After being perhaps the biggest laughingstock in the NBA for decades (six playoff appearances and one playoff series win from 1970-2005), the Clippers have at last found relevance in the 21st century. They made the second round in 2006, got rid of Donald Sterling, lucked into the top pick in the 2009 draft, and for the last handful of years have been the superior L.A. team, while the Lakers have sunk to cellar-sweller status. They've assembled their own Big Three, including two bonafide superstars, and are among the league's biggest draws wherever they go. Assuming that they don't suffer a rash of injuries, the Clippers will make the playoffs for the sixth straight season, no small feat when playing in the West. However, even in their golden age, the Clippers are not without their share of bums and busts.
From the year 2000 to now, they've employed players that range all over the NBA spectrum, from pure scrubs to borderline MVPs. This list will attempt to count down the best and worst players that have donned the Clipper uniform in the last 16 years. In the interest of saving the best for last, let's start with the bottom of the barrel:
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15 Best: Chris Kaman
The amazing thing about Kaman is that the argument could be made that he should be on both sides of this list. For starters, Kaman is a fat (not actually fat, just NBA fat), balding white guy playing in the NBA, which is endlessly funny. He’s the archetype of the guy who dominates rec leagues until he can’t walk anymore. He also looks like Sasquatch, to the point where I’m surprised he hasn’t been in any of those beef jerky commercials. But here’s the thing; Chris Kaman made an NBA All-Star game. In the 2009-10 season, he averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds for a 29-53 Clippers team, and apparently that was all it took to make the All-Star game in the West that season (not the case anymore). Kaman only played one more season for the Clips and bounced around for several more years before retiring at the end of last season.
One glorious fun fact about Kaman: when you search his name on YouTube, the first two drop down searches are “Chris Kaman pushes Chris Paul”, and “Chris Kaman sleeping on bench”. The dude is a legend.
14 Worst: Andre Miller
In the 2001-02 season, Andre Miller averaged 16.5 points and led the league with 10.9 assists per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was then traded to the Clippers in the summer of 2002 for Darius Miles (don’t worry, we’ll get to him later). Miller’s lone season with the Clippers is probably the low point of his long, journeyman career. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 assists for the Clips, a whopping 4.2 assists less than the previous year, as the Clippers went 27-55. Miller clearly didn’t intend to play with the Clippers long-term (why would he?), and he didn’t, leaving for the Nuggets the following offseason.
It’s worth noting that while playing for nine different NBA teams in his career, Miller’s assists per 36 minutes average was lower in L.A. (6.6) than anywhere else other than his final season with the Spurs in 2015-16, when he was 40 freaking years old. It’s a testament to the Clippers’ inadequacy as a franchise that a player who was successful with so many teams was mediocre and uninspired (in his prime, by the way) when he came to Los Angeles.
13 Best: Sam Cassell
Cassell only played two and a half of his 15 NBA seasons with the Clippers, averaging 14.6 points in 174 games. He didn’t make an All-NBA or an All-Star team while in Los Angeles, and he retired after being traded from the Clips to the Celtics and winning a title in 2008. So why, do you ask, is Sam Cassell on this list? For a few reasons.
One, he was instrumental in the Clippers’ playoff run in 2006, perhaps their second best player after Elton Brand.
Two, he hit a dagger 3-pointer in Game 4 of their second round series against the Suns, and he celebrated by doing his patented “big balls” dance. Let me repeat that: Sam Cassell was known for celebrating by juggling his huge imaginary balls.
And three, the guy looked like an alien. I mean really, if we find out one day that Cassell is related to E.T., is anyone going to be surprised?
He’s an utterly memorable player (and Clipper) because of his trash talking, his ability to come through in the clutch, and the appearance that he’s not from this planet. All of that is enough to get him a spot on this list, and ahead of fellow All-NBA funny-looking teammate Chris Kaman.
