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The All-Time MVPs of Every NBA Franchise: Central Division

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

The 2023 NBA season officially kicks off just less than a month away from the time of posting. As the hype for the 78th season of The Association grows, we here at 4QWI are bringing you a fresh blog series where we give our takes on who is the best single player of all time from each NBA franchise.


In each installment, three 4QWI members will be providing their takes. Some teams have a clear-cut GOAT in their histories, while others have a handful of contenders. Join Noah Drouin, Brett Shevlin, and Jay Rooney as we look at the All-Time MVPs of Every NBA Franchise. Bear in mind these are merely opinions, and note concrete listings. We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below, or connect with us on social media, @4QWIHQ everywhere. And if you haven't already, check out Part 1 featuring the teams of the NBA's Atlantic Conference


Today, we’re taking a look at the NBA’s Central Division, composed of the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and Milwaukee Bucks. As you will see, there is little variation on who we picked, however exploring the cases to be made and research stats for this one proved to make us appreciate these players even more.


Chicago Bulls


Noah

Michael Jordan

Brett

Michael Jordan

Jay

Michael Jordan

I mean. Nobody comes close except for Brian Scalabrine. Let's make this quick.


13 seasons, 31.5/6.2/5.3 on 50.5% as a shooting guard. 10 scoring titles, 12 All Star appearances (as a Bull), 1984-'85 Rookie of the Year, and 1988 Defensive Player of the Year. 9 All-Defensive appearances, all of which were on the First Team. 10 All-NBA First Team selections. Oh, and six NBA titles coupled with six Finals MVP awards. Nothing else to say except Jordan is the GOAT. Next to Brian Scalabrine.


Cleveland Cavaliers


Noah

LeBron James Brett LeBron James

Jay

LeBron James


I mean. Nobody comes close except for Jamario Moon.


LeBron made the city of Cleveland a champion for the first time in half a century; the homegrown talent went first overall to the Cavs in 2003 straight out of high school. Between both stints in Cleveland, LeBron averaged 27.2/7.5/7.3 splits on 49.2% shooting. 10 All Star appearances, an NBA Finals win and accompanying Finals MVP in one of the most impressive Finals runs ever; along with carrying the Cavs to a finals appearance in the '06-'07 season where the second leading scorer was a 14.9 ppg averaging Larry Hughes, who shot 7.6% worse than LeBron. Regardless of the circumstances leading up to both of his departures from Cleveland, the city owes him a debt of gratitude for making them relevant and making them winners again. That debt of gratitude should be expressed after Jamario Moon gets his flowers.


Detroit Pistons


Noah

Isiah Thomas

Brett

Joe Dumars

Jay

Isiah Thomas


Noah and Jay selected Isiah Thomas; the undisputed kingpin of the Bad Boy era of the Pistons franchise. Thomas played all 13 seasons of his NBA career in Detroit and averaged 19.2/3.6/9.3 on 45.2% shooting, while peppering in 1.9 steals per game, peaking at an impressive 2.5 steals per game both in the '82-'83 and '83-'84 seasons. While Thomas's counting statistics aren't the most eye-popping in the world like some of his other counterparts we've mentioned so far in both parts of this series, his intangible traits such as leadership and craftiness were nearly without rival in his era, especially in the latter part of the 1980's where the Pistons won two straight NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990. For his part, Isiah Thomas took home the 1990 Finals MVP which sits at the top of his resume that also includes being a 12-time All Star and being named to the NBA's 50th and 75th Anniversary squads.


So, if Isiah Thomas only won the Finals MVP in 1990, who won it in 1989 in the first Bad Boys championship run? That would be Mr. Joe Dumars. Another Pistons lifer, Dumars joined the team in 1985, as the 18th overall pick selected. Taking a few seasons to hit a statistical prime, Dumars finished his 14-year career with Detroit touting 16.1/2.2/4.5 splits on 46% shooting. Dumars' stats jump out less than Thomas's, but where Dumars made his presence known was on the defensive end. Being a menace against defenders despite being a 6'3, 190-pound guard, Dumars can claim an extremely impressive five straight stints on the All-NBA Defensive Team, including four on the First Team, in 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1994. This same stretch also included three All-NBA appearances: 1993 (Second Team), and 1990/1991 (Third Team). Dumars is famous for having been an extremely respectful player on the court despite being a key piece of the Bad Boys, and one Michael Jordan is on record praising him on several occasions. In a 2003 documentary Relatively Speaking: Joe Dumars, as a member of the Wizards, Jordan spoke about Dumars' abilities on defense causing Jordan to have to"expand on (his) talents as an offensive player", finishing by saying "That's why I consider him the best".


