Top 10 Central Division Players This Season
The Central Division has been home to some of the Eastern Conference’s top talents historically and currently. Using statistics that display their personal and team success, and from watching countless hours of Central Division hoops, these are the best players in the Central Division this season. Sorry to Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen, but they simply haven’t played in enough games to be eligible for this list.
The statistics I am using are PPG (Points Per Game), APG (Assists Per Game), RPG (Rebounds Per Game), TS% (True Shooting Percentage), PER (Player Efficiency Rating), USG% (Usage Percentage), and TPA (Total Points Added). TPA is a statistic created by NBA Math, it isn’t a super mainstream stat yet, but I think it does a great job valuing a player’s team impact. It is available for the public on nbamath.com. All other stats are available via Basketball Reference. Let’s get going.
10). Zach LaVine: 23.9 PPG 4.7 RPG 4.7 APG .561 TS% 17.9 PER 31.9 USG% -8.34 TPA
LaVine has been arguably the Bulls best player this season and has shown that he is a very talented scorer of the basketball, but not much else. He is the third highest scorer in the division behind Giannis and Blake Griffin. When he is on the court, the Bulls have a marginally better Offensive Rating, jumping from 102.9 to 104.1 with LaVine. But it is defensively where he has been consistently poor. He often falls asleep on shooters and back cuts, and gets lazy on switches allowing other teams to score easily. While all of the Bulls defensive issues should not be solely placed on LaVine’s shoulders, he hasn’t done anything to show improvement in that area of the game. His playmaking has improved a bit, his AST% is up to a respectable 24.7%, but he still isn’t impacting the game the way he needs to offensively to overshadow his porous defense.
9). Brook Lopez: 11.7 PPG 4.1 RPG 1.1 APG .567 TS% 13.1 PER 17.2 USG% 33.04 TPA
While Lopez’s stats don’t jump off the page at you, he has been an integral part of the Bucks’ success this season. With Lopez spacing the floor, it allows Giannis and the Bucks other wings and guards to attack the paint with reckless abandon. Lopez leads all centers shooting 6.7 threes a game. The next highest center on the list is Karl Anthony-Towns, who attempts 4.6 threes a game. Lopez takes most of his threes on catch and shoot opportunities. His shots usually coming when a teammate gets into the paint and breaks down the defense, pulling Lopez’s man down and giving him an open shot. He is currently shooting a very respectable 35.1% from downtown.
8). Eric Bledsoe: 15.9 PPG 4.4 RPG 5.7 APG .593 TS% 19.2 PER 22.0 USG% 73.55 TPA
Bledsoe has been a nightmare for any point guard unfortunate enough to go up against him this season. He is arguably the best guard pick and roll defender, fighting through screens to maintain his leverage on switches with bigger players. Much like the presence of Lopez has unlocked the Bucks offense, the sheer viciousness of Bledsoe’s defense has helped the Bucks maintain the 3rd best Defensive Rating at 103.9.
7). Bojan Bogdanovic: 16.4 PPG 3.9 RPG 1.5 APG .643 TS% 15.4 PER 20.0 USG% 11.29 TPA
Bogey has been shooting the lights out this year. He currently sits at fourth in the NBA hitting 46.8% of his threes, while attempting 5 a game. Bogdanovic also ranks 15th in TS% of all players who play at least 15 min a game, and most of the players ahead of him on the list are big men who attempt most of their shots at the rim. He really stepped up when Oladipo missed time and the Pacers have been able to stay afloat while missing their star, unlike last season.
6). Domantas Sabonis: 14.5 PPG 9.5 RPG 2.9 APG .668 TS% 23.7 PER 23.7 USG% 88.99 TPA
Sabonis has arguably been the most efficient player in the entire league this season. The third year man is putting up extremely impressive PPG and RPG numbers while only averaging 24.7 minutes per game. When you look at his per 36 numbers, his averages jump to 21 PPG and 14.1 RPG. He ranks 3rd in the league in True Shooting Percentage and 19th in PER. Sabonis has been an absolute stud coming off the bench for the Pacers this year and is making a very strong case for 6th Man of the Year.
5). Andre Drummond: 17.5 PPG 15.3 RPG 1.3 APG .520 TS% 21.6 PER 24.4 USG% 31.77 TPA
Drummond has continued to be a double-double machine this year ranking third in the league with 29 so far. But even with Drummond putting up supreme stat lines every night, his efficiency is down in almost all areas. He is having his worst TS% season since 2016-17, is getting to the free throw line at the lowest rate of his career and his AST% (Percentage of possession that end in assist) has dropped sharply off a cliff from 14.3% last season to 6.4% this year. Even with his efficiency and playmaking taking a bit of a step back Drummond is still a force on the glass and one of the top centers in the NBA.
4). Khris Middleton: 17.8 PPG 5.8 RPG 4.1 APG .563 TS% 16.0 PER 24.2 USG% 26.50 TPA
Middleton has simply been a stud this year for the Bucks. He is a very capable defender and has shown an improvement in playmaking this season keeping the Bucks’ offense flowing even in lineups without Giannis. He has continued to be a sniper from deep this year, shooting 37.7% on 7 attempts per game. Middleton is one of the NBA’s best 3 and D wings and is the perfect Robin to Giannis’ Batman.
3). Blake Griffin: 24.7 PPG 8.7 RPG 5.2 APG .582 TS% 20.2 PER 29.4 USG% 97.74 TPA
Griffin has been simply amazing for the Pistons this season. He is averaging a career high in PPG, in USG% and a career best .582 TS%. He has taken the reigns of Detroit’s offense and basically become Ben Simmons with a jumper. While the Pistons started strong, they have trailed off as of late, hopefully Griffin can get the team back on track and continue his career best season.
2). Victor Oladipo: 19.6 PPG 6.3 RPG 5.5 APG .528 TS% 19.1 PER 28.1 USG% 60.61 TPA
While Oladipo hasn’t been quite as good as last year, he is still a star and warrants the number two spot on this list. Injuries have kept him out of twelve games this year and hobbled him in others but he has still led Indiana to a 25-12 record. With the emergence of some of Indiana’s role players he has been able to relinquish some control of the offense. He is still a great defender capable of taking a player out of their game. I do expect his play to get to where it was last year and hopefully overtake it in time for the playoffs.
1). Giannis Antetokounmpo: 26.6 PPG 12.8 RPG 6.1 APG .634 TS% 29.0 PER 31.4 USG% 233.94 TPA
Not only has Giannis been far and away the best player in the Central Division this year, he has been the best player in the NBA. He has put up Shaq like numbers this year, shooting 59.4% of all his shots inside 0-3 feet and hitting 79.6% of those shots. That’s simply unstoppable. His playmaking has improved this year, he’s averaging a career high 6.1 APG on a 30.1% assist rate. The only knock on his game is his lack of shooting, but with his domination of the paint, he really has no need for an outside shot. Giannis has been so dominant this season, I’m not 100% sure that what we are witnessing is human.