12 Worst: Byron Mullens
By all accounts, Mullens shouldn’t even be on this list, because he was barely even a Clipper. He played 167 minutes in 27 games for L.A. in 2013-14. The reason he’s on this list is because if a maniacal NBA fan went back through the annals of basketball history and cobbled together a list of the league’s all-time worst players, Mullens would probably be on the list. He was an abomination of a professional basketball player. It speaks volumes about Doc Rivers’ incompetence as a general manager that the Clippers offered Mullens a contract.
It was one of several contracts Rivers gave to players who played well against the Celtics, the team Rivers used to coach. Mullens played one (ONE!) good game against Boston in February 2013 (he scored 25 points), and it ended up extending his pitiful career one more season. Mullens averaged 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds for the Clippers. It’s really hard to imagine there being a worse NBA player.
11 Best: Jamal Crawford
Jamaal Crawford, for his entire career, for each of the six teams he has played for, has done one thing and one thing only; get buckets. He’s a terrible defender, a bad rebounder even for a guard, and has never been the most efficient player in the world (2001-02 is his only season in which he shot above 45% from the field), but his scoring prowess has never been questioned. Crawford is the NBA’s all-time leader in a wonderful category; 4-point plays, which couldn’t be more fitting. He’s also the only three-time Sixth Man of the Year; once as a member of the Hawks, and twice as a Clipper.
Despite being a chucker, Crawford has never been disliked by his teammates in Los Angeles, and the crowds at Staples Center relish his high-arching heat checks. His best season as a Clipper came in 2013-14, when he averaged 18.6 points in 30 minutes per game off the bench. Even though he’ll be a tad historically overrated (which is the case for lots of flashy scorers), Crawford is still one of the best sixth men ever, and one of the best Clippers of this century.
10 Worst: Marko Jaric
No list of bad players is complete without a crappy foreign player, right? Marko Jaric had all the traits of a typical non-American NBA scrub; supposedly a good shooter even though he shot a below-average percentage, a bad defender (his top basketball-related video on YouTube is Jamaal Tinsley putting him in a blender in the 2003 rookie game), and a gorgeous wife (he was married to the one and only Adriana Lima from 2009 to 2014, so really, despite being on this list, Jaric wins).
In his 174 games in three seasons with the Clippers, Jaric averaged 8.5 points and 4.5 assists. If he were from Philadelphia instead of Serbia, he’d be too forgettable. But there’s something about disliking foreign born NBA players that’s so much fun (ask Celtics fans what they think of Sasha Vujacic and his crying fit after Ray Allen broke his ankles in the 2008 Finals, or Lakers fans what they think of another Serbian NBA player, Vlade Divac). In any case, this writer hopes there aren’t any Clippers fans who still have Marko Jaric jerseys.
9 Best: J.J. Redick
When he first came into the NBA, J.J. Redick was just the latest in a long line of players from Duke who had the reputation of being a unlikeable jerk. However, not only did he shed that image as a Clipper, but Redick is the rarest case of any player on this list, in that he never found a team where he got consistent minutes (and stayed healthy) until he came to the Clippers during the 2013-14 season. He has become a fantastic third offensive option (and fourth best player) for the current iteration of the Clippers, and his numbers since he arrived in Los Angeles are remarkable: 16 points a game, with 50-44-90 shooting splits (meaning 50% from the field, 44% from three-point range, and 90% from the free throw line).
His off-the-ball movement, and the amount of running he does in order to get open, is reminiscent of Ray Allen when he was a member of the Celtics or of Kyle Korver’s work with the Hawks. Redick has also made the effort to become a better defender, not allowing teams to pick on the lack of size in the Clippers’ back court. If he continues to stay healthy and be a top-tier shooter, Redick will be remembered as one of the best Clippers ever.
