You can pick the 10 best Clippers players of all time, but it’s more fun to pick 10 players you probably never knew were Clippers.
At some point and time, the Clippers had some of college basketball (and the NBA’s) best players.
Most were playing out the string, or using the Clippers to get somewhere better.
Clipper alumni include Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce (68 games in 2015-2016), Baron Davis, Sam Cassell, Cherokee Parks (a poor poor man’s version of Christian Laettner out of Duke), Malik Sealy, Doc Rivers, Terry Dehere, Mark Jackson, Kiki Vandeweghe and Stanley Roberts (Shaq’s running mate at LSU).
They were all stars at one point.
They are Clipper footnotes now.
Born the Buffalo Braves, the franchise was rebranded the Clippers when they moved to San Diego for the 1978-79 season. They became the Los Angeles Clippers in 1984.
Spoiler alert – the franchise’s leading scorer Randy Smith isn’t on this list. He never played in LA. He was a Brave, and I hesitate to put current Clippers Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on this list.
They might just turn into ‘guys you never knew were Clips.’
Too soon to tell.
While the Los Angeles Lakers have won 17 NBA titles, the Clippers have never even made the NBA Finals. For years they were an NBA laughingstock, a doormat, struck by a “Clippers Curse” where it seemed like all of their good players got hurt and were in constant-rebuild mode.
That has changed recently, the Clippers are legitimate NBA title contenders, as long as they can stay healthy….we’re looking at you Leonard and George.
A list of the 10 best players in Clipper history is unique, just like the franchise itself.
10. Michael Cage
People forget that Cage was a really good player on some really bad Clipper teams. Cage was the Clippers first-round pick in 1984. He was a hard-working big man who went on to play for 15 years in the NBA.
Cage, of course, didn’t stay long with the Clippers (no one did in the 80s). He spent his first four years with the franchise, he had 15.7 points a game in 85-86, that team won 32 games. The next year, everything collapsed. The Clippers won 12 games, Cage played in 80 games that year. He deserves to be recognized just for sticking it out.
9. Lamar Odom
The guy could get buckets. Period.
Odom was taken by the Clippers fourth overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. He (surprise) played on four lousy teams in Los Angeles, they never had a winning record.
Odom would get his points and go home. He had a farewell tour with the Clippers for one year in 2012-2013 coming off the bench in the Lob City heyday. In between, Odom won a pair of NBA titles with the Lakers. He’ll never made a Top 10 Laker player list though.
8. Dominique Wilkins
Put him in the category of “I didn’t remember he was a Clipper.” It’s true. The “Human Highlight Film” was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Clippers at the All-Star Break in 1994 for Danny Manning. He was almost 35-years old, but he could still score. Wilkins scored 29.1 a game for the Clippers in the last 25 games, who finished 27-55 that year, before becoming a free agent. Did he stay with the Clippers? Of course not. Wilkins signed with the Celtics.
Those 29.1 points a game would be second on the all-time Clipper list for the franchise (if Wilkins had played more games).
7. Ron Harper
A Clipper Curse Survivor. Harper was traded to the Clippers by the Cavaliers early in the 1989-1990 season. He was averaging 23 points a game for LA and the team was hovering around .500. Hey, that was incredible in Clipper Land back then. Boom, Harper tears his ACL and the Clippers sink to 32-50.
Harper comes back and helps the franchise reach the playoffs in 1992. He doesn’t stick around though. He signs with the Bulls as a free agent and goes on to win five NBA titles.
So I guess the move worked out.
6. DeAndre Jordan
Easily the best second-round pick in Clippers franchise history, Jordan was a double-double machine with the Clippers from 2008-2009 to 2017-2018.
The lefty center led the league in field goal percentage five times while with the Clippers. Since leaving Clipperland, Jordan has been with the Mavs, Knicks, Nets, Lakers and 76ers. He’s only 33, and guys that size can always find a spot on an NBA roster.
5. Danny Manning
Clipper Curse Survivor. Manning was the No. 1 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft and was a can’t-miss prospect. The Laker dynasty was starting to fade, finally LA could be a Clipper town with Manning….and then 26 games into his rookie year, Manning tore his ACL.
To his credit, Manning put together a strong NBA career. He was a two-time All-Star. In six years with the Clippers he averaged 19.1 a game, and he led the Clippers to the playoffs in 1992.
Manning went on to some good years in Phoenix.
LA is still a Lakers town.
4. Blake Griffin
Clipper Curse Survivor. Griffin was the Clippers choice at the top of the 2009 NBA Draft and in a league full of ‘freak’ athletes, Griffin was King Freak. He could jump out of the building (remember he jumped over a car at the 2011 Dunk Contest) and was incredibly strong. Griffin teamed with Chris Paul to create Lob City, a genuine, legitimately cool brand name for the Clippers. (Probably the only one in franchise history).
Griffin was a 5-time All-Star with the Clippers in his eight years before he was traded to Detroit in January of 2018. He’s still bouncing around the NBA, but not as explosive as he was back in LA.
3. Bill Walton
What? Bill Walton was a Clipper? It’s true. Walton was with the franchise in San Diego and basically missed four years with crippling injuries (1979-1982). He came back in time to play the first season for the LA Clippers. Walton appeared in 67 games and averaged around 10 points. He was traded to the Celtics for Cedric Maxwell and a 1986 first-round pick. Then he went on to win an NBA title with Boston. So yeah, I guess that move worked out.
2. Chris Paul
Paul is on the back end of his career now, but he had his best years with the Clippers after coming over from the New Orleans Hornets in a controversial trade.
Paul played for the Clippers for six years. In the franchise history, the Clippers have made the playoffs 16 times, six of those came with Paul at the controls. Sneaky quick (some would just say sneaky) Paul had 18.8 points a game in a Clipper jersey and 9.8 assists. Lob City was the best era in Clipper history.
1. Elton Brand
The power forward from Duke was NBA Rookie of the Year with the Chicago Bulls before being traded to LA for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler.
It’s debatable, but the Clippers won that trade. Brand was consistent as the morning sun. He spent seven years in red-and-blue averaging 20.3 points and 10 rebounds with the Clips. In 2002, he was the team’s first All-Star since Danny Manning in 1994. Gee, that’s kind of sad.
In 2006, Brand took the Clippers to their first playoff series win in 30 years when they beat the Nuggets 4-1. Brand went East to play for the 76ers and had some good years, but he gave the Clippers a professional presence and star power. It may be a dubious honor, but for his longevity and performance, he’s the best Clipper ever.