4% FG, 78.3% FT, 36.2% 3PT, 3.8 rpg, 8.1 apg, 1.1 spg in 405 games)- Despite his limited offensive game, Jackson was an outstanding floor general for Pacers’ in the mid-to-late 1990s. Never made mental errors and always made his teammates better.
SG- Reggie Miller (18.2 ppg, 47.1% FG, 88.8% FT, 39.5% 3PT, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.1 spg in 1,389 games)- An obvious choice. Miller is one of the game’s all-time great shooters, particularly in the clutch, and the face of the Pacers’ franchise.
SF- Detlef Schrempf (17.0 ppg, 51.1% FG, 81.3% FT, 8.6 rpg, 4.1 apg in 354 games)- Before starring with the Sonics, Detlef Schrempf broke out with the Pacers. Schrempf got a run for his money from Chuck Person, but Detlef gets the nod, thanks to his superior offensive versatility, rebounding and passing.
PF- Clark Kellogg (18.9 ppg, 49.7% FG, 75.7% FT, 9.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.5 spg in 260 games)- Before his career was derailed by chronic knee injuries, Kellogg was one of the NBA’s top young forwards. Kellogg’s three healthy seasons in Indiana are as good as any by a Pacers frontcourt player.
C- Jermaine O’Neal (19.0 ppg, 46.4% FG, 70.9% FT, 9.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.4 bpg in 403 games)- It’s no surprise to see O’Neal here. It was surprising, however, to find that his toughest competition for this position was not Rik Smits, but Herb Williams and James Edwards.
PG- Oscar Robertson (16.3 ppg, 46.8% FG, 84.3%FT, 4.9 rpg, 7.5 apg, in 288 games)- Late his career, Robertson reinvented himself as the perfect complement to a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and it won him an NBA title. It is this title that won him a spot in this line-up, as Sam Cassell’s Milwaukee statistics compared very favorably to Robertson’s.
SG- Ray Allen (19.6 ppg, 45.0% FG, 87.9% FT, 40.6% 3PT, 4.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg in 494 games)- A three-man race between Allen, Michael Redd and Sidney Moncrief. I expected Moncrief to emerge from this group, but Allen’s all-around game compared very favorably. And Redd, a Ray Allen-clone, will one day replace Allen here- just not yet.
SF- Marques Johnson (21.0 ppg, 53% FG, 73.6% FT, 7.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.3 spg in 524 games)- He and Sidney Moncrief were the core of the Bucks’ teams that won five consecutive division titles from 1980-84. Terry Cummings, the man Johnson was traded for, comes in a close second.
PF- Vin Baker (18.3 ppg, 49.4% FG, 63.4% FT, 9.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.3 bpg in 324 games)- Once one of the NBA’s best big men, Baker was one of the original big men with athleticism and a mid-range jumper that could also hit the boards.
C- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30.4 ppg, 54.7% FG, 69.5% FT, 15.3 rpg, 4.3 apg in 467 games)- Arguably the greatest player in NBA history, Kareem was an absolute force with the Bucks. Not only statistically dominant, he combined with Oscar Robertson to bring Milwaukee its only title.
Coming tomorrow: The ALL-time Starting Fives for Southeast Division. Stay tuned!