8 W0rst: Baron Davis
After leading the Warriors to a historic upset victory over the Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, expectations were high when Baron Davis signed with the Clippers in the summer of 2008. As it turned out, Davis became the second point guard on this list to fall woefully short of expectations in Los Angeles after excelling elsewhere. However, it’s not entirely Davis’ fault, as he signed with L.A. thinking that he was going to play with Elton Brand, only for Brand to sign with the 76ers and leave Davis to pick up the pieces. Davis averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 assists during his time with the Clippers, and was visibly disinterested in putting in maximum effort each night.
Eventually the Clippers got so fed up with Davis’ inconsistency that they traded Davis and their 2011 first round draft pick to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. That 2011 pick? The Cavaliers ended up winning the lottery with that pick and drafted Kyrie Irving, the cherry on top of the poop sundae of Baron Davis’ tenure with the Clippers.
7 Best: DeAndre Jordan
There have always been, and will always be, gaping holes in DeAndre Jordan’s game. His abysmal free throw shooting makes him difficult to play in crunch time (not to mention the hack-a-Shaq routine employed by other teams against him slows down the game and is brutal to watch). His shooting range is nonexistent. He’s a limited passer. However, DeAndre is fully aware of his flaws, and sticks to what he does best. He’s one of the most overwhelming physical specimens in the league. He runs gorgeous pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul, dunks everything lobbed his way, and protects the rim defensively. He’s averaged a double-double in each of the last three seasons (he’s doing so again this season), leading the league in rebounding twice.
He also made the All-NBA first team last season, a dubious honor given the dearth of valuable true centers in the league. Had the NBA allowed voters to designate “front court players” and “back court players” rather than guards, forwards, and centers, DeAndre likely wouldn’t have made the first or second team. Regardless, his consistency and relentless effort earn him a spot on the 'best' side of this list.
6 Worst: Darius Miles
When NBA fans tell stories about the era when lots of players entered the draft straight from high school and proceeded to wash out, Darius Miles is always one of the first names brought up. The Clippers got so sick of Miles so quickly that they traded him after his first two seasons, when he was still only 21 years old. He showed some flashes of competency in Portland before a knee injury all but ended his career. Miles’ NBA story is a sad one, and he clearly would’ve been better served going to college (or maybe getting drafted by a team other than the Clippers).
In his two seasons in L.A., he averaged 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. The most successful moment of his career was role as Desmond Rhodes in the movie “The Perfect Score”. For the rest of his life, Miles gets to say he was in a movie with Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. Not too shabby…….if you’re an actor. Like a lot of the high school busts, Miles had all the tools and physical gifts, but didn’t have the IQ, the fundamentals, or the mental toughness needed to excel at the NBA level.
5 Best: Elton Brand
Brand was the alpha dog of the first relevant Clippers team in Los Angeles. In that 2005-06 season, he averaged 24 and 10, made second team All-NBA, and led the Clips to the second round, where they pushed the Phoenix Suns to seven games. In seven seasons with the team, Brand never averaged less than 17.6 points a game, and had four double-double seasons. Unlike some of the other high scoring forwards of that time (Amar’e Stoudemire, KG, LeBron), Brand wasn’t a jump-out-of-the-gym athlete. He was more like a poor man’s version of Tim Duncan; high basketball IQ, very solid defensively, reliable mid range jump shot, and a mature post game with good footwork.
Alas, like most players in the mid 2000s, Brand’s relationship with the Clippers didn’t end well. After opting to become a free agent with the idea that the Clips would use the resulting cap room to strengthen the roster, Brand watched as Baron Davis was signed, then turned his back on the team and signed with the 76ers. The Clippers went into a tailspin that only ended when they won the draft lottery and selected Blake Griffin with the first overall pick in 2009.