Indiana Pacers

Noah Reggie Miller

Brett

Reggie Miller

Jay

Reggie Miller

Next, we have the Indiana Pacers, a franchise that has still yet to win an NBA Championship, despite periods of success that landed them in the Eastern Conference Finals 8 times in 21 seasons between 1994 and 2014, including their only NBA Finals appearance in 2000. For 6 of those ECF stints, one man was at the helm for each of those runs: Reggie Miller. Spending his entire 18-year career as a Pacer after being drafted 11th overall in 1987, Reggie Miller lays claim as one of the most consistently effective players of his generation and was a true pioneer of the 3-point field goal: he is presently 4th all-time in 3-pointers made and 68th all-time in 3-point percentage. Over his career in Indiana, Miller played in 1,389 regular season games, averaging 18.2/3.0/3.0 on 47.1% shooting. Other accomplishments in his career include 5 All-Star appearances, three All-NBA Third Team stints, and being named as a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Squad. Miller's legacy is muddied by playing in the Eastern Conference in the same exact era as Michael Jordan and his Bulls. Despite this, the latter part of his career saw continued team success. In his second-to-last season with the team, Miller and the Pacers finished with a 61-21 record before being bounced by the eventual champion Detroit Pistons in six games. Entering the 04-05 season at the upper tier of teams favored to take home the NBA championship, the dreaded "Malice at the Palace" incident occurred which effectively doomed the Pacers' season just weeks from the word go. The Pacers would lose in six once again to Detroit, this time in the second round. Despite a whirlwind of events surrounding his personal and team success, Miller remains another name that is unfortunately on the list of best players to not have a ring on his finger.


Milwaukee Bucks


Noah

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Brett

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jay

Giannis Antetokounmpo


And finally, we have the Milwaukee Bucks, a franchise that has seen some amazing talent come through over the years, and yet only boasts two NBA titles spaced exactly 50 years apart in 1971 and 2021. Our pick today is the man who willed his team to raise a banner for the first time in 5 decades and the only player we've mentioned in this series so far that is still active with their team: Giannis Antetokounmpo.


Picked 15th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft out of his home country of Greece, Giannis' pro career in the United States began in earnest, snagging a spot on the 2014 All-Rookie Second Team. As he exited his teens, Giannis steadily improved every season until 2016-2017, the year wherein he landed his first All Star nod, finishing the season with 22.9/8.8/5.4/1.6/1.9 splits on 52% shooting, all while playing 80 games. Into his mid-20s, Giannis has proven to be a true generational talent on both sides of the court, and one of the most unstoppable players in recent basketball memory. In 719 regular season games as a Buck, Giannis has averaged 22.6/9.6/4.7/1.1/1.3 on a very strong 53.7% shooting. In his first 10 seasons, Giannis boasts 2 MVP awards, which he won back to back in 2019 and 2020, along with a 2020 Defensive Player of the Year award. On the All-NBA front, Giannis has made his fair share of placements. Giannis has made the All-NBA First Team 5 years in a row from 2019-2013, and prior to that made the All-NBA Second Team in 2017 and 2018. Concurrently, Giannis landed on the All-Defensive Second Team in 2017, and made the All-Defensive First Team every year between 2019 and 2022. Giannis made his all-time mark in the 2021 NBA Finals, where he put together one of the single greatest individual performances in Finals history. Averaging 35.2/13.2/5.0 on an insane 61.8% shooting, Giannis ran away with the Finals MVP to go with his brand new ring as the Bucks defeated the Suns in 6.


For 10 years with Milwaukee, Giannis has asserted himself as an all-time performer, being named to the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team at just 26 years old, the youngest hooper on the list. The Bucks remain a juggernaut in the Eastern Conference into the 23-24 season, and at only 28 years old and with added Damian Lillard as a co-star in the past few days, it boggles the mind to consider what Antetokounmpo's NBA resume will look like when he finally hangs up his shoes.

Next week, your boys will be delving into the final division in the Eastern Conference: the Southeast Conference. Comprised of the Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Magic, and Wizards, this is sure to spark a bit more debate than today's list. See you then!



Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or on Twitter @4QWIHQ


You can follow Noah Drouin on Twitter here: @Endydoe


You can follow Brett Shevlin on Twitter here: @BreTT_Shevlin


You can follow Jay Rooney on Twitter here: @jvr1210



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