In case somebody started following NBA league in this decade, he could be easily deceived that the Clippers are among the best and most successful franchises. A multitude of 50+ win seasons, attractive basketball, superstar plays of Paul and Griffin, the exceptional guidance of coach Doc Rivers and two Pacific division titles – all of that had been achieved since 2010.
But the truth is quite the opposite...
Since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984, the Clippers were perennially the laughingstock of the NBA. Over the first 26 years in the city of angels, they managed to reach the postseason just 4 times (1992, 1993, 1997, 2006). We do remember that entertaining squad with Brand, Cassell, Radmanović and Mobley that ultimately fell to the Suns in the WCS in 7 games back in 2006, but that’s pretty much all worth remembering.
The key reason for poor performances and lack of any viable success was a string of horrible draft selections prior the arrival of Blake Griffin in 2009. Considering that the Clippers are one of the least prosperous franchises with just 39,5% games won in their history, here is the prolonged list of their worst draft failures.
5. NBA Draft 1989
Danny Ferry was the second pick by the franchise, behind only „Out of service“ Pervis Ellison, who got drafted by the Kings.
Honorable mention: Sean Elliott, Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, Shawn Kemp
Draft steal: Vlade Divac
Mr. Crossover, Tim Hardaway, should have been the Clippers target. Known for his sick handles, explosiveness and sharpshooting, Hardaway flourished under Don Nelson in the Warriors trio Run TMC (Tim, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin) and later in Miami alongside Alonzo Mourning, reaching the ECF in 1997 with Pat Riley leading the way. Ferry, on the other hand, was an average player and also bad NBA general manager.
4. NBA Draft 1987
With the 4th pick, the Clippers selected Reggie Williams. A certain David Robinson was the top selection by the Spurs.
Honorable mention: Kevin Johnson, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Horace Grant
Draft steal: Reggie Lewis
The best sidekick in the history of the game, Scottie Pippen, was available for the Clippers at the moment. Pippen is one of the greatest two-way forwards of all time, perennial All-NBA and All-Defensive teams member, 6x NBA champion and one of the 4 players to lead his team in all 5 major statistical categories over the course of a season (he’s done that in 1994/95).
3. NBA Draft 1996
In what is widely regarded as the deepest and strongest draft ever, the Clippers had the 7th overall pick. And somehow managed to select the late Lorenzen Wright. He never averaged more 9 ppg for the club. Allen Iverson from Georgetown was the first pick by the Sixers.
Honorable mention: Steve Nash, Predrag Stojaković, Jermaine O’Neal.
Draft steal: Do I have to spell it?
Kobe Bean Bryant was picked by the Hornets 13th. Imagine if the Clippers management chooses him 7th and later built a championship dynasty around him. Kobe might not have won 5 rings as a Clipper, but he could win 3.
Bryant was the face of the league in the 2000s and only legitimate heir of Michael Jordan. Instead, already pitiful Clips had to watch him dominating as the leader of older brothers, Lakers.
2. NBA Draft 1998
Honorable mention: Paul Pierce, Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison
Draft steal: Rashard Lewis
LAC finally attracted some sort of luck that year by winning the lottery. And used that pick on Michael Olowokandi. Center, born in Nigeria, studied in the USA - he must be the next Olajuwon, right?
Kandi finished his career in 2007, averaging mere 8.3 points, 6.8 rpg and subpar 43,5% shooting (for a center). Meanwhile, the Mavericks conquered the league in 2011 led by Dirk Nowitzki – 9th pick of the 1998 draft. The Big German is by far the best European player ever, NBA MVP in 2007, Finals MVP, 13x All-Star on his way of reaching elusive 30,000 point club.
To make things a bit easier for Clips, the Bucks actually selected Dirk and traded him immediately, making the same mistake.
1. NBA Draft 1985
The Clippers selected Benoit Benjamin with the 3rd pick. Patrick Ewing went to the Knicks as the top pick.
Honorable mention: Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, Charles Oakley
Draft steal: Joe Dumars
The Clips should have selected Karl Malone, power forward from Louisiana Tech. The Mailman scored 36,928 career points (second all-time), was named a record 11 times to the All-NBA First team (since tied by Kobe) and won 2 MVP awards. A synonym for consistency, sheer physical power, and durability, Malone played 19 years in the league, 18 of whom with the Jazz, forming an unforgettable duo with Stockton.
Benjamin was nothing more than a decent rotation player.