clippers.gif (6242 bytes) The 22nd pick belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers.  This pick was obtained from the Miami Heat in the Brent Barry - Ike Austin trade.  As with the 1st pick, The GM is Curtis Hill.  Curtis uses the 22nd pick to select: Vladimir Stepanija - a 7'0" center/pf from Georgia.

Los Angeles Clippers: On a Road to Nowhere
Curtis Hill (, Disaster Recovery GM Consultant

I sometimes wonder if the inspiration for the movie Groundhog Day is the sorry tale of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips are stuck in a cycle that ranges from being one of the worst teams in the league, improvement until the team escapes the lottery, followed by a descent back to the bottom of the league again. Later. Rinse. Repeat.

When I was fortunate enough to last handle the LA Clippers, a couple of years ago, I said the Clippers needed help in four specific areas: talent, leadership, management, and ownership. As we approach the 1998 NBA Draft, my analysis has not changed.

It is somewhat fitting that the Clippers won the lottery in a year in which there is no clear-cut #1 pick. This draft has six players in the first cut, none of which distinguishes themselves ahead of the others. It's also likely that whomever the Clippers draft #1 will turn out to be the bust of the draft -- call it the Clippers Curse.

Clippers current situation


Submitted for your approval:

  1985: Benoit Benjamin (third overall)
  1986: Dwayne Polee (third round, 53rd overall)
  1987: Reggie Williams (fourth)
  1988: Danny Manning (first)
  1988: Hersey Hawkins (sixth)
  1989: Danny Ferry (second)
  1990: Bo Kimble (eighth)
  1991: LeRon Ellis (22nd)
  1991: Elmore Spencer (25th)
  1992: Randy Woods (16th)
  1993: Terry Dehere (13th)
  1994: Lamond Murray (seventh)
  1994: Greg Minor (25th)
  1995: Antonio McDyess (second)
  1996: Lorenzen Wright (seventh)
  1997: Maurice Taylor (14th)

Let's just say that being drafted by the Clippers is not exactly the first stop on the road to NBA superstardom. It may not even be the first stop on the road to NBA journeyman.

It's hard to imagine how such a streak of bad luck could result from a concerted attempt to make the worst possible selections in the draft. Somehow, the Clippers have bucked the odds and managed to draft a nearly perfect streak of over-rated or snake-bitten players over the past 12 years.


First, the statistics

                      G  Min  PPG  RPG  APG Off- Def- Tot  AST Stl BLK  To  PF

Lamond Murray        79 2579 15.4  6.1  1.8 172- 312- 484  140 118  54 171 193
Rodney Rogers        76 2498 15.1  5.6  2.7 155- 270- 425  202  93  33 193 242
Isaac Austin         78 2266 13.5  7.1  2.2 198- 359- 557  172  61  56 206 231
Maurice Taylor       71 1513 11.5  4.2  0.8 118- 178- 296   53  34  40 108 222
Eric Piatkowski      67 1740 11.3  3.5  1.3  70- 166- 236   85  51  14  80 137
Darrick Martin       82 2299 10.3  2.0  4.0  19- 145- 164  328  82  10 154 198
Lorenzen Wright      69 2067  9.0  8.8  0.8 180- 425- 605   55  55  87  81 237
James Robinson       70 1231  7.7  1.6  1.9  37-  74- 111  135  37  13  97 100
Loy Vaught           10  265  7.5  6.5  0.7  16-  49-  65    7   4   2  13  33
Pooh Richardson      69 1252  4.2  1.4  3.3  17-  79-  96  226  44   3  54  71
Keith Closs          58  740  4.0  2.9  0.3  63- 105- 168   19  12  79  38  73
Charles Smith        34  292  3.5  0.8  0.6  13-  14-  27   21  12   7  27  24
Stojko Vrankovic     65  996  3.0  4.1  0.6  71- 192- 263   36  11  66  46 130
James Collins        23  104  2.6  0.6  0.1   7-   7-  14    3   6   3   8  13

