The Los Angeles Clippers have built a power in the Western Conference in recent years thanks to the development of Blake Griffin, the acquisition of Chris Paul and the key 2nd round selection in 2008 of center DeAndre Jordan.
Signings of shooting guard J.J. Redick and rotating veteran small forwards through the starting lineup (Matt Barnes, Lance Stephenson, Luc Mbah a Moute, etc.) have kept some stability throughout this era for the Clippers, but they’ve yet to land atop the Western Conference mountain. It might be getting close to the end of this groups run in Los Angeles — perhaps if they had drafted better, the Clips could have peaked at the right time. What went wrong?
First, Los Angeles traded away Baron Davis and their 2011 non-protected first round pick for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The Cavaliers landed the first overall pick with only a 2.8 percent chance of doing so and took franchise point guard Kyrie Irving. Then the Clippers traded away their 2013 conditional pick to the Pistons for pick No. 37 in the second round, which they used on big man Trey Thompkins.
Thompkins suffered a bone bruise during the 2012 NBA Summer League, which sidelined him for nearly two years, so he was waived by the Clippers. Thompkins currently plays for Real Madrid in Spain. The Clips also swapped second-rounders with the Rockets, giving them another second-round selection in swingman, Travis Leslie. Leslie played in the D-League a while before heading overseas to play in Germany.
The Clippers traded their 22nd overall pick of the 2012 draft for the talented Eric Bledsoe — who’s currently thriving as a starter in Phoenix. They traded him away as part of a three-team deal for forward Jared Dudley and Redick, which turned into a solid deal for both sides.
Los Angeles’ second round pick was spent on Turkish big man Furkan Aldemir, who they traded that night as part of a four team deal that helped them net Lamar Odom. The Clips had to trade away Mo Williams as part of that deal, so the deal was far from worth it as Odom turned in his worst (and last) season as a pro.
The Clippers used their lone 2013 pick on Reggie Bullock, a potential 3-and-D swingman at the 22nd overall pick in the first round. Bullock has been traded twice since without making much of an impact on either the Clippers or the Suns, and currently plays for the Detroit Pistons. As mentioned before, Los Angeles traded away their 2013 second-rounder as part of the Trey Thompkins deal.
At the 28th pick of the 2014 draft, the Clippers took sharpshooting swingman, C.J. Wilcox, another promising 3-and-D-type. Wilcox has moved between the NBA roster and D-League multiple times so far in his career, so it’s hard to say what the Clips might have with him. The Clippers again traded away their second round pick for Bobby Brown in 2010, and it was his last season in the league.
The Clippers acquired Doc Rivers in the summer of 2013 and sent the Boston Celtics their 2015 first rounder as a result of the trade. Rivers’ record over his two years is 113-51, so I guess you can say that’s fair value for a late first-round pick. The Celtics used it on shooting guard R.J. Hunter, who would have fit in perfectly on the Clippers as a complimentary piece to the puzzle. Although the Clips traded their potential second-round pick yet again, they made a move and bought the 56th pick to select Branden Dawson.
Dawson has an NBA body with great athleticism and a knack for rebounding, but he lacks any polish offensively and can’t create for himself. They sent Dawson down to the D-League for further development, but if this team starts Mbah a Moute at small forward, there’s no reason Dawson can’t bring a similar defensive-minded approach down the line.
Who knows how long this group will be together, as there’s already been some signs that Chris Paul has regressed in some areas. Blake Griffin has shown that he’s capable of taking more of the burden in the future, and sometimes DeAndre Jordan helps in that department as well. It’s hard to judge teams that are constantly contending and making selections late in the draft, as talent is sparse towards the end of the first round. It’s hard to say the Clippers have drafted well in the past five years, but some of the acquisitions made using the picks might have been worth it in terms of fielding winning teams.