Deconstructing Clipper Nation: Top Five Moments in Clippers Draft History
They’re notorious, and at times, outright ridiculous. Sports Illustrated have even deemed them as the worst franchise in sports history.
But truth be told, they’re actually my favorite NBA team.
Since the induction of the draft lottery in 1985, the Clippers have had 20 lottery picks. Of those lottery picks, the Clippers have had three first overall picks in 1988, 1998, and 2009.
As with any team, drafting rookies are always hit or miss.
Although for the Clippers, these missed opportunities seem to have become a freakishly common occurrence.
In the 1983 draft, for instance, the San Diego Clippers selected a young guard by the name of Byron Scott with their fourth overall pick. Scott was then traded, on draft day, to the Lakers where he went on to win three NBA titles.
Now, I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years, and I’ve seen my fair share of draft disasters. And at times, I’ve even questioned the intentions of the Clippers management.
Are they that incompetent or are they forever cursed with bad luck?
So in the attempts to rationalize these draft day decisions, I’ve created a list of the top five defining moments in Los Angeles Clippers draft history.
1995 Draft: Antonio McDyess (Second Overall)
The Alabama product was selected by the Clippers, but was then traded to the Nuggets for Brian Williams, Rodney Rodgers, and the draft rights to Brent Barry.
Ultimately for the Clippers, Williams left the team after one season while Rodgers and Barry remained in uniform, but never producing as well as McDyess did while in Denver.
McDyess went on to average 13.4 ppg and 7.5 rpg in his rookie season. His most productive season was during the 1998-1999 season when he averaged 21.2 ppg and 10.7 rpg.
Notable players drafted after McDyess include Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, and Damon Stoudamire.
1989 Draft: Danny Ferry (Second Overall)
As a child, I would buy packs of basketball cards. In those packs, I would always find Ferry’s rookie card. Not knowing why I had such a dislike for him, I threw them in the trash.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that Ferry had declined to play for the Clippers after being selected second overall in the 1989 draft.
Ferry had, instead, accepted a deal to play overseas. To rid themselves of Ferry’s draft rights, the Clippers traded him to the Cavaliers in exchange for Ron Harper and some draft picks.
Harper became an integral part of the Clippers team that made it to the playoffs in back-to-back years. Larry Brown, who went on to win his first NBA title with the Pistons, coached those teams.
In his final year with the Clippers, Harper averaged 20.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 4.6 apg.
Harper went on to win five NBA titles in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2001 – three with the Bulls and two with the Lakers.
Ferry’s best year was during the 1995-1996 season when he averaged 13.3 ppg and 3.8 rpg.
2004 Draft: Shaun Livingston (Fourth Overall)
This young man from Peoria, IL was touted as the second coming of Magic Johnson. He was 6’7” and had great ball-handling skills for a high school point guard.
His main flaws were in his size and shooting, but no one ever doubted his endless potential.
Livingston played with the Clippers for over two seasons until he suffered a devastating knee injury during a regular season game.
Prior to his injury, there were trade rumors involving him and Allen Iverson. The trade never went through, and as a result, he’s currently playing in the developmental league.
Notable players drafted after Livingston include Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, and Andris Biedrins.
1998 Draft: Michael Olowokandi (First Overall)
He had the same build as fellow Nigerian and Hall of Fame center, Hakeem Olajuwon. He was 7’0” and 270 pounds. He also played soccer as a teen, but then later transitioned into basketball.
The only difference between him and Olajuwon was that Olowokandi never committed himself to refine his offensive and defensive skills.
During the weeks leading up to the draft, many analysts had predicted the Clippers to draft Arizona standout guard, Mike Bibby. It wasn’t until draft day that the decision to select Olowokandi from Pacific was made by the organization.
Olowokandi never lived up to the comparisons. Throughout most of his career, he had suffered some injuries that forced him to miss significant time. After playing for the Celtics in 2006-2007, he eventually retired from the NBA.
Notable players drafted after Olowokandi include Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce.
2001 Draft: Tyson Chandler (Second Overall)
This last piece is not necessarily one on Tyson Chandler, but the outcome of drafting Chandler second overall in the 2001 draft.
In 2001, we saw an overwhelming interest in drafting high school prospects. In fact, three of the top five picks in that draft were out of high school.
The Bulls had drafted Eddy Curry with their fourth overall pick, and was desperately looking to rebuild after a couple failed attempts to make it into the playoffs.
As a result, Chandler’s draft rights were traded to the Clippers in return for third year forward, Elton Brand.
Brand went on to play seven seasons with the Clippers. He had his most productive year during 2005-2006 when he averaged 24.7 ppg and 10 rpg. He was also named an All-Star that year.
As a result of his stellar individual performance during the 2005-2006 season, the Clippers made it to the playoffs for the first time since being swept in the first round by the Jazz in 1997.
It was also the first time in franchise history, since moving from Buffalo, that they made it into the second round of the playoffs. They ultimately went on to lose in seven games against the Suns.
Prior to the start of the 2008-2009 season, Brand had recruited former friend, Baron Davis, to sign a five-year deal with the Clippers with the thought of Brand also re-joining the team.
As the situation unfolded, Brand ultimately left the Clippers to sign with the 76ers, leaving Davis with a long-term contractual agreement with the Clippers.
In a side note, Chandler is currently playing for the Hornets, where he had his best career season in 2007-2008. In that year, he averaged 11.8 ppg and 11.7 rpg.