                      Fg              3pt             Ft
                  M-A     PCT     M-A     PCT     M-A     PCT   PTS  HI

Murray         473-984   .481   54-153   .353  220-294   .748 1220  32
Rogers         426-935   .456   72-212   .340  225-328   .686 1149  34
Austin         406-871   .466    0-11    .000  243-363   .669 1055  33
Taylor         321-675   .476    0-1     .000  173-244   .709  815  26
Piatkowski     257-568   .452  106-259   .409  140-170   .824  760  29
Martin         275-730   .377  107-293   .365  184-217   .848  841  21
Wright         241-542   .445    0-2     .000  141-214   .659  623  32
Robinson       195-501   .389   74-225   .329   77-107   .720  541  26
Vaught          36-84    .429    0-2     .000    3-8     .375   75  14
Richardson     124-333   .372   11-57    .193   30-43    .698  289  14
Closs           93-207   .449    0-0     .000   46-77    .597  232  15
Smith           49-125   .392   15-47    .319    6-11    .545  119  16
Vrankovic       79-186   .425    0-0     .000   37-65    .569  195   9
Collins         21-55    .382    9-20    .450    8-14    .571   59  15

Don't you just love it when no one on a team is close to shooting .500 from the field? I will provide analysis of the Clippers roster including the Clippers' free agents.


Ike Austin(FA) - The best player on the team? That it's a question says a lot for the talent the Clippers have. Elgin Baylor thinks that he's going to re-sign with the Clippers. I think the odds are a lot better that Ike is long gone - unless the Clippers hire a good coach.

Keith Closs - raw and thin, but he's shown signs of having a good up-side. No real decision here as he's signed through 2000. Unless there's a Year 2000 bug in the players' CBA.

Lorenzen Wright - I liked Wright coming out of school but he hasn't shown much in the league, partially due to injury. He's signed through next year and the Clippers could really use for Wright to be a player this year. Of course, given the Clippers' luck, he'll have a great year and move on to a big FA deal.

Stojko Vrankovic - well, he's no Stanley Roberts. However, given that Big Stanley showed up for a few games in Minnesota this year, the Clippers definitely got the short end of that deal.


Lamond Murray - maybe the best player that the Clippers have on this roster who will be on the team next year. Murray is poised for a big year since he'll be a FA next year. Murray is still a big shot-happy, but when you're playing for a team as weak as the Clippers, what else is there to do? Still, he's a decent small forward/big guard.

Rodney Rogers - Rodney has never really able to play power forward in the NBA like I thought he'd be able to coming out of Wake Forest. He has the strength to play inside, but hasn't had a lot of success. He's had more luck at small forward, but his offensive skills aren't good enough to play the position full-time in the NBA. He's a good player, though, and a good guy. Rodney has to be looking to have a big statistical year in order to get a FA ticket out of ClipperLand. This is starting to be a theme, isn't it??

Loy Vaught(FA) - Vaught has been one of the few pleasant surprises the Clippers have had in the draft over the past decade. Vaught is a free agent and said he wouldn't return if Bill Fitch was still the coach. Now the Fitch mercifully (for him) has been let go, perhaps Vaught will re-sign with the Clippers. Lord knows the Clippers could use another forward.

Maurice Taylor - another pleasant surprise for the Clippers. The problem is that Taylor, to me, is more suited to be, at best, the 4th or 5th option on offense when he's in the game and maybe the 6th or 7th man on the team. However, Taylor at least provides a nice bonus for whomever is coaching the team next season.


Darrick Martin(FA) - is anyone else surprised he's still in the league? A decent backup point guard and a lot younger than Pooh Richardson. It appears that the Clippers will try to keep Martin and I think they will be successful.

James Collins(FA) - at least he was on the roster, which is more than I was expecting out of James. He had the talent at Florida State but was inconsistent. Not sure that he'll really be able to help the Clippers.

Pooh Richardson - he's been around forever, hasn't he? Not sure that the Clippers still want Pooh around but I don't know what Pooh's intentions are. It might be a good time to retire.

Eric Piatkowski - I must say that I'm surprised that Piatkowski has played as well as he has in the league. He's been a good offensive player, though I'm not sure that he's ever going to be a really good defensive player, especially at shooting guard.

James Robinson - he's as close as he's going to get to his nickname "Hollywood". Enticing athletic potential that has never really led to consistent, quality play in the NBA.

Charles Smith - just had surgery on his foot (the dreaded broken 5th metatarsal). He's a decent enough guard and he has two years left on his rookie contract. Plenty of time to evaluate a player who could be a good 3rd or 4th guard in the league, perhaps even for the Clippers.

