The Clippers finished the 1984-85 NBA season tied with the Kansas City Kings for the 4th worst record in the NBA (31-51). In the very first ever NBA Draft Lottery, the Clippers had the fortune of moving up 1 or 2 spots (depending on the potential tie-breaker for the 4th pick if no lottery was used) to the #3 position in the upcoming draft. Although not as exciting as if they had won the #1 pick in the draft, and thus the chance to draft Georgetown superstar Patrick Ewing, the Clippers would still draft a center, taking Benoit Benjamin out of Creighton.
The 1987-88 Clippers were the worst team in the league, and therefore, needed help. There was a huge possibility of help in Kansas star Danny Manning. The only thing standing in the way of the Clippers getting the help they desired was the 1988 Draft Lottery. Back in the early days of the lottery, each team that did not qualify for the playoffs had an equal chance of being awarded the first pick. Luckily for the Clippers, they did win the first pick, and GM at the time Elgin Baylor was already prepared to share who the team would be picking in the upcoming draft.
You gotta love the reaction from Elgin Baylor. With Danny Manning joining the Clippers, the team saw a bright future. Unfortunately, a major injury would derail that future for a few years, but Manning still lead the Clippers to 2 postseason appearences.
Although many people can make a strong case as to the failure of the Clippers draft in 1998, the 1998 Draft Lottery was a victory for the Clippers. They had finished the 1997-98 season with the 3rd worst record in the league, so they were slotted to pick 3rd, if every team stayed in their position. But in the lottery, the Clippers jump over the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors to win the opportunity to pick first in the upcoming draft.
There were many options for the team, including Vince Carter, Mike Bibby, and an unknown German kid by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. In the end, the Clippers couldn't resist the urge to draft a center, and selected 7 footer Michael Olowokandi out of the University of the Pacific.
The 2001 NBA Draft Lottery saw one of the biggest jumps up the Clippers would ever experience. Although missing out on the 1st pick, they won the 2nd pick, moving up 6 positions in the upcoming draft. Instead of picking 8th, and drafting a player such as DeSagana Diop, they were able to draft local high school phenom Tyson Chandler.
Before Chandler would even leave the draft, his rights would be traded to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand.
The 2004 NBA Draft Lottery would see the Clippers move up 2 spots, winning the number 2 pick in the 2004 Draft. Although they missed out on picking first, and thus drafting Dwight Howard, the Clippers were able to arrange a trade with expansion team Charlotte Bobcats to swap first round picks, along with Charlotte agreeing to select Predrag Drobnjak in the expansion draft, and sending the Clippers their 2nd round pick. In the end, Charlotte got a young big, Emeka Okefor, to be their first "star", and the Clippers were able to draft their point guard of the future, Shaun Livingston.
The prize of the 2009 NBA Draft was Blake Griffin. Every team wanted him, but only one would get the opportunity to draft him. The 2009 NBA Draft Lottery was were that opportunity became real. Having had the 2nd worst record in the 2008-09 season, the Clippers entered the lottery with the 3rd best odds of winning the number one pick, at just under 18%. The Sacramento Kings (25%) had the best chance of winning the pick, and the Washington Wizards had one thousandth of a percent better odds than the Clippers (due to winning the tie breaker against the Clippers).
The Clippers would defy the odds, and jump over the Wizards and Kings to win the 1st pick in the draft, and the opportunity to pick Blake Griffin.
The 1986-87 NBA season was a disaster for the Clippers. They would finish the season with the worst record in the league (12-70). In the 1987 Draft, the Clippers, along with the other non-playoff teams in the league, saw a potential superstar. His name was David Robinson. Even with the potential of Robinson having to sit a season or two due to his commitments to the Navy, teams wanted the big man.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, the 1987 NBA Draft Lottery gave every team participating equal odds at winning the number one pick. This worked against the team, as 3 teams would leap over them in draft positioning. So, instead of getting David Robinson with the 1st pick (which went to the Spurs), the Clippers would draft Reggie Williams with the 4th overall pick.
Along with many other seasons, the 1994-95 season was not a good one for the Clippers. In fact, they finished with the worst record in the NBA, giving them the best odds at winning the NBA Draft Lottery and picking 1st in the 1995 NBA Draft.
