Every summer, there is a lull in basketball news between free agency and the beginning of training camps throughout the league. In the dog days of the NBA summer, LWOS is bringing you the best five players to play for every NBA franchise in our Franchise Five series. The #LWOSFranchiseFive gives props to the best to ever lace up for each NBA team. Agree or disagree? Let us know at @LastWordHoops with the hash tag #LWOSFranchiseFive.
Los Angeles Clippers Franchise Five
The Clippers have not had the storied success of their in-town rivals, the Lakers, and their checkered history really comes to light when trying to choose which five players are the best in the franchise’s history. There wasn’t a great deal of all-stars and Hall of Fame players to choose from, but all in all, the best five players in Clippers franchise history would make a pretty decent squad. Here they are:
Bob McAdoo: McAdoo is the best player to have played for the Clippers franchise, spending four-plus seasons with the Buffalo Braves in the early 70’s. McAdoo led the NBA in scoring three times as a Brave, and averaged 28.2 points and 12.7 rebounds during his time in Buffalo. He won the MVP award in 1974-75, and was an all-star each year with the team with the exception of his rookie season, where he won Rookie of the Year. McAdoo went on to have great success later in his career after being traded from Buffalo, and won two titles for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980’s. McAdoo was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000, and is one of six Hall of Fame players to play for the Clippers organization, but the only one to have played his prime years for the franchise.
Randy Smith: Smith is a bit of an unknown player amongst casual NBA fans, but he had a successful career with the Braves in the 70’s and briefly with the franchise when it moved to San Diego. Smith is the franchise’s leader in games, minutes played, field goals, points, assists, and steals. Smith had a solid NBA career, playing 13 seasons, spending over eight of those with Buffalo/San Diego. He was twice an all-star as a Brave, and averaged 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists throughout his time with the franchise. A perimeter player, who is not well recognized, Smith routinely averaged over 20 points and 5 assists per game in his prime, and was a solid NBA player, a complement to teammate Bob McAdoo, and one of the best in Clippers franchise history.
Elton Brand: A truly underrated player during his prime, Brand toiled away for an awful Clippers franchise while consistently averaging 20-10. In seven seasons in L.A., Brand was an all-star twice, and averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. If not for the futility of the franchise and team, Brand likely would have made a couple more all-star teams during the early-mid 2000’s. Brand was a Rookie of the Year with the Bulls and made the All-NBA second team in 2006 with the Clippers. He led the team to its sole playoff run during a forgettable decade, and took the team into the second round in 2006. Brand has had his injury problems the last few seasons while bouncing from team to team, but for nine seasons, seven of them as a Clipper, Brand was one of the best and most consistent big men in the NBA.
Blake Griffin: It speaks to the lack of premier players the Clippers have had throughout their history that the next two players on this list are active and only been with the franchise for a short time. However, when looking at the list of Clippers players, Griffin deserves a spot for what he has done and what he is projected to do in the future for the Clippers organization. Griffin missed his entire rookie season with a a knee injury, but has since been one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He was a Rookie of the Year, and has been an all-star in all five of his seasons played in the league. Since he has been with the Clippers, they have also been to the playoffs four straight seasons, something that was unheard of for most of the franchise’s history. Griffin is not without his problems, mainly outside shooting, post game, and free throw shooting (which he has greatly improved upon every season) as well as his dwindling rebound numbers, but he is one of the true stars of today’s game. He has grown into a player that isn’t just known for his athleticism and dunking prowess. If Griffin plays his entire career with the Clippers, he will likely become the greatest player in franchise history.
Chris Paul: The fortunes of the Clippers changed not only when they drafted Griffin, but when they were handed Chris Paul after the “basketball reasons” debacle that put a stain on David Stern’s tenure. Paul has dramatically altered the course of the franchise, turning them into instant playoff regulars and title hopefuls. Paul has widely been regarded as the best point guard in the NBA during his time with L.A., and has been an all-star four times as a Clipper and led the league in assists the previous two seasons. Paul’s playmaking and leadership have been the perfect compliment to Blake Griffin, and Paul is the number one reason for the Clippers’ success recently, during their most successful run in franchise history. Although Paul has only been a Clipper for four seasons, he has led them to their best stretch, and he is undoubtedly one of the best players to play for the franchise.
Honorable mention has to go out to Bill Walton, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Adrian Dantley, Jamaal Wilkes, and Corey Maggette. However, many of these greats played only briefly for the franchise, and not in their respective primes.