4 Worst: Austin Rivers
Let’s start with the obvious; Austin Rivers was traded to the Clippers, and continues to play for the Clippers, because his father Doc Rivers is the head coach. He was a top 10 draft pick, and from the moment he came in the league, he’s been a scrub. Granted, even scrubs in the NBA are better than the overwhelming majority of basketball players in the world, but Rivers’ only moment of competency are largely thanks to his more talented teammates soaking up the defense’s attention and spoonfeeding him the ball in easy-to-score situations. This wouldn’t be too intolerable if Rivers didn’t act like he’s a goddamn superstar. It’s understandable that any athlete good enough to make a professional living has an ego and thinks highly of their own ability, but Rivers really thinks he’s the best player on the court at all times.
And as anyone who’s ever played pickup basketball knows, there’s nothing worse than a shooting guard playing point guard who thinks he’s better than everyone else. Not even Rivers’ valiant performance against the Blazers in the playoffs last year, when he played through an eye injury that required 11 stitches, can mask the fact that he’s a benchwarmer who’s only playing because of Doc’s nepotism.
3 Best: Chris Paul
As it turned out, David Stern vetoing a trade in 2011 that would’ve sent CP3 from the Hornets to the Lakers was one of the greatest moments in Clippers history, as they completed a trade for Paul shortly thereafter. It was also the moment when the Clippers became a more relevant NBA team than the Lakers. Despite only playing half his career for the Clips, Chris Paul is a no-brainer. He’s one of the five best point guards ever, and his lack of playoff success shouldn’t be a referendum on his consistent greatness. In five full seasons in L.A., he’s led the league in steals three times and assists twice (he led both in 2013-14), made three All-NBA first teams and two second teams, and finally gave his career a signature moment in the first round against the Spurs in 2015, hitting the series-winner over Tim Duncan in Game 7.
It’s also worth noting that in stretches where Blake Griffin has gotten hurt over the last few seasons, Paul has picked up the slack each time and kept the team playing at an elite level. He’s the best player on this list, but as a Clipper he falls just short of the no. 1 spot on this list.
2 Worst: Michael Olowakandi
The Kandi man was an obvious choice for the worst player on this list. Unlike Darius Miles, the Clippers didn’t cut bait with Olowakandi early in his career. They tried. They really, really tried. Olowakandi played 323 games and nearly 10,000 minutes as a Clipper, and never averaged more than 12 points and 9 rebounds. He was supposed to lead the franchise into the 21st century and finally bring the franchise out of the muck. Instead, he got memorably posterized by Amar’e Stoudemire, and was out of the league by 2007.
Conversely, four of the other top 10 picks in the 1998 NBA draft are future HOFers; Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, and Antawn Jamison. Of all the horrid stats that could be rattled off about Olowokandi, one sticks out; he shot 43% from the field for his career. As a guard, that’d be about average. As a center? It’s historically wretched.
One theory about Olowokandi; big men who play for smaller schools (he played for Pacific, certainly not a powerhouse) are generally less athletically gifted, meaning that Olowokandi didn’t have to grapple with too many opponents that were on his level physically. Had he gone to a bigger school, that would not have been the case, and he would’ve been better prepared for the physicality of the NBA.
1 Best: Blake Griffin
Not only is Blake the best Clippers player of the 21st century, he’s the most important player in the history of the franchise. After missing what would’ve been his rookie season in 2009-10, his debut in October 2010 immediately made the Clippers relevant again. Without Griffin, there is no Chris Paul trade, no Lob City, and certainly no five-year run of playoff appearances, which is why he gets the top spot. His national coming out moment on the NBA stage was when he dunked on Timofey Mozgov so hard that he turned Mozgov into a verb (I frequently hear basketball fans refer to a posterization as “getting Mozgov’d” nowadays).
In the years since, Griffin’s game has evolved, from dunk machine to superstar. He has superb handles and passing ability for his position, and has improved his jump shot. He also has a nifty, underrated post game. However, his recent run of injuries, including a self-inflicted broken hand, has many wondering if his prime is over. If he can come back and be himself again, he’ll give the Clippers a chance to make their first Conference Finals in the history of the franchise.
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