Instead, the Warriors, with just over a 9% chance, would win the first pick, and go on to select Joe Smith. The Clippers would only fall 1 spot to #2, and would select Antonio McDyess. McDyess would never play for the Clippers, as the team sent him to the Denver Nuggets on draft night along with Randy Woods in exchange for Rodney Rogers and the draft rights to Brent Barry.
The 1999 NBA Draft Lottery saw the Clippers drop 2 spots, from #2 to #4. If they had remained at number 2, they would have had a chance to draft Steve Francis (#2 to the Vancouver Grizzlies) or Baron Davis (#3 to the Charlotte Hornets). If they would have won the lottery, they would have been able to draft Elton Brand (Chicago Bulls). Instead, they drafted #4, and selected Lamar Odom out of Rhode Island.
With a record of 15-67, the 1999-00 Clippers finished with the worst record. This gave them the best odds at winning the first pick in the draft. Instead, the New Jersey Nets and Vancouver Grizzlies would move up, pushing the Clippers to the #3 pick. Instead of Kenyon Martin (#1 to New Jersey) or Stromile Swift (#2 to Vancouver), the Clippers would draft Darius Miles out of East St. Louis High School. Miles would start his first game as a Clipper, but never reach his full potential.
The 2003 NBA Draft was a good draft, especially if a team could land in one of the top 4 positions. The Clippers had the #5 worst record in the NBA for the 2002-03 season, which meant that they would need some luck to move up to the top 4. But there was no luck in Clipper Land at the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery. Not only did the Clippers not move up, they were bypassed by Memphis, who jumped up to the #2 spot. Here are the top 6 draft picks that year:
- LeBron James - Cleveland Caveliers
- Darko Milicic - Detroit Pistons (from Memphis)
- Carmelo Anthony - Denver Nuggets
- Chris Bosh - Toronto Rapters
- Dwayne Wade - Miami Heat
- Chris Kaman
Even though Chris Kaman was a good NBA player, he was nowhere near the same level as 4 of the top 5 picks.
Wins in the Lottery, but still a loss
The 1985-86 Clippers weren't a bad team. They actually just missed out on making the playoffs. But instead, they were in the NBA Draft Lottery. Oh, wait, they weren't. Instead of participating in the draft lottery, the Clippers were enjoying the off-season. Why? They had traded their first round pick 7 years earlier to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Joe Bryant (Yes, Kobe's dad!). Bryant would only play 3 seasons with the Clippers, before playing a final season in Houston.
So, what makes the 1986 NBA Draft Lottery a win for the Clippers? Well, they were the team that won the lottery, giving
them the 76ers the first pick. The Sixers would trade the pick to the Cleveland Caveliers the day before the 1986 NBA Draft, and the Cavs ended up selecting Brad Daugherty out of North Carolina.
In the 1989 NBA Draft Lottery, the Clippers moved up one spot, from #3 to #2. Their reward was the opportunity to draft Danny Ferry out of Duke. Ferry knew the Clippers were considering drafting him, and threatened to play in Italy if they did. The Clippers called his bluff, and Ferry played what would have been his rookie year in Italy.
If the Clippers had picked 3rd, which is where they were slotted, Ferry might have already been off the board, and the Clippers could have had the choice of Sean Elliot (#3 San Antonio Spurs) or Glen Rice (#4 Miami Heat).
In the middle of the 2010-11 season, in an effort to get out of the Baron Davis contract, the Clippers were willing to trade Davis, along with their upcoming 1st round pick (unprotected) to the Cleveland Caveliers, for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
Williams and Moon played well for the Clippers, but the team still missed out on the playoffs and participated in the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery. Entering the lottery, the Clippers had less than a .03% chance of winning the first overall pick. Guess what.... the Clippers won! But, because they wanted to get rid of Baron Davis' contract so badly, they didn't include a protection in their 2011 pick. So the Caveliers became the big winners, as they won the chance to draft Kyrie Irving.
To top it all off, in the new CBA that was signed in the 2011 off-season, each team was allowed to waive 1 player, and not be penalized in their salary cap. So, if the Clippers would have held on to Davis until the end of the season, they could have waived him, and possibly still won the 1st overall pick.