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#TWiCH LA Clippers Best Rookies: Centers

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The LA Clippers have a long history of high draft picks, with some good, and some not so good picks. For every Blake Griffin, there is a Yaroslav Korolev. Over the course of 10 weeks, ClipsNation will take a look back at the best and worst rookie seasons in Los Angeles Clippers history. This week, the top 3 centers.

LA Clippers

Check out the Clippers top rookie point guards here.

Check out the Clippers top rookie shooting guards here.

#3 - Lorenzen Wright (1996-97)

Draft: 1996 1st Round, 7th Overall, Los Angeles Clippers

Key Stats: 7.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 48.1%fg, 51 games started

Clippers V Bulls

After two solid seasons at the University of Memphis, Lorenzen Wright joined a Clippers team that had struggled to compete for a few seasons. After making back to back playoff appearances in 1991-92 and 1992-93, the team struggled to find a consistent mix of productive players. Wright joined the team as a backup and potential future replacement for Stanley Roberts, who often had trouble staying healthy and in shape.

Wright’s rookie season got off to a slow start, averaging just 5 minutes per game in his first 14 games. During that time, he only scored 2.4 points per game. But when Roberts went down, Wright was given his chance, and with his increase in minutes, his stats saw a nice jump. He would start 48 of the Clippers final 53 games, averaging 9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

With Wright as a starter, the Clippers would qualify for the playoffs, despite only winning 36 games. He would start all 3 playoff games for the team, averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, all in Clippers losses.

Wright would go on to have a productive 13 year NBA career, starting over 57% of his career games. Unfortunatelly, in July 2010, his career and life were cut short at the age of 34 in an apparent homocide. His death still remains unsolved.

#2 - Michael Olowokandi (1998-99)

Draft: 1998 1st Round, 1st Overall, Los Angeles Clippers

Key Stats: 8.9ppg, 7.9rpg, 1.2bpg, 43.1%fg, 36 games started

Michael Olowokandi #34

What can I say about The Kandi Man? He was both the reason for optimism and frustration all tied into one. As a rookie, he had a solid season, even though he had little preperation due to a lockout that cut into the start of the 1998-99 NBA season. His rookie season was productive, if not spectacular. He lead the Clippers in blocks and rebounds per game. The problem for Olowokandi was that he never showed the flash or greatness that is expected of a number 1 overall pick.

Olowokandi would end the season on the NBA All-Rookie second team, and spend another 4 seasons with the Clippers, with his final season (2002-03) being the best of his career, averaging 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.

Before we get to the number one rookie center in LA Clippers history, here are a few honorable mentions:

Joe Wolf (1987-88)

Draft: 1987 1st Round, 13th Overall, Los Angeles Clippers

Key Stats: 7.6ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.3apg, 40.7%fg, 26 games started

Joe Wolf

Joe Wolf is one of those NBA players that are easy to forget, since his career was never spectacular, but he also didn’t flame out. He spent 11 seasons in the NBA, never becoming more than a rotation player. He did have plenty of opportunities early on in his career to carve out a starting roll, first with the Clippers, then with the Denver Nuggets, but never gained full control.

His rookie season with the Clippers might be considered his best statistically, but was hampered by limited games played. In fact, he only played a little over half of the teams games, but in those games, he put up some solid numbers, although his lack of a solid field goal percentage was a bit worrisome.

Chris Kaman (2003-04)

Draft: 2003 1st Round, 6th Overall, Los Angeles Clippers

Key Stats: 6.1ppg, 5.6rpg, 46%fg, 61 games started

Rookie Kavman was fun for Clippers fans, and not just for his great style.

Nuggets v Clippers

Kaman’s rookie season was an opportunity for Clippers fans to be exited for a rookie center on the team for the first time in 5 years. So what if the team missed out on LeBron James, Darko Miličić, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade? The Clippers had the next best thing, out of Central Michigan.

For all the frustration Kaman produced through his years as a Clipper, he was still a great 6th pick in a draft with 4 all-NBA players. Looking back, the Clippers actually didn’t F up the pick. In almost any alternate Clippers history, the team would have drafted someone like Michael Sweetney, but in this scenario they got the pick right. His solid numbers as a rookie, and the flashes of his ambidextrous abilities, were bright spots on an otherwise disappointing 2003-04 season.

#1 - Benoit Benjamin (1985-86)

Draft: 1985 1st Round, 3rd Overall, Los Angeles Clippers

Key Stats: 11.1ppg, 7.6rpg, 2.6bpg, 49%fg, 37 games started

LA Clippers

In what is becoming a recurring theme, the top choice was a no-brainer. Benoit Benjamin was the clear cut choice for the top spot, with the highest points and blocks per game and field goal percentage of all the centers on the list.

Joining a Clippers team that had won 31 games the previous season, Benjamin was seen as a key piece to the Clippers playoff puzzle. With a core of Norm Nixon, Marques Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, Derek Smith, and 2nd year player Michael Cage, the Clippers were hoping Benjamin was the final piece that would get them into the playoffs. Unfortunately, a major injury to Smith derailed those hopes, and the Clippers would win just 1 more game than the previous season.

Benjamin though, had a very productive and promising season. He lead the team in total blocks, and was second in total rebounds. He was the NBA rookie of the month in March, starting all 16 games played, while averaging 20.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game.

Do you agree with our list? Is there someone we left out? Let us know in the comments, and check back next week for the top 3 rookie small forwards in LA Clippers history.