Los Angeles Clippers: A Plan for Lottery Success

Brent HinckleyContributor IMay 8, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 29:  Blake Griffin #23 of the Oklahoma Sooners jumps into Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional Final at the FedExForum on March 29, 2009 in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

The Clippers are under pressure to select a franchise player. The organization is no stranger to the lottery process, having made lottery selections in nine of the last 10 years.

The team did not have a first-round draft choice in 2006. Unfortunately, of those nine selections, only three are currently with the team.

The good news is that the team’s last two draft picks are headed in the right direction. Eric Gordon, selected with the seventh overall pick last year, earned a starting spot as the team’s shooting guard, averaging 16.1 points per game and finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Al Thornton earned more time because of injuries to the team’s other big men, but showed he can be a starter, averaging 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

The team needs to address its scoring problems, after finishing near the bottom of the league in scoring average with 95.1 points per game.

Unfortunately, whomever the Clippers take with their first pick will be a scorer.

The ping pong balls will decide what position the Clippers will draft and there appear to be three tiers of talent available in the lottery selections.  

Picks One through Three

Based on the percentage of ping pong balls, the Clippers should end up in this group with a shot to bring in someone who can contribute immediately. By landing here, the Clippers can select either Blake Griffin or Haseem Thabeet, the top two big men available in the draft.

Griffin is expected to be the overall No. 1 pick and should be starting on Opening Day wherever he ends up. He averaged 22 PPG and 14 RPG at Oklahoma.

Injuries to Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, and Zach Randolph showed a need for depth down low. Camby is a 12-year veteran and the injuries may be indicative of the future.

Randolph put up strong numbers—20.9 points and 12.4 rebounds—but missed 32 games because of injuries and suspensions.

You cannot teach size, and at 7'3" Thabeet would give the Clippers a presence to square off against Shaq, Pau Gasol, and Greg Oden—the Pacific Division’s other big men.

Thabeet would have to compete against DeAndre Jordan, the center the Clippers drafted last year in the second round to back up Kaman, but it would be Thabeet’s spot to lose.  

Picks Four through Nine

If the big men are gone, the Clippers need a point guard who can push the ball and run the offense.  Baron Davis filled that role this season, but it is clear that is not what he does best.

L.A. needs a Chris Paul, Deron Williams, or even a Rajon Rondo type player. Someone who can control the game and run the offense, or carry the team when needed.

Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, and Ty Lawson are being tabbed as the top point guards in the draft and the Clippers should be able to grab one of these guards if the team picks in this range.

Jennings and Rubio have both been playing professionally in Europe, and are more ready to run an NBA offense than Curry or Lawson.

Curry gained recognition for his impressive scoring efforts at Davidson. Whether he can be as productive in the NBA is the question on everybody’s mind.

Lawson guided North Carolina to the National Championship despite a toe injury, but anyone that watched him in the tournament saw Lawson knows what it takes to win. He will need that attitude in a franchise that knows more about losing than winning.

Picks 10 through 14

The farthest the Clippers can fall in the lottery is No. 6.

However, if by some unforeseen circumstance they trade down and wind up in the tail end of the lottery, management will have to get creative.

Jordan Hill, Tyreke Evans, Jeff Teague, DeJuan Blair, DeMar DeRozan, and Tyler Hansbrough are all names that could still be available this late.

Hill, Blair, and Hansbrough are all forwards, a position that is already pretty well-stocked, but having too many forwards who can score and defend down low is never a bad thing.

Shooting guards Evans, Teague, and DeRozan would more than likely end up behind Baron Davis and Eric Gordon on the depth chart.

The Clippers are stocked with young guards including Gordon, Mardy Collins, Mike Taylor, Alex Acker, and Fred Jones. Picking another young shooting guard may not be the way to go for Los Angeles.

Injuries derailed the Clippers' plans last season, but the team has the pieces in place to make some noise next year.

Do not expect the Clippers to surpass the Lakers any time soon, but the addition of a player like Griffin, Thabeet, Jennings, or Lawson could have both L.A. teams making a run for the playoffs.

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