Coaching/Possible Hires

This is probably the most important decision the Clippers have to make this year. It is imperative that the Clippers hire a coach that gives them some credibility and makes players think that they really want to play for the Clippers. The problem is that most good candidates want to be coach and GM and it appears that Donald Sterling has no intentions of relieving Elgin Baylor of his duties. George Karl or Paul Westphal would be the best choices but also are probably the least likely to take the job. With these guys probably out of reach and names like Jim Harrick and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being bandied about, all six or so Clippers fans have to be worried about whom Sterling is going to hire.


Elgin Baylor is one of the great NBA players of all time and, I'm sure, a very nice guy and a gentleman. However, he isn't a NBA general manager. It's time for Elgin to take a job with the league or be named VP of basketball operations for the Clippers and give up his GM duties. Please, Elgin, do it. Let us remember you for what you did on the court, not for what you put on the court for the Clippers.


Maybe Fox will buy the Clippers and the Lakers? The Clippers desperately need new ownership, even moreso than they need a new general manager.

Of course, saying this will get me on the short enemies list of the rest of the league's owners. Donald Sterling is no Ted Septien, but he's the best the NBA has to offer at this time.


The Clippers need help in every area of the organization. Well, maybe not every area. I haven't really dug into quality of the PR department, marketing department, or the cheerleaders.

Draft Needs:

Name a position, the Clippers need help. However, the Clippers are loaded at all three forward positions: small, power, and tweener. The pick should ideally be at center, point guard, or shooting guard.

Possible Selections

For the Clippers second first-round pick, I considered the following players:

Radisav Nesterovic - a somewhat thin 7'2" (240lbs) project center. Most teams are intrigued with his potential.

Vladimir Stepanija - a 7'0" center/pf from Soviet Georgia. A bit more sturdy than Nesterovic with the potential to play some power forward. Another guy that probably won't help immediately, but could probably play more than Nesterovic.

Jelani McCoy - the 6'10"ish problem child from UCLA. A good player with excellent potential at power forward if he can keep his focus on basketball.

Bryce Drew - a 6'3" ish combination guard who I really like. Fundamentally sound and the son of a coach. May have to play more of a pure point guard in the NBA due to his height.

Future Considerations


As I said before, the name of the next coach will have a lot to do with how good the Clippers are in the future. If the Clippers don't hire a quality guy, then they aren't going to be any good for the forseeable future. A good coach might be able to get the Clippers out of the lottery and on the road to the playoffs in 2 or 3 years.


The Clippers will never be any good until they can attract some quality free agents (heck, any free agents) to supplement their excellent drafting positions. Again, the only way to do this is to start running a quality organization.

Next couple of drafts

One important consideration for teams like the Clippers is to consider what the NBA draft is going to look like over the next few years. Pickin's are going to be very, very slim, especially outside of the lottery. However, I don't think the Clippers will have to be worried about being out of the lottery next year. They do need to worry about what types of players may or may not be available in upcoming drafts, though. Let's just say that there will assuredly be a bunch of forwards.


My choice is Vladimir Stepanija. It really was a tossup between Stepanija and Nesterovic. I like Stepanija's frame a little better and, hey, at this point it's really a crap shoot anyways.

I wouldn't want to give Jelani McCoy or a player with his past a guaranteed contract coming into the league, so I wouldn't take him in round 1. I'd love Drew here is Bibby hadn't been my first choice.

The Clippers should be able to pick up other big man or guard prospects from the pool of players not drafted -- they'll just have to work a little bit at evaluating more talent. What they won't get is the chance to sign a big player with some potential, so now's a good time to take a little bit of a flyer on a big man. The advantage of taking a project here instead of going with Olowokandi at #1 is that there's a lot less risk here if the guy doesn't work out and there's an excellent shot of re-signing a pick at this position if he turns out to be good.

What the Clippers will really do

Your guess is as good as mine. It appears that they will draft Bibby. However, everytime I read something about the Clippers, something more disturbing comes to light. Whether that it's Jim Harrick and Kareem are coaching candidates, that Paul Pierce was the most impressive player they worked out (please, draft another small forward!) or that the Clippers really like Jelani McCoy for their other first round pick (aaaaggghhhh!!!). You just never know.

At least the Clippers will keep everyone interested until draft day.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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